French ProTeam Delko has ceased all operations as of Monday morning. The team will not only not race in 2022 but will also miss the end of the current French racing season due to financial difficulties.
Delko hasn't formally announced the news but directeur sportif Benjamin Giraud confirmed the end of the team in an interview with French website DirectVelo on Monday morning.
"The decision was made very recently but I preferred to wait for our last race before announcing it," he told DirectVelo. "I didn't want the riders to have a hard time before the Tour de Vendée and Paris-Tours. Besides, we had a good week, and we finish on a good note, which is good.
"Economically, the situation has been no secret for a long time. It is what it is. We are concentrating on the sport and the image is very good and I want to be happy about that. When you're in the business, you know the difficulties we've been through and despite all that, the guys have remained strong until the end.
"You only have to look at our last two performances at the weekend. I'm proud of the boys. We held it together right to the end. And I know that some people are pleasantly surprised by the way the riders finished the season, despite the problems we went through."
Delko, which was founded as a Continental team in 2011, has suffered major financial difficulties since last year, and subsequently lost its Nippo and Provence sponsorship deals over the winter.
Last November, sources at the team told Cyclingnews that there had been multiple claims of lack of wage payments, with the UCI also initiating bank guarantee proceedings against the team. Several riders on the team also reported non-payment of salary, limiting race days, and contract-related intimidation, which team manager Philippe Lannes denied.
Earlier this season, the team lost Biniam Girmay to Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert and Clément Berthet to AG2R Citroën, while Atsushi Oka departed for the EF Education-Nippo feeder team, Nippo-Provence-PTS. In May, the team also let go of a DS, three trainers and nutritionist due to its financial problems.
On the road, the squad had taken five wins this year, with José Manuel Díaz's triumph at the Tour of Turkey the most notable. Díaz is out of contract for 2022, though Pierre Barbier (to B&B Hotels p/b KTM) and José Gonçalves (to W52-Porto) have already secured moves.
The team signed off with positive results at the weekend, with Eduard Prades taking second at the Tour de Vendée and Julien Trarieux taking ninth at Paris-Tours. They won't take part in the upcoming GP du Morbihan and Boucles de l'Aulne, but Giraud said that the results were a good way to end the team's run in the pro peloton.
"We need money to do battle, and economically the team was at its worst. In these conditions, it was already good to be able to go to Paris-Tours," he said.
"We finished on a big race, and we performed well, I think that's great. It's better to finish in a good way than to do everything half-heartedly just to say that we're going to the end of the season.
"Delko is more than a team. We have always been very close and there is something special here. It's almost more like a family than a team. But now I tell myself that it's really over. It's sad, yes..."
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