- Matthew Gilmore recently took on the Belgian nationality, so he's no longer Australian (although Australia allows dual nationality). It was mentioned in an interview with Etienne De Wilde, who is to join Gilmore's RDM team from January 1st and both will form a team in all but one of this season's six day racess (De Wilde is forming a team with Frank Corvers, ex-Telekom, in one of the German 6 days).
- Andre Tsjmill now will also officially have Belgian nationality.
If only it was a case of same old, same old.
This time last year Australia's road cycling team, led by coach Heiko Salzwedel, heard whispers their funding for this year was under pressure and they may not see the year out.
The whispers were frequent enough and loud enough to bring all sorts of pressure down on the team as it prepared for the Commonwealth Bank Classic, Australia's 15-minutes on the international calendar.
There were many reasons for the cut: road cycling ran a poor second to the track stars in funding, in public response; the road was not seen as a possible gold medal event at Sydney in 2000; Australians had never really known how to ride within a professional team structure; our experience was poor.
So the call was to can road team funding. Never mind the fact our last Olympic cycling gold medal went to Kathy Watt, who won on the road in Barcelona. Never mind funding for the elite road program started seven years after the track program; never mind that after just seven years we are currently ranked 10th in the world in the professional standings.
And never mind we were still on the improve.
Salzwedel never tried to make sense of it all. He just went on with the job.
So did the AIS Giant team who, with all this circling above them, did a funny thing. They won last year's race.
Australian road champion Nick Gates took the yellow jersey and, whether the whispers were real or not, they quietened somewhat after he hit the line.
This year, we know, talk has again surfaced that funding will dry up. This time, we know, it is in black and white.
For that reason Nick Gates, Jay Sweet, Matt White and the rest of the Giant team have a fair slice of emotion invested in this year's classic, which begins tomorrow with a criterium at Hurstville.
"Emotion is going to play into it a lot this year," White said. "The reason we were so successful last year was because there is no selfishness in this team. There is no designated rider.
"Last year whoever fell into the position to win didn't matter, as long as it was one of us. We set it up for Jay, and Nick fell into it, so we did it for him."
Gates doesn't rate himself a chance this year. An Achilles heel injury has limited his preparation and, at yesterday's launch, he said as many as three within the team could win this year's race, but didn't include himself among them.
"I've had half a season, really," Gates said.
It is typical of the Australian's attitude. Not just Gates, but the team's. With the emphasis on criteriums, incorporated primarily for an uneducated Australian public, White believes Sweet is an outstanding chance.
Sweet, 22, is the team's speed freak. His sprinting ability has already seen him sign on as a sprinter with French professional team Big Mat Auber next season and, under the criterium format, the Australians believe they will be able to control the race well enough for Sweet to outsprint at the finish.
"I've ridden this race a few times and without a sprinter you're spending half the tour without a cause," White says.
"Ninety per cent of the stages are won in bunch sprints. Small fields, if you've got a good team like we have, you can control the field. The circuits are so tight, and we ride well as a team, so it shouldn't be hard to control."
Whichever way he looks at it, though, he can't help but be disappointed. White joined the team with Gates in 1993. Sweet joined soon after.
On Tuesday he went looking for a final blowout for tomorrow's race. He left his Caringbah home and three hours later turned around at Shellharbour on the South Coast, only to face a stiff headwind. It took him four and a half hours to get home. This year he has ridden more than 36,000 kilometres. He expects to finish 1997 with about 125 races under his belt - for the year.
When Sweet gets on his bike and looks down at his heart-rate monitor on his handlebars he sees that, when he is pumping like a steam train, his heart-rate gets as high as 194-195.
His absolute maximum is 197.
"It's gets pretty scary looking at it sometimes," he said, "I try not to worry about it too much when I'm racing."
That's the commitment these guys are putting on the line. For personal glory, sure, but all under the Australian banner.
It has got them to the stage where they have almost made it on the European scene where, until recently, Australians were little more than novelty value.
Phil Anderson made it as an individual. Neil Stephens did the same. Both have won stages on the Tour de France.
"That's the thing that's so disappointing," White said. "Coming so far, especially over the last two years. To almost cracking rides in the Tour de France. We were ranked 25 in the world and the top 18 teams are automatic starts.
And of the four wildcard entries the two French teams [accepted] were behind us in the rankings.
"As a team we weren't too far off."
Yesterday Salzwedel was locked in talks with AIS director John Boultbee regarding funding for future teams.
The Australian Sports Commission has already said it will not fund a team next year. With professional teams in Europe needing a minimum of 10 riders, it is too costly.
But Salzwedel is hoping the Australian Sports Commission, through the AIS, will warm to this idea.
Salzwedel told Boultbee that a division of American car manufacturing giant General Motors was prepared to take on three riders by January 1 and then a fourth rider by September 1.
It will mean the ASC is committed to four riders only, a coach to go with them, and that, as best we can, we will continue our improvement on the international scene.
It means anyone with talent will no longer have to follow the lonely road of Anderson, or Stephens. Salzwedel is hoping for Boultbee's answer by Monday.
'With the choice of Charleroi we can change the parcours. So we don't have to ride through the same villages and cities', Jean-Marie Leblanc, director of the Société de Tour de France, said. The Société announced that on the same day there will be a Waalse Pijl for women on a part of the men's route.