Bye bye Barloworld: a retrospective
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bye bye Barloworld: a retrospective

by Ben Atkins at 5:22 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 

With no invitation to Saturday’s Giro di Lombardia, the Barloworld-Bianchi team has ended its season, which also marks the end of Barloworld's sponorship after 7 years in the sport.

“All sponsorships run their logical course and 7 years is a relatively long life for a sponsorship,” said Barloworld Head of Corporate Marketing, Chris Fisher. “We have achieved everything and more than we could ever have hoped to achieve with the sponsorship. We have also made good friends in the cycling world, none more so than our association with Claudio Corti - a true professional and a gentleman in the sport. It was a privilege to have worked with him and his team.”

The team first appeared on the scene in 2003 and dominated local South African races like the Giro del Capo, but with promising young South African riders on board like Ryan Cox and David George there was clearly ambition to start making waves overseas too.

In 2004 the team moved into cycling’s division 2 (the equivalent to today’s ProContinental). With the acquisition of new sponsor Androni Giocatolli assumed an Italian edge to its South African flavour as it signed riders such as classics specialist Gabriele Missaglia and sprinter Enrico Degano.

2005 saw a transfer of the team’s registration to the United Kingdom and the signing of former World Champion Igor Astarloa, young Russian Valdimir Efimkin and Felix Cardenas. Efimkin won overall honours at the Volta a Portugal, Cardenas won the Tour of Japan and Ryan Cox took the Tour de Langkawi.

2006 was a year of further development as Degano and Cardenas continued to assert themselves in climbs and sprints respectively. Giampaolo Cheula took the overall in the Course de la Paix and Astarloa took Milano-Torino.

By far the team’s biggest season was 2007. Efimkin continued to impress in smaller stage races but it was the team’s two biggest signings of the year – South African Robert Hunter and Colombian Mauricio Soler – that brought the most glory in the biggest race of the year.

Years of patience were rewarded as the team finally received an invitation to the Tour de France. Unlike many smaller teams, Barloworld was not content to play a supporting role as Soler took victory in one of the toughest stages into Briancon and won the overall polka-dot jersey mountains classification. Robert Hunter, for many year’s one of the sport’s top sprinters, followed Soler’s stage win with his own maiden victory two days later in the bunch gallop into Montpelier.

After the sweetness of the Tour, the team also tasted bitterness as Ryan Cox died on the 1st of August, aged just 28, after complications following an operation on a leg artery.

By 2008, Barloworld was properly established at the top table of cycling with invitations to all of the best races. The team was unable to recapture the results of the previous year though, despite new signing Enrico Gasparotto breaking into the top-20 World rankings with consistently strong performances. Barloworld did provide cycling with one of its most spectacular moments of the year though, as John-Lee Augustyn defied death and injury by completely missing a corner on the descent of the Col de Bonette-Restefond in the Tour de France, and flying off the road.

The team was to experience the dark side of the sport too, as Moises Duenas was one of many disqualifications from another scandal hit Tour de France after he failed a drug test for EPO. The sponsor almost withdrew, but decided to support the team for one more year.

2009 has seen a number of small victories but it has all been a far cry from the glory days of 2007. Manager Claudio Corti was unable to secure a new sponsor and decided to fold the team; many of the riders are headed to the new Team Sky.

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