According to Denmark news channel TV2 Sport, Bjarne Riis has decided to bring an end to the women's WorldTour Team Virtu due to lack of sponsorship. The former pro made the pronouncement in an interview on Monday.
Team Virtu is currently fifth in the Women's WorldTour rankings and eighth in the UCI World Rankings, thanks in large part to European Champion Marta Bastianelli's victories in the Tour of Flanders, Ronde van Drenthe and Spar-Omloop van het Hageland. Bastianelli has won seven times this season, while teammate Mieke Kröger has three, and Barbara Guarischi and Rachel Neylan each have one.
Team Virtu began in 2017 after Bjarne Riis and business partner Lars Seier Christensen took over the BMS Birn squad. It was part of Riis' ambition to build a Denmark-centric cycling organisation with the aim of creating a feeder team for an eventual Danish WorldTour squad. The men's program, currently operating as Team Waoo at the Continental level, will continue in 2020. In 2017, Jan Bech Andersen joined as investor and co-owner.
Despite the success of the women's squad, Riis said the team was without sufficient sponsor support.
"I am incredibly sorry that we have to report this," Riis said to TV 2 SPORT. "I was hoping it was a project we could continue to run, but we simply lack sponsors. That's why we have decided to make that decision. We have now financed it ourselves over the past three years, and for business reasons, we do not think we should keep it going."
Earlier this month, Virtu Cycling Group reported a deficit of 18.8 million DKK (~€2.5 million). In addition to the two teams, the group also runs Virtu Business Club, a networking group that puts on various events, and Virtu Villas, a travel destination in Italy.
The riders were informed on Monday about the team's ending and were surprised to receive the news.
"You see different articles and like think that there are speculations every year, whether we continue or not. I really just thought it was rumour and that it was not going to happen. It sounded like they wanted to continue with us and were happy for us," Christina Siggaard said to TV 2 SPORT.