Rapha Condor Sharp have changed focus ahead of the 2012 season with the creation of a cycling academy and the goal of becoming a feeder squad for professional WorldTour teams.
The team was formed in 2006 and, under the leadership of former Great Britain team manager John Herety, has grown to become the dominant force in British domestic racing, with 2011 successes including overall victory in the Halfords Tour Series, while Graham Briggs claimed the national criterium title.
Rapha has previously provided the platform for riders, young and old alike, to market themselves, with 33-year-old Russell Downing joining Team Sky for two years, making his Grand Tour debut at the 2011 Giro d’Italia, and 24-year-old Australian Zak Dempster riding in support of world champion Mark Cavendish as a stagiaire for HTC-Highroad at the Paris-Tours semi-classic earlier this month.
Now the team aims to fill the gap left for young riders who are not part of British Cycling’s academy, providing a structured coaching and racing programme for aspiring professionals as cycling’s profile and popularity in the UK continues to rise.
“We firmly believe that the Rapha Condor Sharp team can make more of a contribution to UK racing by taking a different approach, with a different ambition,” said Rapha CEO Simon Mottram. “We all hope that a new generation of fans are being drawn to cycle racing and among them will be hundreds if not thousands of young hopefuls, keen to try out racing and emulate their new heroes.
“And yet, these promising juniors and espoirs have very few opportunities or openings to get into the sport and move up through the ranks. For all the professional teams competing for TV airtime and UK professional race victories, few structured programs exist to develop and nurture British racing talent.
“The British Cycling academy only has spaces for the best eight young riders each year. There are no programs in this country to rival the proven systems such as those run by Rabobank or AN-Post. Starting in 2012 Rapha Condor Sharp aims to fill that gap with its own development program and, ultimately, a cycle racing academy.”
The team will continue to have a core of experienced riders – including Olympic team pursuit gold medallist Ed Clancy, Andrew Tennant and Dean Downing – to keep a steady hand on the tiller, while the first new confirmed signings are Brits Richard Handley, Luke Mellor, Tim Kennaugh and Oliver Rossi, Australians Richard Lang and Ben Grenda, and South African Christopher Jennings.
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British trio sign new deals with Team Sky
Meanwhile, three riders to have progressed from the British Cycling academy – Ian Stannard, Ben Swift and Peter Kennaugh – have signed new deals with Team Sky.
Classics specialist Stannard claimed his first professional victory at the Tour of Austria in July, before supporting Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins at the Vuelta a Espana, while sprinter Swift rode this year’s Tour de France and promising stage racer Kennaugh finished fifth overall at the Tour of Poland.
Team principal Dave Brailsford said: “Having nurtured them on Great Britain’s Olympic Academy Programme, we knew these guys had bright futures ahead of them, and they have all fulfilled that promise, and more.
“It has been great to watch them flourish at the very highest level of the sport and we are delighted that they have chosen to stay with the team. I have no doubt at all that these riders will go from strength-to-strength in the future and we will continue to give them all the support they need to fulfil their massive potential.”