More on Australian Team FutureFollowing the release from the AIS/ACF on Friday about their decisions regarding the future of the Australian cycling team, officials are keen to quickly advance negotiations with the American Saturn team in the coming week. The aim is to finalise a verbal agreement between the Saturn and Australian Coach Heiko Salzwedel [Bill notes: What's the rush all of a sudden? This should have been finalised weeks ago when Heiko first created the opportunity. It is Heiko's initiative and he deserves the credit, although I suspect others will take the credit].
The AIS and ACF officials met in Sydney on Friday (as reported in the October 31 news) and decided to pursue ways which could see the "Giant-AIS" racing team continue in 1999. The aim for 1998 will be to conduct a "holding operation" by allowing some over-23 riders to work within the Under-23 Team structure located in Italy during the racing season. It should be noted that the choice of the riders that get supported in this way is the responsibility of the AIS which means that Heiko does not get to determine it. It could mean that riders coming out of Charlie Walsh's track program in Adelaide could continue to be supported as road riders via this channel.
It now appears likely that Heiko Salzwedel will remain in Australia if his best riders Peter Rogers, Matt White and Nick Gates are supported by Saturn in 1998. Two other prominent AIS riders, Jay Sweet and Marcel Gono have already found European teams for 1998. Sweet will ride for the French team BigMat Auber.
The other three wish to remain together and have indicated they will be happy to ride with Saturn.
Heiko's role now seems to be that of interim promoter of the 1999 venture. He has one year to get funds to underwrite another attempt at getting an Australian team together. I know, however, that the Giant-AIS riders were paid significantly lower than other Australian riders in European teams like GAN. The sponsorship base will have to expand by multiples if Heiko can attract the best Australians and get enough UCI points to make the profile of the team sufficient to keep the support. Chicken and egg.
International Cyclo Cross, Dijon, France, November 1
1. Mario De Clercq (Bel) Palmans 2. Richard Groenendaal (Ned) Rabobank 0.30 3. Magnien (Fra) 4. Sven Nijs 5. Adri van der Poel (Ned) Rabobank