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“We've set our plan for the team, which is relatively conservative,” said Roberts. “We're going for races that we're fairly certain that we'll get invited to, without aiming to ride the Tour de Fr...

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22.10.2014 @ 12:00 Posted by Lukas Knöfler

After many years as a Continental team, Michael Skelde's CULT Energy Pro Cycling is stepping up to the Professional Continental level for 2015. As part of the team makeover, track and road veteran Luke Roberts will join the team as sports director. CyclingQuotes spoke to the Australian, who's currently riding the Amsterdam Sixdays on his farewell tour of the Sixdays circuit, about the team's plans for the upcoming seasons.

 

Roberts will retire after a long career with three world titles and an Olympic gold medal in the track team pursuit and six years on road ProTeams CSC, Milram and Saxo Bank. The last two years the Australian Roberts rode for German Continental Team Stölting, but after the Bremen Sixdays in January he'll join the Danish team as a sports director.

 

As expected, the Germany-based Australian will mainly work with the international part of the team: “I'll be working with the German riders, especially Christian Mager who's also coming from Team Stölting. Possibly also with Russell Downing, another rider I know quite well, whereas André Steensen and Michael Skelde can relate better to the Danish riders and will have more contact with them.”

 

A conservative calendar

In its first year as a professional team, CULT Energy Pro Cycling will make one step at a time, said Roberts: “We've set our plan for the team, which is relatively conservative. There are no huge expectations – we're going for races that we're fairly certain that we'll get invited to, without aiming to ride the Tour de France directly in the first year.”


With several young talents on the roster, rider development is more important than a quick entry to the biggest scene: “We've got a program that I think will fit the riders well,” he continued, “to help them develop. But at the same time we've also put in a couple of big targets, and those will be very important to the team too.”

 

One such target is the group of hilly spring classics. With Fabian Wegmann the team has signed a rider who's done well especially in the Amstel Gold Race, his best result being an 8th place in 2012. Roberts confirmed the team's interest: “With Fabian we've got a good card to play there, he always performs well in the Ardennes classics. It's pretty certain that we'll put our hand up for some starts in the Ardennes. They're realistic targets, and the team we have is capable of achieving good results there.”

 

Other than the Ardennes classics the team will concentrate on HC and category 1 races and not spread themselves too thin with too many WorldTour invites: “The focus will mainly be Northern European, with few races in Italy and Spain,” said Roberts. “HC and .1 races in Scandinavia, Benelux, France, Germany, that's our calendar.”

 

Grand Tour in 2016?

In his own career, Luke Roberts started and finished the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France twice each. Asked about the long-term plans he agreed that riding a Grand Tour would eventually be a goal: “For next year, there is no Grand Tour planned, to allow the team to grow more,” he said. “We want to build the foundations first, with the riders and also with the management and all the staff working with the team. Then we'll be ready to take on a Grand Tour in 2016, but no earlier than that.”

 

A year on, the team's youngsters will have developed further, and the team is also looking at signing additional experience: “Another step in the process will be to add more riders to the roster and build a stronger base, with two race programs at the same time,” Roberts explained. “Then you have the ability to take on a Grand Tour without using all your resources for three weeks' time, and not have the other riders basically on the sidelines during that time.

 

“Sometimes there will be an overlap in 2015 already,” he continued. “We have three sports directors. Therefore we can send two to an HC race or bigger, and still be able to run a second program. Provided we don't get struck by sickness or injury, the third sports director can go to a .1 or .2 race. There won't be two completely different squads, but a lot of the time there'll be a lot of overlap in the program.”

 

CULT Energy Pro Cycling has so far announced 14 riders. According to UCI regulations a Professional Continental team must employ a minimum of three sports directors – Michael Skelde, André Steensen and Luke Roberts – and 16 riders. Therefore, further transfer announcements can be expected in the upcoming weeks.

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