THIS YEAR’S Tour de Yorkshire is the first major target for a new cycling team based in the county.
SwiftCarbon, a UCI Continental squad – the third tier of the sport below World Tour and Pro-Continental level – was officially launched at Leeds United’s Elland Road stadium yesterday.
The team will fly the flag for Yorkshire at races in the UK and abroad throughout the season, but are hoping to line up at the start of their home event in little more than two months’ time.
Holdsworth, a previous Yorkshire-based UCI Continental team, folded at the end of its debut season last year, but team manager Paul Lamb is confident SwiftCarbon have staying power.
He pointed out: “In terms of development, it was their first year at UCI Continental level and they threw a team together pretty quickly whereas we’ve had the benefit of three years’ development and it was always our intention in year three to step up to UCI level.
“I think we have got the foundations in place.
“We’ve got a much stronger squad and two or three years’ development.”
Lamb, who lives in Pateley Bridge – on the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire route – explained: “We’ve grown out of a team called KTM.
“The last two years we got great results as an elite team, that’s a non-UCI team and we were probably the best elite team in the country last year.
“We thought it was time to step up to UCI Continental level so we can access some of the bigger races.
“We kept about five riders out of the squad last year, but we have recruited what I would say are stronger riders for this level.”
Pete Williams, from Skipton, is the Yorkshire jewel in SwiftCarbon’s crown, but their biggest coup was picking up world-rated youngster James Shaw, who was the second-placed British rider in last year’s Tour de Yorkshire.
“We have been really lucky in picking up some big riders who have dropped down from World Tour level and Pro-Continental level who were struggling to get a ride,” added Lamb.
“James Shaw is a World Tour rider who’s ridden for Lotto-Soudal for three years and he’s still only 22.
“He came 10th in the Under-23 Worlds last year and he has ridden all the big races.
“Relevantly, he came 14th overall last year in the Tour de Yorkshire.
“We are not building our team around him, but he is certainly a star rider.”
Riders like Williams, ever-present at the race, Ed Laverack and Shaw give SwiftCarbon what Lamb says is a “pedigree” in the Tour de Yorkshire.
Teams for this year’s edition, from May 2-5, will be confirmed next month. Lamb said: “We are confident of getting in the race, but we don’t want to get complacent.
“We want to get in on merit, we are not looking for any favours because we are a Yorkshire-based team – although we are hoping that has an influence, definitely.
“In preparation for that all our planning in March and April is with the Tour de Yorkshire in mind, so by the time we get to that the riders should have ridden sufficient races to be in good shape for that.”