Champion System General Manager Ed Beamon confirmed to Cyclingnews today that the Chinese-registered Pro Continental team will not continue next season. Unconfirmed reports that the team would be shuttered first surfaced last week on a Spanish website.
"Champion System has basically decided not to fund the team going into 2014," said Beamon, who took over management of the team in 2012. "We just got this news about a week-and-a-half, two weeks ago."
Beamon said he scrambled to find a replacement sponsor for the Hong Kong-based manufacturer of custom sport clothing so that he could "cobble something together" for next season, but so far he has come up empty handed.
"The reality is there is really not going to be an opportunity to get anything together now, which will mean closing the team down at the end of the season," Beamon told Cyclingnews, adding that he was "pretty gutted" after having come to that conclusion.
The Champion System team will finish out its season this month at the Tour of Beijing, the Japan Cup and the Tour of Hainan.
The team, which started in 2010 at the Continental level with the objective of giving emerging Asian riders to opportunity to ride at the highest level, graduated to the Pro Continental ranks in 2012 when the Champion System Sport management company was formed to run the program.
The original plan was to move up to WorldTour status and ride the Grand Tours, hopefully within five years, but Beamon said that plan never intended for Champion System to carry the bulk of the team's financial obligations. Failure to find more sponsorship partners doomed the program.
"When we started this program the hope and intent was always to bring other sponsors on board and to try and build a bigger financial network with more stability and opportunities for growth," he said. "It was part of Champion System's intent to get this story going and get this mission going, but it was obviously not going to be possible for them to continue to grow to the highest level. They are a strong company within their sector, but obviously they have limitations.
"I thought it was a possibility that we might have to scale back without bringing more sponsors in," Beamon continued. "But I never imagined or guessed that we would not have a team in 2014. So it is a bit of a shock."
The team rode a full calendar in Asia, Europe and the US this season, including a first-ever appearance at the Amgen Tour of California. It also received WorldTour wild-card invitations to the Tour of Beijing and the one-day races in Montreal and Quebec.
Champion System featured 26 riders on its 2013 roster, including North Americans Ryan Anderson – who left for Optum Pro Cycling in June – Zach Bell, Chad Beyer, Chris Butler, Craig Lewis and Ryan Roth. The team has featured other non-Asian riders such as Jaan Kirsipuu and Cameron Wurf, with Bobbie Treksel and Matt Brammeier joining the team this year.
The team had six UCI wins in 2013. Bell was the year's biggest winner, taking stages at the Tour of Korea and the Tour of Taiwan, as well as the Canadian national road title. Brammeier won the Irish road title, and Chun Kei Feng won both the Taiwan road and time trial championships. Stagiaire Gregory Brenes finished 15th overall at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and sixth at the USA Pro Challenge in August.
"I think in  we accomplished a little more than we expected to in year one," Beamon said. "In year two, competitively, I was a little disappointed. I think we could have done a little more. I certainly had greater expectations in terms in results.
"But from a marketing standpoint, a branding standpoint and fulfillment of the mission to build a story and follow that story, I think it was a great year," Beamon said. "We accomplished even more than we expected to, but we really didn't bring significant other dollars in, and that's an area where we came up short."
Beamon worked with the Navigators team that competed in the US and Europe for 14 seasons through 2007. He worked with Team Type 1 in 2008 and was part of the Fly V-Pegasus team that eventually fell apart in 2011. The opportunity to work with Champion System and help bring deserving Asian riders to the next level piqued his interest once again, but Beamon said now he won't get to finish the job.
"That's the disappointing part for me," Beamon said. "I think we made tremendous progress and had a lot of momentum on several fronts, and that in particular was an area where we had tremendous momentum. I really felt that in 2014 you were going to see a couple of these guys come up to another level and make a stronger statement in the sport."
The team's folding has put some riders in a tough position, Beamon said, because they'll enter a market already flooded with talent due to other team cutbacks and shut downs.
"There are a lot of riders in the market and it's a smaller marketplace," he said. "At this late date, most of the teams have filled their spots or have a very limited number of spots left. And whatever they have left they're not making quick decisions on, so I think most of the guys are struggling right now, and they're pretty anxious."
Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon.
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