Cycling: Testing route for British venture

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The Independent Online
A NEW British cycling team hits the road next week with their sponsor talking of the Tour de France as "a long-term aim."

There is a long and difficult route between the opening race for Team Men's Health, Sunday's Grand Prix of Essex, and a shot at cycling's Holy Grail, three weeks of pedalling purgatory.

"They have a global image, and the Tour fits in well with that," said Jane Williams, the team director, speaking about the publishing company whose Men's Health magazine is behind the sponsorship. "They are discussing four or five years down the line, and they are keen to work towards a team for the Tour."

Leading the 10 riders who comprise Team Men's Health is the former world track champion, Colin Sturgess, who last year made a successful comeback after a five-year lay-off.

The last British-backed team to tackle the Tour was ANC-Halfords in 1987. Four of the nine-man team completed the 4,321km to Paris, an ill-prepared venture founded on the ambitions of their boss, Tony Capper, who was later sued by his riders for unpaid wages.

The new team is an English-Welsh mix, but for a future Tour quest they will have to buy in European talent and be prepared to invest cash by the million to qualify for a place. On Sunday it clashes with Britain's No 1 team, Linda McCartney Foods, managed by Sean Yates, one of only a few Britons who knows the Tour's demands.

An early target for Team Men's Health will be a place in Britain's PruTour in May, which will be a big enough step in their first campaign.