Chris White of Pegasus Sports has confirmed that he has lost his main financial backer but denied that his team has folded. The International Cycling Union has given him an extension to apply for a licence for the 2011 season.
Cyclingnews reported on Sunday that the main commercial sponsor had withdrawn its support, and that the team would not receive a Professional Continental licence for the coming year. The team had originally hoped for a ProTeam licence.
"Pegasus Sports was notified by its principal financial backer that financial support for the Pegasus Sports Professional Cycling project had been retracted,” White said in a press release issued on Sunday. The team therefore did not receive the expected licence from the UCI on Friday.
"The UCI Licensing Commission has granted the Pegasus Sports licence application an extension until Wednesday, December 15, 2010.”
The press release further stated that the team “is currently working with a number of parties to secure the necessary funding to guarantee the project's future and ensure the UCI's requirements for a Professional Continental license are met in accordance with the UCI's revised timeline.”
White admitted to SBS.com.au that the situation “is very serious”, but was optimistic that “we think we can get the process completed.”
He only learned last Tuesday that his sponsor was withdrawing. “I didn’t have enough time to deal with that situation and adequately complete the process with the UCI, so at the last minute, I had to apply for an extension in time. And I wouldn’t have applied for that extension, had I thought we [did not] have a chance of replacing that funding.”
Earlier this weekend, sources told Cyclingnews that at least six riders have started looking to other teams for a possible contract.
"Doesn’t surprise me,” White said, adding that for the riders, “it’d be silly not to have a back-up”.
“Yes, I have spoken to all the riders... and I have their commitment. But clearly, from a career-guidance [point of view]... my advice is to have a look at ‘is there another option?’ We’ve got our work to do, I’m confident we’ll get it done, but we’ve got a job ahead of us... and it’d be silly not to have a back-up. But right now, everybody’s committed through to our deadline.”
The team's biggest name rider, Australian Robbie McEwen, was non-committal in his reaction, telling SBS.com.au, “Mate, nothing further to [the statement from the team]. Waiting to hear if the team can meet the requirements and deadline.”