EF-Education Nippo has announced the EF Education-Nippo Development Team, which will serve as a feeder squad for the WorldTour team.
The team setup seems to be a continuation of the Nippo-Provence-PTS team, of which EF was already a co-sponsor. That team’s manager Marcello Albasini, the former coach of the Swiss national team, will manage the newly launched EF development team.
“The idea has been developing over the years,” Albasini said. “We approached EF Pro Cycling CEO Jonathan Vaughters to make an official development team, which he thought was a great idea because then they would have first choice of top athletes to then bring into the EF system.”
The EF Education-Nippo Development Team will officially be registered in the United States, but the roster is composed of riders from seven different countries, with a particularly strong Japanese and Swiss presence. Promising junior Ethan Villaneda is the lone American among the 15 riders that have so far been announced for the squad.
“It’s very important that the team doesn’t identify with one specific nation, saying ‘it’s an American team’ or ‘It’s only Swiss’ or ‘It’s only Japanese.’ It’s very much an international team,” Albasini said. “We want to bring talent from around the world and bring them into the professional system. It will be an international team where everybody can learn from one another. It’s critical that they understand the difference around the world of what every athlete goes through to try to be a professional athlete.”
According to the team’s announcement press release, the team plans to take advantage of UCI regulations allowing for members of the development team to race with their WorldTour colleagues.
“I’m excited about the development team for a number of reasons,” Vaughters said. “I think it’s really important for riders to have a team where they can learn but not be in over their heads right away. Since we can move riders between squads, that allows us to bring real experience to the younger team, both on the roads and at dinner tables. And it’s important the team is focusing on developing athletes from countries that aren’t known as cycling hotbeds.
“It provides a great opportunity for riders to be noticed, and it allows us to spot talent that may have been overlooked. The educational and mentorship components are very important to us. We started as a development team years ago, so it’s fun to be part of this level of cycling again.”