Melton cycling team Metaltek-Kuota has been chosen by Scottish Cycling to help develop some of its top up-and-coming riders.
The semi-professional outfit will field three of their national squad riders this season as part of the link-up, including 18-year-old Tom Chandler, from Old Dalby.
The seeds of the initiative were sown by Metaltek owner Andy Swain and his long-time Melton friend Gary Coltman, the head of performance for Scottish Cycling, together with new team coach Colin Sturgess.
“Gary and I went mountain biking and had a chat about it and thrashed it out then,” Swain told the Melton Times.
“I am proud that they see us as a good fit for their riders. They understand the level we can offer which some people don’t see; I don’t think they realise how good we are.
“We will receive a little bit of financial assistance because we are helping develop their riders in major races.
“In return they will get the highest possible exposure to UK racing so it’s a win-win for both of us.”
Scottish junior time trial champion Andy Brown and Scottish road race champion Steven Lawley make up the trio in a new-look Metaltek squad, led again by captain Dan Fleeman, which has almost doubled from six riders to 11.
Coltman, who helped bring through five Scottish riders into the British World track championship squad this month, added: “It’s a chance of getting young riders through in the right environment and about them being in the right races at the right time.
“Metaltek fits with what we are trying to do.
“Both Andy and Tom have designs of getting on to Team GB, but they still have to earn their places in the Metaltek squad first so it’s just a start for them.”
Just 18 months ago, Swain handed over the team reins so he could commit more time to his engineering business and family.
But with the team in danger of collapse, he stepped back in shortly before the start of the 2016 season and fielded a scaled-back squad.
Driven on by their relative success last year, and the addition of former world champion Sturgess as coach, Swain is confident Metaltek will be back causing a few headaches for the big budget teams.
The season starts in earnest with the Premier Calendar and the Tour Series, televised by ITV 4, which packs 10 races into May.
Later in the year there is the Elite Circuit Series, but perhaps the biggest circle on the calendar is marked around April 23 and their home race: the Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic.
“They are all firing already,” he said. “A few of them are trying to get in their respective Commonwealth Games squads.
“Zach (May) hopes to represent Wales, Tom, Andy and Steven want to represent Scotland and Tom Mazzone the Isle of Man so it’s all good for us.
“We would like a podium in the Premier Calendar. The Tour Series is a big ask, but we will be competitive and I think we will get our night of glory. We aren’t big enough to worry the big teams in the overall, but we will get our night.”
The fall of other leading UK teams to the uncertain economic climate, including NFTO and Pedal Heaven, also played into Metaltek’s hands.
“We had lots of riders knocking on the door and some were too good to pass up on,” Swain added.
“We can am a little higher this year, especially with Colin on board which frees up my time and means I can get on with my day job.
“We are in a nice place; a little bit bigger and better which is pretty exciting.”
Full squad: Andy Brown (19); Tom Chandler; Dan Fleeman; Liam Holohan; Steven Lawley; Rhys Lloyd; Zach May; Tom Mazzone; Tom Neale; Bertie Newey; George Pymm.