Geox-TMC set to fold as sponsor pulls plug, riders free to seek new deals, but is it too late?
Menchov and Vuelta winner Cobo among those scrambling to find new team for 2012
Italian footwear company Geox has today confirmed that it has ended sponsorship of the Geox-TMC UCI Professional Continental cycling team, whose rider Juan Jose Cobo last month won the Vuelta a Espana. Having missed a crucial UCI registration deadline yesterday, today’s announcement effectively spells the end of the team managed by Italy's Mauro Gianetti.
The UCI has confirmed that the team’s riders have been freed from their contracts, but with most teams having finalised their plans for the 2012 season, some are bound to struggle to find a new employer.
Geox, which is also a sponsor of the Red Bull Formula 1 team, confirmed in a statement that it had terminated sponsorship of the team, which last year raced as Footon-Servetto, after just one year, saying that it no longer considered its presence in cycling to be “strategic.”
Yesterday, it was revealed that the team’s management company, Club Deportivo Bike Live, had not received from Geox a bank guarantee over the payment of riders’ salaries that is among the documentation that all teams seeking registration at Professional Continental, or second division, level must provide.
The team had reportedly been considering taking Geox to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to require Geox to produce the guarantee, although today’s announcement of the termination of sponsorship suggests that Geox would fight any such move, costing the team money in legal fees and more crucially time that it just cannot afford.
As early as last December, before the team had even begun a race under its new name, Treviso-based Geox, founded and still chaired by entrepreneur Mario Moretti Polegato, was reported to be considering pulling its sponsorship after the outfit failed to secure ProTeam status, a condition of its backing.
Racing instead under a Professional Continental licence, the team did not have a guaranteed place in the Tour de France. It then missed out on a wildcard entry, despite the presence on its roster of the man who won the Tour in 2008, Carlos Sastre, as well as Dennis Menchov, who finished third in 2010.
While Sastre confirmed his retirement following the Vuelta, in which he finished 20th overall, Menchov, who came fifth in the same race, is the biggest name now left without a team while Cobo, who had signed a new deal on the back of his Vuelta victory, will also be seeking new employment. At this late stage, however, they may have to take what they can get.
It’s not known how much that missed opportunity to get the company name out in front of the TV cameras this year in cycling’s biggest race influenced Geox’s decision to end its sponsorship, but today’s announcement that it was terminating the deal could not have been timed worse for the team and deals it a fatal blow.