Future of Garmin-Cervélo women’s team in doubt as Egon van Kessel released
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Friday, November 25, 2011

Future of Garmin-Cervélo women’s team in doubt as Egon van Kessel released

by Ben Atkins at 10:29 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Budget reported as halved for women’s arm of WorldTour team; no application for UCI status made yet; Emma Pooley in the dark over future in Olympic year

noemi canteleThe future of the women’s Garmin-Cervélo team appears to be in doubt as reports in the Dutch media indicate that its budget has been severely cut. The team which numbered ten riders in 2011, including former World time trial champion Emma Pooley, Italian champion Noemi Cantele and British champion Lizzie Armitstead, is part of the same organisation as the men’s WorldTour team but it seems that there is no longer the budget to run both teams at the current level.

This morning wielerland.nl reported that team manager Egon van Kessel had been released from his contract, despite assurances last week that everything was going through. “Jonathan Vaughters sent me an email just two sentences long, with apologies for the miscommunication,” van Kessel said, “and only then because I asked for clarification.”

The Dutchman, who has worked for the Netherlands Cycling Union (KNWU) in the past, was supposed to have been a director at the ill-fated Pegasus team this year, until the project collapsed due to the withdrawal of sponsors.

“I’m beginning to lose faith in humanity,” he said.

The Garmin-Cervélo women’s team was created from the core of the Cervélo TestTeam as the sponsors joined the men’s Garmin-Transitions team. The roster was cut from fourteen to just ten though, despite the team being one of the most successful in the women’s sport.

VeloNation contacted Pooley for comment on the rumours, but the British Olympic time trial silver medallist – who will be aiming for gold in her capital London next summer – appears to be in the dark as to what is going on.

“So far as I know, nothing has been confirmed, on or off the record,” she told us. “I don't think it's unrest in the women's team so much as the management expressing doubts (at this point in the year, this close to the UCI deadline for registration!) as to whether they'll support the team next year with enough money to go to races.

“I hope it's just rumours and that Slipstream comes out and supports the women's team fully, otherwise they've put us in a very poor situation really.”

There were indications this month that the women’s budget would be tight since none of them were flown in to the team’s gala presentation in Boulder, Colorado. This afternoon wielerrevue.nl has reported that the team’s budget has been slashed in half, and that riders had been advised that they could seek contracts elsewhere.

Many of the apparent budget shortfalls appear to have arisen because a number of contracts were signed – including with controversial Dutch rider Thomas Dekker, who recently returned from a two year suspension for the use of EPO – on the assumption that French builders merchant chain BigMat was to join as a co-sponsor from next year.

BigMat has instead chosen to support the FDJ team, as it rejoins the WorldTour, and taken a reported €2 million with it.

Jonathan Vaughters, sports director of Garmin-Cervélo and CEO of parent company Slipstream Sports, chose to comment on the situation via his Twitter feed.

“Yes, we are having to cut the women's team budget, unless we find a sponsor for them,” he wrote. “With loss of BigMat, we cannot use $ from men's team.

“So, if you want to be upset,” he added, “go ask FDJ-BigMat, why they aren't running a women's team at all?”

Slipstream Sports later responded with an official comment from the former rider, which reads as follows:

“We spent 14 months aggressively searching for an independent sponsor for the women’s team but we were unsuccessful in that mission. So, when we entered into a binding letter of intent with a potential sponsor, we made the decision to fund the women’s team out of the World Tour team. That potential sponsor withdrew from the deal. As a result, we are being forced to evaluate our women’s program.

"We are hopeful to find another solution and are back aggressively looking for a sponsor, but if we are unable to secure one, we will have to continue to make budget cuts. We are committed to doing everything we can for our athletes and staff during this time and they remain our priority.”

If Pooley, Cantele, Armitstead et al were to find that the team was to be running at a much lower level that before – or to be disappearing entirely – it could mean that some of the biggest riders in the sport were missing out on many of its biggest events on the build up to the Olympic Games.

More on this story as it develops


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