Former Fassa Bortolo manager Giancarlo Ferretti's planned Sony-Ericsson squad will not happen after all, according to reports surfacing in Belgium.
Riders supposedly signed up for the squad, such as Stuart O'Grady, have already been informed of the latest developments.
Het Laatste Nieuws is reporting that Ferretti was dealing with an agent who did not actually represent the company, and the deal is therefore off, leaving nearly 50 employees, including riders, mechanics and support staff to make alternative arrangements for 2006. Ferretti is currently in Stockholm for emergency meetings at the company's headquarters.
O'Grady spoke to Cyclingnews about the development, saying, "it's obviously very disappointing. We have to wait for confirmation but at the moment it doesn't look good." O'Grady will now start looking for a new team, but was staying tight-lipped about who that will be.
"I'll have a look at some other teams, get in contact - I just have to go back to square one. It's really disappointing, and seemed too good to be true."
It was indeed too good to be true, and O'Grady said he's spoken with fellow Australian Matt White, who shares his disappointment; but O'Grady doesn't blame Ferretti. "It obviously came from the powers above him; I don't blame him.
"He's in Stockholm right now for meetings with the company. It's just really disappointing - not just for myself and Whitey, but for young CJ [Chris Sutton] who's just signed up (see story), and the nearly 50 people this affects - all the staff."
O'Grady announced on September 22 this year that he and Cofidis team-mate, Matt White, were looking forward to joining the new squad (see story). At the time, he said of Ferretti's legendary control of teams: "When you've been through a Charlie Walsh programme as a teenager, I reckon most things are a walk in the park," O'Grady of his former coach in Adelaide.
Riders such as Gilberto Simoni, Salvatore Commesso and Cristian Moreni will now have to find another team for next year, and at this early stage Unibet.com team manager Hilaire Van der Schueren has shown interest in signing the Garcia Quesada brothers, with arrangements being made for Simoni to possibly ride for Naturino-Sapore di Mare.