Sprinter Leigh Howard has signed with the new Australian Cycling Academy (ACA) team after prematurely terminating his contract with Aqua Blue Sport.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
5 Dec 2017 - 6:06 AM  UPDATED 5 Dec 2017 - 9:58 AM

Howard headlines the Queensland-based ACA outfit, founded by ex-cyclist Ben Kersten and Orica-Scott sports director Matt Wilson, which will be formally announced next week.

The 28-year-old signed a two-year deal with Aqua Blue Sport at the end of 2016, but took an extended break from competition in May after the Tour of Norway. The Irish Pro Continental squad publicised the amicable contract dissolution last month.

Howard intends to return to full-time endurance track racing, with the ambition of being selected to represent Australia in the team pursuit at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Howard leaves Aqua Blue to focus on Tokyo 2020
Australian sprinter Leigh Howard has sidelined his road cycling career to focus more heavily on track objectives, according to a trade team statement.

He was part of the quartet that overcame New Zealand at the recent Oceania Track Championships to win team pursuit gold in a scorching 3:52.421.

Howard revealed to Cycling Central last week his “stagnant” road career had become more an obligation than passion in recent years. Whereas technical developments on the track, suited to his characteristics, served as renewed motivation.

Leigh Howard back on track
Racing on European roads was the dream for Leigh Howard seven years ago when he turned professional with then sprint powerhouse HTC-Columbia. Now he's found his thirst again, back on the track.

The move to the Continental-licensed ACA will allow Howard to fully commit to pursuits in the velodrome while keeping a highly flexible road competition schedule across Australia and Asia.

“I will do some [road] racing for the year and they were good in the fact that they said I could do as much or little as I wanted,” Howard said.

“There’s a lot of young guys, so my job will be basically mentoring them and guiding those that have aspirations to race on the road because I’ve been there and done that for quite a few years.”

ACA is expected to announce Queensland’s University of the Sunshine Coast as one of its principle backers, and Ridley as bike sponsor, next week also.

It is understood Kersten will steer the outfit, which will make its debut at the Australian National Road Race Championships in January.