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Svein Tuft switches to SpiderTech in wake of Pegasus setback

Canadian time trial specialist Svein Tuft didn’t waste any time to secure his future in the wake of Monday’s decision by the UCI to deny Australian start-up Pegasus Sports a pro-continental license.

With the Australian team’s future anything but certain, Tuft secured his and penned a deal to shift to Canada-backed SpiderTech powered by C10. Team boss Steve Bauer revealed that the deal was done last week to assure that Tuft, one of Canada’s top pros, would find a home in the newly ambitious team if Pegasus fell short of pro-continental status.

“We signed him last week. We moved pretty quick because we didn’t want to lose this chance, but we had to wait for the UCI and their agents Ernst & Young to confirm the contract was OK,” Bauer said on the team’s website. “This is huge, a very big deal for us. Svein is a solid vet, a leader and just a great guy. His addition should assure us a really good opportunity for the Tour of California and hopefully some other bigger races.”

Tuft is a boon for SpiderTech, which was elevated to pro-continental status for 2011, and will be a key member of the team’s three-month push into Europe this spring. Other bigger names to join the team include Lucas Euser, who joined in 2010, and Pat McCarty, two other riders with ProTour experience.

“I was close to joining Steve’s team this summer,” Tuft said on the team site. “I knew then that I ultimately wanted to be part of SpiderTech’s program, but the timing wasn’t quite right. Now that they’ve secured the Continental Pro license and the opportunity to sign a new contract became an option, I knew that SpiderTech was exactly where I wanted to be.”

Tuft is the first major name to jettison from the Pegasus team following Monday’s announcement by the UCI to deny the upstart Australian team pro-continental status. The team’s finances were sent into turmoil when a major financial backer pulled out, which all but scuttled the team’s chances for a ProTour license.

Efforts by Pegasus team boss to Chris White to cobble together a new financial package seemed to have legs, but the UCI pulled the carpet out from the under team Monday when it denied the team pro-continental status, essential to get into Europe’s major stage races and one-day classics.

“We are shocked that the license was denied,” said Pegasus Sport CEO Chris White on Monday. “The team was already prepared for the 2011 season and we worked really hard after the news from last week. Significant cost reductions were made and additional sponsorship both from within our existing sponsor base and an external group was gathered, in order to stabilize the team financially in the short term. We do not want to give up.”

Riders and staff were left in a state of shock Monday and many are now scrambling to secure their respective futures. The team vows to carry forward into 2011, but some of the top names are sure to follow Tuft’s exit to other teams that guarantee the presence in major events during the European calendar.

Robbie McEwen, the veteran Australian sprinter who gave Pegasus the needed heft and prestige it needed when he committed to the team this fall, told The Australian he’s considering his options.

“I feel totally gutted and disappointed, not only for myself, but for cycling in general and especially the 50 blokes who now find themselves out a job,” McEwen the Australian daily. “The news couldn’t have come at a worse time, with Christmas just five days away. I’m working on my options, but whatever happens I’ll be in South Australia racing the Santos Tour Down Under.”

Other teams looking to fill a few spots on their roster might be swooping in for some signatures. Lance Armstrong hinted as much on his Twitter feed Monday, writing: “On the phone w/ @JohanBruyneel talking @TeamRadioShack and possibly making some roster additions.”

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