Despite last month’s announcement that Garmin had failed to lodge their paperwork with the UCI’s licence commission, the team was on Tuesday included among the sport’s elite 15 teams and guaranteed a WorldTour licence for 2012.
The reason for the initial stumble was down to an issue with French company BigMat. They had agreed to join Garmin and co-sponsor the American team for three years, but pulled out of the deal just as Slipstream were filing for its licence. It meant the team had to backtrack and file under their current title of Garmin-Cervélo.
“We signed a binding letter of intent for BigMat to be the co-title sponsor of our team for next year. So we filed with the UCI under Garmin-BigMat but at that point in time, literally right as we were filing, BigMat told us that they were not going to make good on the agreement,” Slipstream’s Jonathan Vaughters told Cyclingnews.
The French team had put in for an estimated 3.5-5 million USD in sponsorship, which will now be covered by capital from Slipstream’s backer Doug Ellis, who has financed the team since its inception. His capital will be used to help fill the hole left by BigMat and also help the team build on its current success.
However, the situation also leaves the American team free to chase BigMat for financial compensation, something which the team’s lawyers will decide on in the near future. The binding agreement had stopped Garmin from looking for further French sponsorship. In 2012 the team will continue to operate as Garmin-Cervélo until or if another co-sponsor can be found. Cyclingnews understands that a deal between FDJ and Big Mat could have legs, but as yet nothing has been announced.
According to Vaughters, the loss of a co-sponsor, while disappointing, will not affect the team’s stability or future.
“We’re able to expand and contract like that but it does mean that we need to run a more efficient team. It also means having Doug Ellis contribute more investment dollars and looking for additional equity partners for him as well as potential co-sponsors,” he told Cyclingnews.
"If we had the resources of a Sky or BMC, the results we could put up would be truly amazing. We have the best people in the business on this team, we just need someone with a bit of vision to come in and give us the backing that will push us to number one in the world."
“We’re trying to run this as a business and to just expect your investor to cover shortfalls is just an incorrect way of doing business. Functionally, we’re fine but from a business perspective it’s disappointing. It’s nothing something that I wanted to do.”
“It’s disappointing that we have to ask for further investment capital because I want to be paying money back to him from his initial investment in the team. I don’t want to run a team on daddy’s money.”
When assessing the team’s year and fourth place position in the UCI’s listings, Vaughters is proud of how the squad performed. Despite losing a number of riders in the off-season, the team has strengthened its Classics roster, while also promoting and signing a number of young prospects.
“We’ve had the best results we could have had this year, from a variety of riders and different nationalities, and I’m super proud of how the team performed. We provided value that was incredible for our sponsors but the market out there for global companies looking to sponsor a cycling team is very difficult. We had a co-title and they signed with binding intent so we’ve lost time and effort in assuming that was tied up.”
The loss of French sponsorship hasn’t had an effect on the team’s ambitions in the transfer market, according to Vaughters, and the American told Cyclingnews that he would continue to pick riders based on potential, in some cases giving riders a second chance when other teams have discarded them.
“We were never pushing hard in the transfer market anyway. We were looking at young up and coming riders and guys who were undervalued by other teams. Those were the riders we were focused on. Although I’d love to be in the position of bigger budget teams where they can pick up who they want and pay them whatever they want, it’s gratifying to find an under-appreciated asset like a Wiggins, Vande Velde or Martin. It’s fun to be able to continue to out-perform the big budget teams. I’m very grateful for what we have and what we’ve built as a team.”