Kenta Gallagher and Grant Ferguson, Scotland's young mountain biking prospects, have joined the Superior Brentjens MTB Racing Team for 2013.
They are among five riders to join the squad which, it was announced yesterday, is to be sponsored by Endura, a Livingston-based company, for the next two years.
Gallagher, 20, from Inverness, was the Under-23 national champion in 2011 and 2012, and both he and Peebles-born Ferguson, 19, are based in Manchester where they train under British Cycling's Olympic Academy Programme. They raced for Boardman Elite Mountain Bike Team in 2012. Ferguson is also a talented road rider and occasionally races with the Under-23 Men's Endurance Academy riders.
Loading article content
"I'm pretty excited," Gallagher said yesterday.
The official UCI trade team, managed by Bart Brentjens who was the first Olympic mountain bike champion in 1996, will race at international level.
Their racing schedule for 2013 includes the UCI World Cup series for cross country and eliminator, the National, European and World Championships, National Series and the Cape Epic.
Gallagher and Ferguson, who share a flat in Manchester, have been firm friends and rivals for the best part of a decade.
"Grant and I have raced each other since we were tiny and still at primary school. We have moved up through the ranks together," said Gallagher. "We have always pushed each other. Sometimes we do annoy one another. If you spend so much time with someone that's bound to happen, we are almost like siblings now."
Joining Gallagher and Ferguson in the squad is reigning Polish cross country champion Marek Konwa, Dutch riders Jeroen Boelen, Hans Becking and Anne Terpstra, Jiri Novak (CZE), Yana Belomoyna (UKR) and Paul Rodenbach (SA).
Being part of such a big-name outfit should prove hugely beneficial to the Scots pair in the run-up to next year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.