British outfit Trek-Drops will continue as a UCI-ranked women's team in 2019 under a new title sponsor set to be announced in the coming weeks, owner Tom Varney confirmed to Cyclingnews in a phone interview on Monday. The new title sponsor has agreed to a one year deal, and the final negotiations could see that extended to three years, which would provide the team with added stability.
The team's current title sponsor Trek announced in July that it would be moving its funding toward launching a new women's team managed under the same organisation as the men's WorldTour team Trek-Segafredo.
"The team will still be around," Varney told Cyclingnews. "We will come out the other end stronger with a new title sponsor coming on board for next year.
"There are a few small things to finalise, but it will be a multiple-year deal. It's the first time we've had a multi-year deal, which gives us some security."
Drops became a UCI-registered women's outfit in 2016. Trek extended its partnership with the program, announcing last December that it would take over as co-sponsor at the start of this season. The one-year deal backed the team financially while also supplying the bikes. Rumours that Trek would launch a new women's program, not affiliated with the current Trek-Drops program, began circulating in early summer with Trek-Segafredo confirming the news at a press conference in Aix-les-Bains, during the first rest day at the Tour de France.
At that time, the team also confirmed that they had signed former world champion Lizzie Deignan and have since confirmed signing Elisa Longo Borghini, along with two directors: Ina Teutenberg and Giorgia Bronzini. Varney said that Trek gave him plenty of notice, well before the announcement in July, but that he was disappointed because he had hoped to continue a sponsorship relationship with the American bike manufacturer beyond this season.
"The timing of it was surprising, given various conversations that we had, and it was obvious that it was in their planning," Varney told Cyclingnews. "It was never spoken about openly. It looked like we were going to have more investment from them, and then we were told otherwise.
"From a business point of view, it makes sense for them; to have the same service course, staff, directors, a lot of the admin stuff is the same as the men's team. So, we fully understand from a business point of view, and in that sense, we are not surprised that they are doing what they are doing."
Varney said that he is currently in the final stages of negotiations with a new title sponsor, which has agreed to a one-year term, but both parties are considering a multiple-year term. He said that while they are presently fine-tuning the details of that contract, they will announce the deal in the coming week.
Asked if the new title sponsor entirely replaces the loss of Trek's funding, Varney said, "Yes. Trek had a good deal. We were able to cover that, which is nice, and we could be announcing a second title sponsor as well.
"We were always planning on replacing Drops with another title company. We'll see how we get on in the next couple of weeks."
Along with the new title sponsor and potential co-title sponsor, Varney said the team has also secured a new bike sponsor, and that several other partners are interested in multi-year terms.
"Hopefully, next week we will announce the new title sponsor," Varney said. "We haven't sorted out the title of the team yet, but we could have three names. I think it's important to keep Drops in the title. Some sponsors have signed up for two or three years. I'd like to keep Drops in the name, but I'd also like to add a second title sponsor.
"The bikes have been replaced, and that is sorted," Varney said. "We will have the team under a different name. We have other negotiations happening, and we will find out about those in a few weeks.
Trek-Drops competed in a full season of UCI events this year, beginning at the Santos Women's Tour in January. The team included Eva Buurman, Anna Christian, Lizzie Holden, Kathrin Hammes, Manon Lloyd, Annasley Park, Abby-Mae Parkinson, Hannah Payton, Lucy Shaw, Annie Simpson, Abi van Twisk, Molly Weaver and Tayler Wiles.
Top results came from Wiles, who was second overall at the Amgen Women's Race in California, 10th overall at the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour, second in a stage at the Giro Rosa, and second in the time trial at the US Pro Championships.
Buurman was also a top performer for the team, recently placing 11th at the PostNord Vargarda WestSweden Road Race, and taking two top-10 finishes in stages at the Ladies Tour of Norway, while securing seventh overall. She also finished inside the top 10 in six stages of the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour and finished 11th overall.
Varney said that he will again hire 13 or 14 riders for 2019, keeping a core group of British riders while bringing in international talents. One of the goals is to pick up riders with points to bring the programme among the top 15 in the UCI Women's Team world ranking. He is also thinking ahead, with plans to bring the roster up to 16 riders in 2020 to allow for a two-race team.
"We'd like to be in the top 15 teams next year," Varney said. "We were 42 in the ranking three years ago, and we started this year at 19th or 20th. The core of the team will stay the same. We are in negotiations with some riders that we want to sign, and some are leaving, while two have retired.
"The ethos of the team and the goals of the team will be the same. We treat staff and riders well, and we like to have fun and perform well."