Cervélo confirmed today that it would not continue as a title sponsor for its cycling team after the end of this season. In a statement issued late Thursday, the bike manufacturer cited "certain subtle changes in the rules that govern pro cycling" which meant the team would have had to increase its budget to ensure it would be able to participate in the sport's biggest races. Cyclingnews reported yesterday that the team's future was uncertain after a number of riders were linked to Garmin-Transitions for next year.
"This is not something with which we are comfortable," the statement said. "We were okay with the significant commitment we originally made to the team, but to increase it is not prudent."
The press release did not directly state that it was ending both the men's and women's professional teams, but Cyclingnews understands from its sources that the women's programme will continue. Sources have confirmed that the riders were notified of the news via email on Wednesday by the team management and that the women were assured that the team would continue for next year, although Cervélo have not confirmed this.
Gerard Vroomen, co-founder of Cervélo, set up the men's Pro Continental team at the start of the 2009 season, signing 2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre, Thor Hushovd and a host of other talented riders. The team had a spectacular debut season, winning stages and the green jersey in the Tour de France, stages in the Vuelta and Giro, as well as seeing Heinrich Haussler break through as a major force in one-day racing.
The team were unique in the sense that they combined product development and brand awareness with winning as their main goals.
The team remained Pro Continental in 2010 and were set to carry on as such for next year. However, the UCI modified its rules for participation in the World Calendar races for 2011, and it seems these changes would preclude a Pro Continental team from guaranteed participation in the Tour de France.
Sastre was the first to announce his departure from the team well before rumours of the squad's demise became rampant. His move, coupled with the fact that no new faces were brought into the squad meant that Cervélo were already short of numbers for next season. There was also speculation as far back as the spring that the team were in financial difficulty. However, news of the team's demise still came as a shock to many of the riders within the team.
Since then, the bike manufacturer has been linked with the Garmin-Transitions team as a possible replacement for the American squad's Felt sponsorship, with Transitions dropping from the second sponsor slot and Cervelo taking over in their place. Neither team confirmed this. However, the Cervélo statement said, "We look forward to continued involvement in pro cycling at the highest level with an emphasis on product R&D, as we have since 2003. To that end, we will announce the details soon."
Cyclingnews sources have also confirmed that several of Cervelo's riders have begun negotiations with Garmin, including Haussler, Hushovd and a handful of their other Classics riders.