British Cycling has announced plans to set up a British professional road team with both men and women's squads capable of competing at the highest levels of the sport "owned, governed and managed by British Cycling".
The announcement was made today along with the news that the British Cycling Performance Director, Dave Brailsford, has signed a new contract keeping him in post until after the 2012 London Olympics.
Speaking about the organisation's plans for a pro team British Cycling's President, Brian Cookson, acknowledged: "The structure of the team will have to be within the prevailing international regulations and that substantial additional efforts will be needed to establish and develop the project over an extended period.
"A partnership, co-ownership, or licensing agreement with another company, organisation, or individual is not ruled out, but what is important to the Board is that the ethical and sporting basis of the team is of the highest possible standard," he added. "Through the various programmes we have put in place, we are now developing a regular stream of young men and women athletes of the highest quality.
"Placing them in professional teams competing internationally at the top level is a key part of the process in achieving our overall Olympics-focused objectives, so we feel that the time is right to take this extra step and have full involvement in the entire process."
Peter King, British Cycling's Chief Executive, said: "For many of our members the Road scene is their main interest and, in particular, the professional European and World aspect of Road racing. Now that we have established ourselves at the top of the Track discipline, as well as being among the best in the disciplines of BMX and Downhill MTB, it is appropriate to make a long-term commitment to a professional Road team as a natural home for the growing number of young and talented riders coming through the ranks and capable of holding their own against the best in the world."
Dave Brailsford believes it's an exciting opportunity: "It is a natural and eagerly awaited progression of our Olympic Programmes to create a top flight professional Road team of British riders. The opportunity to running a team based on the same performance principles as we currently employ is very exciting and one which I would like to make a reality. GB cycling fans are fantastic and I am sure that they would really get behind a British team competing in the major tours."
Building on success
Since his appointment in 2002, and building on the work of his predecessor, Peter Keen, Brailsford has overseen an unprecedented level of success for British track riders at both Olympic and World Championship levels. Funding for British Cycling's World Class Performance Plan, which Brailsford heads, is determined by performance at the Olympics. British Cycling's Cookson explained the move: "The confidence we had in appointing Dave to this role back in 2002 has been totally vindicated. Dave has been a key factor in the unprecedented levels of success that we have enjoyed in recent years, and we were very keen to secure his services right through to the biggest objective ever for British sport, namely the London Olympics."
Brailsford was understandably upbeat about his contract extension: "I am very pleased to commit my future to British Cycling. I am very fortunate to have an outstanding team of riders and staff around me. They share my unquenchable desire to achieve excellence and are also people I really enjoy working with. I remain as driven as ever to help GB riders become the best in the world and whilst we have achieved great success so far, I believe there is much more to come. The opportunity to lead the team in a home Olympics is a privilege and one which I relish. Not many people can say that they absolutely love their jobs, but I am one of the lucky few who can."