John Profaci, Colavita USA, LLC Vice President of Marketing and owner of UCI-sanctioned Colavita-Forno D’Asolo Women’s Professional Cycling, has announced that his team will not continue next season largely due to a lack of sufficient support from companies within the cycling industry.
A handful of the team’s riders and staff, who had already signed contracts for next season, are expected to be taken in by Circuit Global Sports Management’s, owners and operators of the UCI Continental Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth, new domestic women’s program in 2012.
A clearly disappointed Profaci explained to Cyclingnews his hands were very much tied when sponsors 'scaled back support'.
"For the first time in ten years that I've been sponsoring cycling, I saw a sponsors 'perfect storm' approaching as far back as August," Profaci said. "I thought the Colavita sport sponsorship would remain sound as we experienced the most successful season any Colavita pro team, men or women, has had over our ten year span.
"Typically, that would make any program in any sport a win-win for prosperous continuance, but in our case and as a women’s team, I learned this was not the case. Instead, the cycling industry actually pulled back on us and substantially reduced its support for the team."
According to Profaci, the team lost significant funds and industry sponsorship, which made it impossible to run the team let alone provide deserving salary advancements to riders who provided outstanding performances through the 2011 season.
"Without any intention of offending those many wonderful cycling industry companies who have supported our programs for many years, I must admit the direct cause of Colavita ending its women's team title sponsorship was in fact losing key industry supplier support," Profaci said.
The company has supported amateur cycling since 2001 and professional cycling, including successful men’s and women’s programs, since 2003. This year’s women’s team delivered 41 victories and more than 100 podium performances and the roster boasted the World Champion from Italy Giorgia Bronzini, who will race under Diadora-Pasta Zara in 2012.
In addition, the team was ranked number one on the NRC series overall team standings for two consecutive seasons. Stage racer Janel Holcomb won the series overall individual title due to her wins at Joe Martin Stage Race, Tour de Toona and Cascade Cycling Classic.
Her teammates, sprinters Leah Kirchmann and Theresa Cliff-Ryan, ranked second and third in the individual standings. However, the team’s top performances were not enough to secure sponsorship dollars from industry partners following a last-ditch and unsuccessful effort at Interbike in Las Vegas, Nevada in early September.
"After working the floor at Interbike, I realized it was going to be a tough financial situation in 2012, but that I would try and make it happen anyway," Profaci said. "Several of my riders were already signed and I would never do what other sponsors have done over the years, which is to suddenly pull the plug leaving contracted cyclists and staff devastated. That was never an option."
Circuit Global Sports Management takes on parts of former Colavita-Forno D’Asolo
Charles Aaron, managing director of Circuit Global Sports Management are in the midst of forming a domestic-level women’s program set to begin in 2012. The team is expected to hire 12 riders and focus its budget on NRC criteriums and stage races along with Liberty Classic and US and Canadian national championships.
"For the past six years, we have worked hard to develop a professional women's program and now the opportunity to work with some of the best female athletes in cycling is upon us," Aaron said.
For Profaci, the team has lifted some of the burden of Colavita's folding. Along with Aaron, the two worked out an agreement whereby the Circuit Global Sports Management’s new women’s program would absorb some of the Colavita-Forno D’Asolo staff and riders. Details of the new program are expected to be released soon.
"Charles and I got on the phone and soon realized this was a perfect match," Profaci said. "He embraced taking on Colavita's staff as well as current contracted cyclists to finish up his team. A combination of good timing and good people made this a perfect opportunity for all of us. Despite the initial shock of the Colavita name leaving the title, everyone is excited."
Profaci noted that Colavita USA will not be leaving the sport of cycling and will continue to support Circuit Global Sports Management’s women’s team on a lesser level. In addition, the company will continue to support 14 regional teams across the country.
"This is very difficult for me emotionally," Profaci said. "I expect to devote more funds to supporting women's programs, now realizing how disadvantaged that side of the sport remains.
"We will also be supporting Charles Aaron's initiatives at Circuit Global Sports Management with Colavita products and marketing resources to add value and support to his own lead team sponsors. I surely know how important that can be."
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