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The two Swiss riders of Footon-Servetto-Fuji, David Vitoria and Noé Gianetti (l-r), join Mauro Gianetti for a picture.
Sponsors in power struggle with manager Gianetti
Despite claims that the future of the Geox-TMC team is secure, Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport has reported that the two main sponsors may pull out of the sport if they are unable to take direct control of the team from manager Mauro Gianetti.
A decision could be made in the next two weeks.
According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Geox has invested just 2.5 million Euro as main sponsor, with TMC investing the same amount and bike sponsor Fuji paying a further 2 million Euro. Other minor sponsors give the team an estimated total budget of 8 million Euro.
Team manager Mauro Gianetti signed Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov as team leaders, reportedly paying them two and 1.4 million Euro respectively. He hoped they would secure him a place in the major races and filled the rest of the team with lesser-known riders. However Gianetti and the sponsors failed to grasp the importance of the new UCI sporting criterion points system. As a consequence Geox-TMC was ranked out of the top 15 teams and was then overlooked for one of the final ProTeam licences.
While the 18 ProTeams have automatic entry to all the major races in the UCI World Tour in 2011, Geox-TMC has to hope for wild card invitations, with competition tight for the final four places at both the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia.
As Cyclingnews reported last week, Geox and TMC are not happy about beginning their sponsorship in cycling's second division of Professional Continental teams. Geox owner Mario Moretti Polegato has brought in former Mapei team manager Alvaro Crespi as a consultant about a month ago and would like direct control of the team. But this has only intensified the battle with Gianetti over ownership of the team's contracts and infrastructure.
Gianetti owns the team's infrastructure and employs the riders and staff. The team is registered in Spain in a complex web of contracts and agreements. He has kept his team alive with little backing in recent years and does not want to give up control without receiving a substantial payoff.
Gianetti did not answer calls from Cyclingnews.
The Geox-TMC team was supposed to makes its 2011 debut at the Tour of San Luis but it has apparently pulled out of the Argentinean race.
Gazzetta dello Sport ended its story by speculating that both Menchov and Sastre could be picked up by Lance Armstrong's RadioShack team. However the other riders and staff would have very limited chances of securing places with other teams for 2011.
If the sponsors decide to pull out, the riders would receive just three months of their wages thanks to the bank guarantee deposited with the UCI. However the demise of the team would spark a legal battle and mean the loss of a second major team after the Pegasus Sports debacle.