Since any more detail on the Aussie team under Shane Bannan is vague for now, I wanted to review the broader concept behind the Aussie squad, namely that we are seeing the emergence of several national teams. In an age when the sport is supposed to be moving towards attracting global brands, we are seeing a growing proportion of teams defined by their nationality.
The Rise of Nationalism…
Of course each team is already linked to a country, for example Rabobank is quite Dutch, even sporting orange kit. But in recent years we’ve seen several teams not just linked to a country but labelled by the nation.
Astana is of course the unfortunate showcase for Kazakhstan. Katusha is the “Russian cycling project”. But we also have Team Sky which is British to the point that nobody can quite tell where publicly-funded governing body British Cycling ends and Newscorp’s Team Sky begins. So far Team Luxembourg is placing less emphasis on the country of origin despite the name. Plus there’s the New Zealand project, Pure Black Cycling.
…or the rise of commercialism?
But you can look at these teams as the opposite of a national squad. Bannan’s Aussie team perhaps has inspiration from Team Sky. Dave Brailsford has helped to turn a humble track team from rainy Manchester into a glamorous road team. A national squad is limited to a few track events oer year and the Worlds as well as the Olympics. Move into the pro scene you can soon enter the relative glamour of touring Flanders and France. And significantly be better paid. Any ambitious coach will jump at the chance.
Riding under the flag is a tricky concept. A national team will always want their best home rider but look around: Menchov rides with Geox-TMC and Cavendish is with HTC-Highroad. Plus imagine the bidding war for Richie Porte later this year. If it gets the go-ahead for 2011 it remains to be seen whether an Aussie team can sign the best Aussie riders, certainly Cadel Evans is closely linked to Team BMC and Michael Rogers has just signed up to two years with Sky. There are other Aussie riders capable of forming the backbone of a team and delivering results of course but it seems inevitable that riders of other nationalities will be recruited. Possibly Italians.