Following months of speculation, Team Halfords-Bikehut was named sponsor for the much touted all-British women's cycling team, with Boardman supplying the bikes.
Under the curious gaze of the bears on Bear Mountain it was announced that the high street giant Halfords will back the team which will be known as Team Halfords-Bikehut. Nicole Cooke will lead the outfit along with nine other riders, including Wendy Houvenagel, who will all ride the bikes designed by Chris Boardman, whose bike brand is sold exclusively by Halfords.
Dave Brailsford, performance director of British Cycling, will be the general manager of the team in a unique approach being dubbed PRONAT (a pro/national team) and the first step towards a full British professional team.
"Being able to work with a British company on a project such as this in the run up to the Beijing Olympic Games presents not only the perfect performance environment for Nicole Cooke and her team mates, but is also a fantastic commercial opportunity for British Cycling to work with a company whose heritage in the sport and accessibility in the British market will enable us to grow what we hope will be a successful and productive partnership in years to come," Brailsford said.
Cooke is clearly relishing the new partnership, and has already ridden the Olympic course on the Boardman bike.
"(The bike is) absolutely fantastic," she said. "This will be the first ever British professional women's team and I believe it's the biggest step forward in women's sport in this country for many, many years."
While this is, indeed, a great boost for women's cycling in this country, the plans for the future go much further and will, hopefully, lead to a team of British riders capable of riding the Tour de France and all the other big European events.
However, this is likely to happen after the 2012 Olympics. The team will include two male riders, Rob Hayles and Tom Southam.
At the launch Hayles said it wasn't easy being in a women's team but added it wasn't a problem because: "I'm comfortable enough with my own sexuality."
When the team presentation was all done and dusted it was time for team shots on the open road. However, after only one fly-past of the riders in the distinctive orange and black kit, the police arrived to say that it was an offence to film in the Royal Parks without permission, so it was a dull day for the snappers. The future of this innovative outfit will, however, be like their orange team kit ... bright.
Full rider list:
© BikeRadar 2008