With some 250 days’ racing already mapped out, Anthony Tan takes a shot at cobbling together Pegasus Sports’ first-quarter race schedule.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

Last Thursday, in my conversation with Pegasus Sport's CEO Chris White,
apart from assessing the state of play with their soon-to-be Pro
Continental team – and before too long, soon-to-be ProTeam, we hope –
there were two things I wanted to know but for the moment, cannot be
definitively answered.

The first was just who would be their
title sponsor. As White said, "I'd hoping to be in a position by
mid-November to provide our full brand, image and story." That's less
than a fortnight away.

Second was their race schedule for 2011,
and importantly, whether their race season would kick off with the first
race on the 26-event UCI World Tour – for which they require a wildcard
invite – and the only one in our own backyard. This is of course the
Tour Down Under, to be run from January 16-23 next year.

As per
the last three years (2008-10), the UCI will be awarding licences to 18
ProTeams (previously called ProTour teams), who will be granted
automatic entry into the new UCI World Tour, and obligated to ride each
and every event.

And as I mentioned in my previous story on this
site, Pegasus is likely to be one of 15 Pro Continental teams fighting
for three to four wildcard places in Grand Tours (depending on whether
organisers enlist 21 or 22 teams) and for other races, anywhere from
zero to seven wildcard entries.

However, since the Tour Down
Under became a ProTour event in 2008 (the first to do so outside
Europe), its race director Mike Turtur has, until this year, only
invited the 18 ProTour teams and the UniSA-Australia outfit – the latter
which, it should be noted and praised, Turtur pushed for, on condition
of becoming a ProTour event.

In 2010, Cadel Evans' BMC Racing
team, for obvious reasons, was the first Pro Continental squad to be
given a wildcard entry (there were still only 19 teams, though; Lampre
did not race because their paperwork was not in order till February).
"BMC was a no-brainer, as they say: it guaranteed us participation of
the world champion, Cadel Evans," Turtur told Cycling Central in a phone
interview this Monday.

"To me, that was really a foregone conclusion, without much consideration whatsoever."

Given
teams have been limited to seven-man rosters, one would think the TDU
can certainly accommodate three or four Pro Continental teams, which
would add another 21-28 riders to a 133-man field. Or at the very least,
replace the wildcard invitation offered to BMC this year – who will be a
ProTeam in 2011 – to Pegasus Sports, bringing the total teams to 20
(including the UniSA-Australia team) and the peloton 140-strong.

With
Pegasus' muscle on the sprinters' front and two of their riders, Robbie
McEwen and Luke Roberts, finishing fourth and fifth overall this year
in what is perennially a sprinters' race, I don't see any reason why,
come January 16, they shouldn't be on the start line in Adelaide.

Turtur
would not comment on the total number of participating teams at next
year's race, but when asked if Pegasus is as much a "no-brainer" as BMC,
he replied: "Possibly."

"They could also fall in that same category," said Turtur.

"Robbie
McEwen obviously represents a lot of interest for us, because he's won
more stages of our race than any other rider. So that factor would come
into play."

However, Turtur wanted to make clear it's not a done
deal, and the number of Pro Continental team invites – if any – will
depend primarily on money – theirs, not the team's – and the merits of
the team and the riders they intend to send to Oz.

"There's
still a bit of a timeframe to work through. Once we get to that process,
we have budget considerations to make, and other logistical issues that
need to be dealt with before we even consider a wildcard for anyone,"
he said.

Said Pegasus' CEO: "I don't know [if the organisers]
favour us but [more they] see as us relevant for the event," said White.
"I mean, we are Australia's best team. It is Australia's best cycling
event – Australia's best sporting event. We'd love to be there."

Running
concurrently with the TDU is the Tour de Langkawi (January 23-February
1), and White told me he has received and accepted an invite to race
what is essentially Malaysia's national tour and along with the TDU, one
of the biggest outside Europe.

White also added: "It's yet to be
confirmed, but we're in positive talks with ASO [Amaury Sport
Organisation, organisers of the Tour de France among other events] for
Tour of Qatar and Oman." On another ASO event, Paris-Nice, White said
"not yet" – implying an invitation may depend on their performances at
TDU and Qatar/Oman: "If we did well at those events and Paris-Nice, I
think we'd be well-positioned to think that we've got an ability to do
the Tour de France."

In addition and significantly, Pegasus
Sports has received an invitation to Tirreno-Adriatico in March, and
more than likely, a solid performance in what is known as 'The Race of
the Two Seas' will augur well for an invite at the Giro d'Italia. "It's
[the Giro] a tough one with seven mountain-top finishes. I've met with
[Giro race director] Angelo [Zomegnan] and we're very well received.
Then again, it's up to us to prove ourselves," said White.


"We've come out of a couple of years of success on the international
stage, predominantly in the US; we are the number-one team and we've got
some got momentum there.

"We want to carry that momentum where
we left off. We're by no means paying lip-service to how tough it's
going to be, but [as we move to Europe], that pressure is still going to
be there and it's going to be coming from us."

In fact, White
said Pegasus Sports has already received invitations to "most of the
northern Classics" – but not yet the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
"We've got a race program of about 250 days already," he said.

So,
if all goes to plan, below is my shot at what their first-quarter race
schedule could look like in 2011 (Pro Continental team only). At
present, Paris-Nice and Milano-Sanremo are probably the biggest
"maybe's".

18.01 - 23.01: Tour Down Under, AUS (WT)

23.01 - 01.02: Le Tour de Langkawi, MAS (2.HC)

06.02 - 11.02: Tour of Qatar, QAT (2.1)

15.02 - 20.02: Tour of Oman, OMA (2.1)

26.02 - 26.02: Beverbeek Classic, BEL (1.2)

26.02 - 26.02: Ster van Zwolle, NED (1.2)

26.02 - 26.02: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite, BEL (1.HC)

27.02 - 27.02: GP di Lugano, SUI (1.1)

27.02 - 27.02: Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, BEL (1.1)

02.03 - 02.03: Le Samyn, BEL (1.1)

04.03 - 06.03: Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, BEL (2.1)

05.03 - 05.03: Strade Bianche, ITA (1.1)

06.03 - 13.03: Paris - Nice, FRA (WT)

09.03 - 15.03: Tirreno-Adriatico, ITA (WT)

13.03 - 13.03: Omloop van het Waasland, BEL (1.2)

16.03 - 16.03: Nokere-Koerse, BEL (1.1)

18.03 - 18.03: Handzame Classic, BEL (1.1)

19.03 - 19.03: Milano-Sanremo, ITA (WT)

20.03 - 20.03: Eneco Ronde van het Groene Hart, NED (1.1)

23.03 - 23.03: Dwars door Vlaanderen, BEL (1.1)

26.03 - 26.03: E3 Prijs Vlaanderen - Harelbeke, BEL (1.HC)

27.03 - 27.03: Gent - Wevelgem, BEL (WT)

29.03 - 31.03: KBC-Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, BEL (2.HC)