Dave Brailsford spoke at the Sports Journalists Association lunch in London yesterday, outlining his plans for a British team to take on the Tour de France.

CW understands that negotiations are at a very advanced stage, as we reported in the magazine two weeks ago.

Now the national media is sitting up and taking notice. Brailsford, who has shown himself to be a skilful operator in the world of press and public relations, spoke at the lunch knowing that reporters would seize upon his suggestion that a British rider representing a British team could one day win the Tour de France.

But this is not pie in the sky. Brailsford is not a fantasist who?s daring to dream big but has nothing but hot air to back it up. The wheels are in motion.

No doubt some time in the next few days he will be on the phone to his prospective sponsors to say: ?Look at the interest we?ve created ? and we haven?t even named the sponsor yet, or signed any riders? Just imagine the buzz when you sign the cheque and we can start recruiting.?

See Thursday?s Cycling Weekly as we attempt to answer the burning question. Can a British rider really win the Tour de France in the near future?

In the meantime, here is an article that originally appeared in the June 13 issue of Cycling Weekly.

RULE BRITANNIA

Cycling Weekly understands that plans for a British-owned professional team for 2010 are progressing rapidly.

Dave Brailsford, British Cycling?s performance director, has made no secret of his dream of putting together a British pro team to compete in the Tour de France and the Classics.

That dream could now be less than 18 months from reality.

In the past couple of months, a lot of work has been done behind the scenes to put the infrastructure into place, including drawing up proposals covering the details of how the team would work, what it would compete in and where the riders would come from.

As soon as the World Track Championships finished, Brailsford dedicated a lot of his time to the British pro team dream.

?Since the World Championships I have been working very hard on putting everything into place for a pro team for 2010,? said Brailsford. ?I have always said that if we?re going to do this, we do it properly, with a team to compete in all the biggest races, including the Tour de France. I am not interested a halfway house compromise. The plans are moving quickly.?

He hopes to capitalise on cycling?s increased media profile to convince the already interested corporations that there is an attractive return to be had from sponsoring a British cycling team.

Mark Cavendish?s stage wins in the Giro d?Italia have helped demonstrate what is possible on the road but it is hoped a successful Olympics will put cycling in the spotlight again. Then there?s the strong possibility of the Tour de France returning to London in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics. Brailsford feels there?s never likely to be a better time to launch a British pro team to challenge on the road.

THE BIG QUESTIONS

Is there a sponsor lined up?
Nothing is signed but there is a lot of interest. Dave Brailsford spent three days in London last week meeting potential sponsors. He?s been working hard on putting together a pro team and has the infrastructure in place.

When is the team going to be launched?
The plan is to launch the team in time for the start of the 2010 season.

Could a smaller, Pro Continental team be set-up for 2009 to pave the way?
It has been considered but it now seems very unlikely. Brailsford wants to launch the team with a bang at the very top level.

If it?s going to be a big team, how much will it cost?
The budget will be in the region of £6m per year.

What would the race programme be like?
The plan is to compete at the very top level from 2010 onwards, with a race programme including the Tour of California, Paris-Nice, the spring Classics, the Tour de France from year one.

What would be British Cycling?s role?
BC would be the ?moral owner? of the team, overseeing all aspects of the squad, however there would need to be a private company to own the team. That management company would have a contract with each of the riders and each of the sponsors. The details are sketchy at this stage but CW understands lawyers are in the process of drawing up an innovative solution because it is impractical for the riders to be contracted to the governing body.

Would foreign riders be recruited to the team?
Brailsford is not ruling anything in or out at this stage but it is likely carefully-selected foreign riders could be part of the team. It would depend on the identity of the main sponsors and the overseas markets they are interested in. However, the team would be British owned, British run, British managed and with a core of British riders.

How important is Mark Cavendish to these plans?
Cavendish?s contract with High Road [now Team Columbia] expires at the end of 2009. Like all riders whose contracts are up for renewal, he will be free to negotiate with any interested parties next year. It goes without saying a British pro team would want Cavendish, just as it would want any major British rider.

What about David Millar, he?s a part-owner of Slipstream Sports?
Again, Brailsford says no obstacle is too big but Millar?s role in Slipstream does complicate matters.

There are plenty of British pros out there but they are scattered between several pro teams. How will the new British team get hold of these riders?
CW understands that any British riders Brailsford would want, and who want to be involved in a British professional team, has ensured that his current contract does not preclude him being free to join.

HAS BRITAIN GOT THE RIDERS?

THE ESTABLISHED PROS
? David Millar ? owns a stake in the Slipstream team, which may complicate matters but doesn?t rule him out
? Mark Cavendish ? Team Columbia contract expires at the end of 2009
? Bradley Wiggins ? another highly desirable rider
? Ed Clancy ? placed at Landbouwkrediet by BC, would be part of the team
? Steve Cummings ? has agreed a contract with an unnamed team for next year but would be in the GB pro team?s plans
? Geraint Thomas ? almost certain to be in the team should it happen
? Ian Stannard ? Classics specialist who could be an invaluable part of the Cavendish lead-out train
? Roger Hammond ? will be 36 at the start of 2010 but what finer way to round of his career, he he wants to continue that long. Experienced, intelligent, well-respect. Ideal ?captain? material
? Jeremy Hunt ? will also be 36 in 2010
? Charly Wegelius ? defied team orders at the 2005 World Championships and has been on the black list ever since
? Chris Froome ? Kenyan-born but switched to a British racing licence in April
? Dan Lloyd ? strong climber, will be 29 at the start of 2010 so would definitely be in the frame
? Dan Fleeman ? has caught the eye while riding for An Post

ACADEMY RIDERS
Ben Swift and Jonny Bellis are attracting interest from pro teams already. Then there?s the likes of Peter Kennaugh, Mark McNally, Jonny McEvoy, Alex Dowsett and the other riders who are learning their trade in Italy, some of whom could step up in time for 2010.

FROM LEFT-FIELD
? Liam Killeen ? Mountain biker who has been tested by BC. They believe he could make a talented stage race rider.

DECIDED TO RIDE FOR IRELAND
Dan Martin ? Former British junior champion now riding for Slipstream. Talented climber. Frustrated by what he saw as BC?s emphasis on track riders decided to take out an Irish racing licence. Doesn?t necessarily rule him out though.

RELATED LINKS
Brailsford talks about pro team plan
Brailsford outlines his pro team dream to the press

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: GUIDE

Tour de France 2008 homepage>>
News and features>>
Route & stages>>
Teams and riders>>
About the Tour>>