Rapha has confirmed that it will be ending its sponsorship of the Rapha-Condor-JLT team at the end of the 2014 season.
The London-based cycle clothing brand, founded in 2004, has sponsored the team since it began as Rapha-Condor in 2006.
The announcement that it would no longer be backing the UCI Continental outfit after next season appears to have been prompted by reports earlier today that there was speculation over whether or not it would be sponsoring the team next year.
Rapha says that it has given the team, managed since 2008 by former British national champion John Herety, 16 months’ notice of the termination of its sponsorship, and has promised to boost its backing in 2014, including growing the roster to 14 riders.
Rapha co-founder and CEO Simon Mottram said: “Road racing and riding in the UK have been transformed since Rapha and Condor started our partnership in 2006.
“Who would have thought that we would have two Tour de France victories, gold medals and so many people riding regularly?
“Both Rapha and Condor have grown and developed in that time as well. Our eight years together have been really important to Rapha, helping us become established as a legitimate fixture of the UK racing scene.”
At the time it began sponsoring the team, no-one could have imagined that a few year’s later, a British rider for a British team would be wearing Rapha kit on his way to winning the Tour de France, as Chris Froome did this year, with Rapha having taken over as Team Sky's kit supplier from Adidas at the start of 2013.
A previous Rapha-Condor-JLT sponsor, Sharp, decided last year to move its sponsorship up to the highest level of the sport, sponsoring another UCI WorldTour team, Garmin-Sharp.
Speaking of the decision to end Rapha’s sponsorship, Mottram said: “After eight years the cycling market and our business have changed and we have decided that having a UCI registered Continental Racing team is not the best way for Rapha to contribute to the UK racing scene.
“We are exploring other ways in which Rapha can usefully invest in UK racing and further plans will be announced shortly.”
Nicknamed the Men In Black, the team’s riders include Kristian House, winner of the national road race championship in 2009 – the last rider from a non-WorldTour team to win the title – and Olympic team pursuit champion, Ed Clancy.
While they remain key members of the squad, the past couple of years has seen the team move focus less on experience – former national criterium champion Dean Downing, and three-time Olympic track medallist Chris Newton have also ridden for it – and more on youth as it looks to bring young riders through.
“Rapha have been an excellent sponsor for the team, as well as passionate supporters of our riders,” said Herety.
“We’ve enjoyed a lot of success in the distinctive black jerseys, and we will be working to take as many more wins as we can in 2014, before the team continues in a new guise into 2015.”
Grant Young of Condor Cycles, which like co-sponsor insurance firm JLT will continue to support the team until at least the end of the 2015 season, added: "It has been great working in partnership with Rapha over what will be nine years.
“The 'men in black' have achieved more success than Simon and I ever could have imagined when we started this project.
“It has been great to help and watch a brand that started with just three items grow and revolutionise cycle clothing.
"I am of course sad that Rapha have chosen to leave this partnership but understand that their commitments have evolved.”
Rapha meanwhile intend that their ninth and final year sponsoring the team will be one to remember, including special events to mark what it describes as “the end of an era.”
Mottram concluded: “We are happy to go out on a high, with 2014 being a year of celebration for Rapha, Condor, John Herety and all the riders and staff who have worked with us since 2006.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.