On Wednesday, the El Espectador website reported that team manager Dave Brailsford met with the Colombian President Ivan Duque and Coldeportes [sports ministry] director Ernesto Lucena to discuss the possibility of turning Team Sky into the first-ever Colombian WorldTour team. The website also reported that the meeting was facilitated by former Team Sky rider Rigoberto Uran.
"It is the dream and the hope that we have," Coldeportes director Ernesto Lucena told El Espectador.
“The project could cost around $30 million per year, which with the union of three or four multinational companies, we believe could be viable. The market analysis that Sky did shows the remuneration that the brands investing would get," Lucena added.
Team Sky have a long history of signing Colombian riders and currently have Sebastian Henao, Egan Bernal and Ivan Sosa. Bernal is seen as a future Grand Tour winner and recently signed a five-year contract with Team Sky. He could emerge as the leader of a Colombia-funded WorldTour team or be joined by other big-name Colombian riders for 2020.
Ecopetrol already has close links to the Coldeportes sports ministry, recently backing a strategy by President Duque to promote sport in Colombia. It is listed on the US stock market and is 80 per cent government controlled with 20 per cent of shares privately owned. Net income was reported at 2.2 billion US dollars in 2017, with the Ecopetrol price rising in recent months after a change in investor sentiment.
La Gazzetta dello Sport cited Colombian sources for their story, suggesting that Ecopetrol could lead a consortium of sponsors and so mean Team Sky becomes a Colombian team in 2020 after years registered as British. Under new UCI rules for the 2020-2023 WorldTour, applications have to be made before April 1.
Team Sky told Cyclingnews it would not comment on Gazzetta dello Sport’s report on Ecopetrol.
Colombia is on the cusp of cycling greatness
When speaking to Cyclingnews prior to the Tour Colombia 2.1 race, Brailsford was coy about the various rumours and reports around potential buy-outs and sponsors. However, he was effusive in his passion to learn about the Colombian culture and believes that it’s only a "matter of time" before there is a WorldTour team from the South American nation.
"When you're a team like Sky, you're going to get a lot of rumours, that's for sure," Brailsford said. "When you're having important meetings like we are at the moment, I think you've got to respect the confidentiality of the partners involved, and you've got to respect that.
"It fills me full of enthusiasm to engage with everybody that's been in touch with us," he said. "It's quite an interesting process, but I'm not going to discuss it or give any commentary."
Brailsford said he believes Colombia is on the cusp of cycling greatness.
"The wealth of talent that exists in this country is second to none," he said. "There can't be another country with the talent that Colombia has. To me, it's just one step away from what Brazil is to football, Colombia could be the same thing to cycling. It's there for them."