The Drops team have started a crowdfunding campaign after a prospective sponsor for 2019 pulled out on Friday, shortly before an announcement was expected.
The women's team are hoping to raise a total of £250,000 to remain afloat for next season. The British outfit have been searching for a new backer after current title sponsor Trek did not renew their agreement. Trek have set up a new women’s team for the 2019 season, which will feature riders such as Lizzie Deignan and Elisa Longo Borghini on the roster.
"The title sponsor in a Cycling team invests the largest proportion of budget and the company pulling out leaves us with a large deficit in our budget for 2019. This leaves the future of 12 riders and a number of staff, uncertain. Several people that we have reached out to have suggested crowdfunding," a statement issued by the team said.
"Personally, this is something that we have been against when it comes to professional sport but we believe we need to do all we can to keep as many of our riders and staff in employment. The aim of our crowdfunding campaign is to raise the awareness of our fight, a fight to save a team that will be the only British professionally registered women's team in 2019 with the hope that something positive unfolds."
The Drops cycling team began life in 2015 as a British domestic outfit, before gaining UCI classified status for the 2016 season. They impressed in their first season and gained entry to some of the biggest races on the calendar. They were an almost solely British squad in their debut UCI season, but they signed a number of international riders last year, including Ann-Sophie Duyck, Martina Ritter and Susanna Zorzi.
Bicycle manufacturer Trek had been involved with the team since its inception and stepped up to become title sponsor for this season. However, it was confirmed over the summer that the deal would only last a year, when Trek announced its new venture at the Tour de France.
Drops remained adamant that they would find a replacement sponsor and had indicated that an announcement was imminent. On Tuesday, however, it was confirmed that the potential backer had pulled the plug and they are still in need of funding to keep the team going into next season.
Drops are the second women’s team to resort to crowdfunding to survive into 2019. The Norwegian Hitec Products team also launched a campaign to raise money after stating that it was struggling to keep up with the increased funding required to race the WorldTour. They raised just over €7,000 of a €50,000 target but will ride next season.
In the men’s peloton, Jonathan Vaughters’ Slipstream Sports launched a campaign at the end of 2017. The subsequent response encouraged sponsor EF Education to come on board for the new season.
Despite some unprecedented success on the road this season, the British domestic scene has been battered in recent months with JLT-Condor and One Pro Cycling announcing that they would cease to race in 2019. One Pro Cycling had intended on setting up a women's team but later announced that this would not be happening either.