The merger of two cycling teams could mean Canadians riding Canadian-made bikes in next year's Tour de France.
Team Garmin-Transitions, whose stable of cyclists includes Ryder Hesjedal of Victoria, and Cervelo TestTeam out of Toronto announced Friday they're combining forces in 2011 under the new banner Garmin-Cervelo.
Cervelo is a bike company founded 15 years ago by Phil White and Gerard Vroomen when they were engineering students at McGill University. Cervelo was the first Canadian bike manufacturer on the Tour in 2003.
Garmin-Cervelo's roster of riders won't be finalized until October. Hesjedal finished seventh overall in this year's Tour, which was the best result by a Canadian since Steve Bauer's fourth in 1998.
Hesjedal extended his contract with Garmin-Transitions to 2013 prior to this year's Tour, so there is a strong possibility Hesjedal will ride a Cervelo bike in the 2011 Tour.
"I'd certainly like to see that, but I can't guarantee that," White said Friday from Toronto. "The team has to work out those arrangements."
Svein Tuft of Langley, B.C., and Christian Meier of Sussex, N.B., are also among Garmin's pro racers. No Canadians raced on this year's Tour for Cervelo, although Dominique Rollin of Boucherville, Que., was on the team roster.
Under its agreement with Cervelo, Slipstream will operate a women's pro team for the first time. White wants to retain as many staff and riders as possible through the merger.
"There will be some people who will be affected. I wouldn't imagine Ryder would be part of that," White said. "I'm looking forward to seeing a real Canadian presence."
"For years it's just been kind of us at the Tour, the only Canadian content. It's great if we have Canadian riders and on Canadian bikes would be stellar.
"One of our goals is to see more Canadians make that jump to top-level racing in Europe and also hopefully see them more in North America."
Cervelo sponsored its own team on the Tour the last two years. Cervelo TestTeam, led by Norway's Thor Hushovd and Spaniard Carlos Sastre, will race for the last time in the Tour de Spain starting Saturday in Seville.
White says joining forces with the Garmin squad, managed by Slipstream Sport, allows Cervelo to retain some control over the direction of a team without having to carry the entire financial freight.
The annual budgets of elite cycling pro teams run between $10 million and $20 million annually, he said.
"Slipstream is a team that's on the leading edge and they've always been looking for advantages and how to take the team forward," White said. "For us, it's achieving the same goals, but it's just achieving them without having to run the team as well."
One of the reasons Cervelo started their own team was to foster a drug-free culture on it in the wake of doping scandals that rocked the Tour in recent years. Slipstream has a reputation for clean riding after aggressively testing their own riders and policing themselves.
"We always thought that was very important," White said. "I think that's part of the values of the team.
"It was a big part of the Cervelo TestTeam, but it's also a big part of Slipstream. We certainly wouldn't be talking to anyone that didn't share those same basic values."
White and Vroomen may have become businessmen, but engineering bikes has always been their first love. Designing a high-end bike for the weekend warrior willing to pay between $2,000 and $11,000 is what drives their business.
The S3 road bike and the R3 climbing bike ridden by Cervelo's pros on the Tour are the same bikes people buy at 250 retail outlets across North America.
The partnership with Slipstream allows Cervelo to put more resources into research and development, although White points out that aspect wasn't ignored the last two years.
"There's a lot of costs in running a team and we started a team in the worst economic downturn in years," White said. "Not a smart idea from that standpoint, but you don't always get everything aligning to exactly what your time scale and your priorities are.
"This is going to make it easier for us and allow us to put more resources back into research and development without really losing anything because we have a great partner in Slipstream."