On the day Esteban Chaves looked set to win the Abu Dhabi Tour and confirm his place in a growing generation of talented riders, Colombia – the team that helped him turn professional in 2012 - is on the brink of closure to due a lack of funding from the Colombian Ministry of Sport.
The Colombia team has raced as a Professional Continental outfit since 2012 under the guidance of experienced Italian team manager Claudio Corti. The team is in action in both Italy and Abu Dhabi as the season ends but the GP Beghelli and the Abu Dhabi Tour could be the team’s final races.
Corti has worked to keep the team afloat despite delays in sponsorship payments from Colombia but has revealed he will pull the plug on the team if funding is not confirmed and guaranteed for 2016.
“I think it’s very difficult that the team will continue, I’ll make a final decision at the start of the week,” Corti told Cyclingnews.
“I’m waiting for a final decision from the Minister for Sport but the Colombian government does not have the same finances available to invest in the sport and especially in the team for 2016. They’re also preparing for the Rio Olympics and building new stadiums, so there’s less for the team. However I can’t continue to run the team with any less than we do now.”
“We’ve had a good relationship over the years and if a Colombian sponsor came along it would be great but I’m not optimistic. I’ve registered the team for 2016 with the UCI but its time to arrange the bank guarantee and confirm the funding otherwise I’ll have to make a final decision. I don’t want to the doubts to drag on.”
The Colombia team has ridden a European programme since 2012, helping Colombian riders like Chaves, Fabio Duarte, John Atapuma and Jarlinson Pantano develop and join bigger teams. The team has been invited to several Grand Tours. It was overlooked for a place in this year’s Giro d’Italia but rode the Vuelta a Espana. The success of Nairo Quintana, Rigoberto Uran and now Esteban Chaves has highlighted the potential of Colombian riders but also stolen the spotlight from the Colombia team.
Corti seemed ready to take a sabbatical from the sport, in the hope of making a return in 2017.
“I’ll perhaps have a year out, find a bigger sponsor in Europe or the Colombians will come back in the future,” he said.
“It’s not a problem for me, I’ve been in the pro peloton for 37 years as a manager and directeur sportif. Before that I raced for 12 years. I’ve had to start all over again in the past and will do it in the future.”
“It’ll be a pity if the team ends because it represents Colombia. So many people think Colombia is just drugs and war but that’s not true. We showed that Colombia can be present at the highest level of sport. It was a way to promote the country, develop young riders, show that Colombia is a modern country and reach out to the many Colombian people who live all over the world.”