Although there was widespread indignation that Europcar and not Astana failed to secure a renewal of its WorldTour licence, team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau was not among those roused to anger. Speaking to L’Équipe following the UCI’s announcement that the French team will no longer be part of the sport’s elite hierarchy, Bernaudeau admitted he’d been left “very tired” by the application process and confirmed that any of his riders could leave if they were able to.
“Yes, if any of them have got offers, what do you want me to tell them?” said the Europcar boss when asked if the team’s relegation from the WorldTour to likely Pro Continental status had left his riders free to pursue other options that would guarantee them a start in all of the biggest races. However, with the new season just weeks away, it seems unlikely any of Europcar’s stars will depart.
Bernaudeau described his team’s application for continued WorldTour status as “impressive on an administrative level and very good from an ethical point of view”. It was undermined, he explained, “by a gap of 6% between our expected receipts and expenses.”
Bernaudeau pointed out the difficulty of matching the financial requirements of WorldTour presence with a budget that is only a little more than half the €14 million average at that level. “There are three second division teams that have a bigger budget than ours,” he said. “My riders aren’t paid what they are really worth.”
Only promoted to the WorldTour last season, Europcar won just 12 races last season, none of them coming at that level. With Europcar set to withdraw at the end of 2015, Bernaudeau is already searching for a new backer to ensure his team’s continuity.