The Eolo-Kometa ProTeam created by Alberto Contador and Ivan Basso are hoping to secure a wildcard invitation to the 2021 Giro d’Italia as they begin to build and develop for a place in the WorldTour in the years ahead.
The arrival of Eolo as a new title sponsor brings in €10 million of investment across three years and has allowed Contador and Basso to step up from Continental level and expand the roster to 20 riders.
The squad includes veteran Italians such as Manuel Belletti, Luca Wackermann and Francesco Gavazzi, young talent Alessandro Fancellu, and Britain’s John Archibald and Mark Cristian. Sean Yates is head of performance, with the experienced Stefano Zanatta and Jesus Hernandez as directeurs sportifs.
Eolo is a growing ultra-broadband wireless internet company, while Kometa produces meats and other products from the Valtellina mountain area north of Milan. The team will ride Aurum bikes, a new high-end brand created by Contador.
Eolo-Kometa will make its race debut at the Clàssica Comunitat Valenciana on January 24 and then ride the Vuelta a la Comunitat Valenciana (February 3-7).
RCS Sport is expected to award the coveted wildcard invitations for the Giro d’Italia, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo before the route of the corsa rosa is presented in early February.
Eolo sponsored several races in 2020 and company CEO Luca Spada hopes the team will secure a place at the Giro d’Italia. However, the arrival of Eolo-Kometa as a fourth Italian ProTeam has heightened competition for the wildcard places at the Giro in 2021. The 19 WorldTour teams are all automatically invited, with Alpecin-Fenix also assured of a place after topping the ProTeram rankings in 2020.
22 teams of eight riders are permitted in Grand Tours, leaving Eolo-Kometa in a fight with Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec, Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè and Vini Zabù-Brado-KTM for the final two places. Spada appealed to RCS Sport to expand the field at the Giro to 24 teams, but the UCI is unlikely to accept such a request.
Basso is convinced Eolo-Kometa would not just make up the numbers at the Giro.
“It wouldn’t make sense to ride the Giro just to go in the break every day and show ourselves on television. We believe we can do well at the Giro d’Italia, we want to be there to be in the action,” Basso said.
Spada insisted Eolo’s involvement in professional cycling is long term.
“COVID-19 has massively hurt sponsorship but companies are still ready to invest if there’s a good project with long-term goals. Our goal is to eventually reach Worldtour level and then stay there. I hope that can be the spark that convinces other companies: entrepreneurs have to show courage and inspire people that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
Basso was fundamental in securing sponsorship from Eolo and he fronted the virtual team presentation from the Eolo campus west of Milan, with Contador and his brother and manager Fran linked in from Spain.
“We have been working on this project for three years and now the time has come when it takes another form, another dimension, another speed, another hope,” Basso said.
Contador continues to ride and train hard despite retiring in 2017. He will join his riders at a second training camp in Oliva near Calpe next week and hopes to transmit his ambitions to the team.
“We’ve got to aim to win races. We face some huge rivals but we’ve got a good group of riders and so we’ve got to aim high, we’ll race to win. If we don’t have that mentality, we won’t achieve anything,” Contador said during the presentation.
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.