Irishman Matt Brammeier has signed for HTC-Columbia for 2011.

“I’m made up, it’s a big step,” Brammeier told Cycling Weekly. “If you’d told me I’d be signing for HTC-Columbia this time last year, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

“I’d kind of known it was happening for a while, so there’s been no pressure to get results recently, which was nice,” he added.

The AN Post-Sean Kelly team rider won the Irish national road race championships in June, his finest result in a year that has also seen him finish on the podium in Belgium several times.

It’s been a tough haul to the sport’s top tier for Liverpool-born Brammeier, who was hit by a cement truck in November 2007 ago, breaking his hip and both legs.

Even now, he hasn’t fully shaken off the after-effects of the crash. “It’s been a long way back; I still get a few little niggles and slight muscle imbalance.”

There is one HTC rider that needs no introduction to Brammeier: old Academy teammate and friend Mark Cavendish.

“I’m unsure of my programme, but hopefully we’ll be riding the same races and I can be part of his lead-out train,” he said.

A former British national junior road race and Academy member, Brammeier went to Belgium in 2006 in pursuit of a top professional contract. Having notably ridden for Wales at the last Comonwealth Games, he switched his nationality to Irish last summer.

Clad in Irish green and ProTour contract signed the week before the world championships, a stress-free Brammeier attacked from the gun in Melbourne, staying at the head of the race for 190 kilometres as part of the early breakaway.

“I’m pretty happy with it, but it was a long day out! I wanted to go from the start and get some publicity for myself and the team, and maybe help Nicolas [Roche] when the selection was made.