By Kirsten Robbins in Columbia, Missouri
The KodakGallery-Sierra Nevada team delivered a press release Friday announcing that its co-directors Robin Zellner and Kurt Stockton are parting ways at the end of this season. The two came together in 2004 when Zellner and Kodak Gallerys parent company Eastman Kodak united with Stockton and Sierra Nevada to create Principle Sports Management Group LLC, combining their resources to strengthen the team. After eight years of cycling sponsorship, three of which were combined with Sierra-Nevada, Kodak Gallery has decided to end the sponsorship.
Zellner regarded the separation as a good opportunity to create two new teams in the US peloton. "As far as the split and the partnership goes it is a good opportunity for us to go in different directions and maybe it will work out better because we will both be able to bring on two separate teams," said Zellner. "The new situation with Kurt is good because our association has always been very good. Our association with Kodak has been great too."
After an eight year sponsorship contract between KodakGallery and Zellners company the possibility of letting go of the cycling team is a saddening situation. "It had nothing to do with what they got out of cycling and it was a heartbreaker for the marketing director to have to let us know."
There is still a possibility that the parent company, Eastman Kodak, will find the resources to continue their sponsorship from a different department. "Kodak is still considering the team so theres a possibility that that could turn around. But overall our association with them has been really good the past three years. We didnt expect this because we had one more year in our contract with Kodak. Currently we cant sign some of the guys but nobody wants to leave - that is the heartache of it all."
On the other side Sierra Nevada will continue its sponsorship in cycling with Kurt Stockton as the director of a team. However the level at which the team will compete has yet to be determined and will likely be affected by the amount of funding they receive.
Stockton reinforced Zellners comments on the separation as a good opportunity to take Sierra Nevada in a new direction - leading the team into an pro-environmental direction and focusing on healthy living. "Robin and I combined teams at the end of 2004 and we wouldnt have been able to do what we have done with out each other," said Stockton. "But it got to a point where we werent going to go any further. I had been looking for an opportunity for some change and that may have accelerated it a little bit. I felt that to a certain point I wanted to go in a different direction and do different things with the team and from my side I felt better about that if I were to be running my own program. It was good while it went but we have decided to move on."
Stockton added that the team has not confirmed any riders at this time because they are uncertain as to how much the new budget will entail and at what level the team will compete. "All of our riders were given the opportunity to go and do whatever they need to do because we realise we cant hold them back by saying we might have positions."
The current team has more than a handful of strong riders, including rising star Dominique Rollin, who may be left little options for a team in the 2008 season. "We would love to hang onto guys, especially a rider like Dominique Rollin," Zellner said. "But they need to go cover themselves. We are hoping for the best for all of our riders. They are so strong that they shouldnt have problems finding teams. It would be a shame, but even if they were without a team for one year, they are young and strong and that would be a small glitch in their careers."