V Australia sets course toward ProTour in 2011

The team hopes to land a new title sponsor and a ProTour berth.

The makeup of ProTour nations appears set to shift again this fall as Continental team Fly V Australia is on the verge of attaining top-level registration for 2011. According to a report in The Australian, the team has been extended an August 31 deadline for submitting its registration with the UCI.

“It is believed (team owner Chris) White is about 10 days away from officially naming the consortium of backers, both offshore and domestic, to secure a ProTour license following extensive talks with the Union Cycliste Internationale in Switzerland,” said the report.

Director Henk Vogels confirmed to VeloNews that the announcement was imminent. The former European pro also confirmed that the team is in final negotiations with a new title sponsor and that the team’s budget should more than double for 2011. According to Vogels, V Australia Airlines will remain as a secondary sponsor.

In the report, White said that “the world of cycling has been talking about establishing an Australian ProTour team for a number of years and now it’s just about to happen. Fly V will be well funded and resourced and we will want to compete at the highest level and that includes the Tour de France next July.”

White is en route to the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah in the western U.S. this week. Vogels indicated that the trip is related to sponsor negotiations. The team is a favorite in the GC, with former Barloworld rider and 2009 runner-up Darren Lill, VeloNews 2009 Domestic Climber of the Year Phil Zajicek and team leader Ben Day.

The Fly V Australia roster this year includes riders with European pedigrees, including Day, Lill and Aaron Kemps. The prestige and increased budget that come with ProTour registration would put White on track to sign more European-based Aussies in the off-season. A number of Australian professionals, including Garmin-Transitions’ Cameron Meyer, have told VeloNews that a national team at the top level of the sport, akin to Team Sky in Great Britain, would be a very attractive proposition.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who could ride in the ProTour, but up to now there hasn’t been an Australian team for them to aspire to,” White said in The Australian report. “Cadel Evans, Michael Rogers, Mark Renshaw, Simon Gerrans, Stuey O’Grady, Richie Porte and Wes Sulzberger currently ride for either American, French, British or Danish teams.”

According to the report, the team will be based in Belgium. “While the ProTour license isn’t a fait accompli, I’m confident that given road cycling’s global reach, the time is now right to establish a ProTour team to race in Europe and at the Tour de France next year,” said White.