Olympic-bound cyclist Sam Bewley has joined fellow Kiwi Julian Dean in the Orica-GreenEDGE professional outfit upon the departure of top Australian Robbie McEwen.
Bewley, 24, will represent New Zealand in the team pursuit in the 2012 London Olympics before switching his focus 100 per cent to a road career. He raced for two years with RadioShack and spent the first half of this season focussing on his track racing with the BikeNZ track team.
"I'm excited to be part of an Australian team,'' said Bewley. "I'm not Australian, of course, but New Zealand and Australia are pretty united when it comes to sport unless we're competing against one another. Even then, it's a friendly rivalry. I'm really happy to be part of a team from the Southern Hemisphere that's racing in Europe.''
Bewley will waste no time in beginning his career with the team, making his debut tonight (NZ time) in the Bayern Rundfahrt in Germany. He returns to the track in the build-up to the Olympics before rejoining the team for additional road racing in August.
"We weren't able to sign Sam until Robbie retired because we were maxed out on numbers,'' Orica-GreenEDGE sports director Matt White explained. "This ended up working out well for both Sam and the team because of Sam's track schedule. He has a lot of potential on the road when he's able to fully concentrate on road racing, and we're looking forward to helping him develop his complete potential. We've signed him for this and the next season, and while we won't see him much this year, he'll be with us fulltime on the road in 2013.''
Along with Dean, Bewley will join the likes of Matthew Goss, Jack Bobridge, Cameron Meyer and Stuart O'Grady in the Orica-GreenEDGE team. Dean is currently recovering from a broken leg suffered in the Tour of Catalunya in Spain in March.
Bewley will rejoin the BikeNZ track team when they go into their final track preparation camp later next month and calls a bronze medal in the team pursuit at the 2008 Beijing Olympics his career highlight.
"Most of my highlights are on the track as that's where I have put my energy,'' Bewley said. "The Olympic medal in Beijing stands out the most. I haven't got a real highlight on the road yet, but I'm happy to join a team where I think that's a real possibility.''
Without much road racing in his legs, Bewley expects Bayern Rundfahrt to be a personal challenge.
"It's going to be a shock to the system racing at this level,'' he said. ``I'm here to get some racing in my legs and make a good impression to my new teammates and staff. I'll work as hard as I can for the team. We have some strong riders here on the hunt for stage wins. I'll support their goals wherever I can.''