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Équipe Paule Ka collapse after title sponsor stops funding

Equipe Paule Ka in action at the Giro Rosa
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Équipe Paule Ka women's team have announced they will close immediately and not even ride Sunday's Tour of Flanders due to major financial problems. 

French fashion brand Paule Ka stepped in to sponsor the team after the previous sponsors Bigla and Katusha withdrew funding amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Équipe Paule Ka claimed that the sponsor was late with its first payment in July and then failed to pay the team in August, September and October, despite multiple assurances that the payments were on their way. 

When contacted by Cyclingnews, Paule Ka would only say: "The owners of the team and company are in negotiations about a dissolution of the sponsorship agreement."

Cyclingnews understands that Paule Ka had agreed a 800,000 Euro sponsorship package for 2020 but left the team fighting to survive during the rescheduled season, with team manager Thomas Campana personally funding the team’s activities to the tune of 300,000 Euro. 

The team now no longer have the funding to continue racing.

"It is with great regret that Équipe Paule Ka announces the immediate cessation of its racing season and, unfortunately, the closure of the team - currently ranked fourth in the world with over 3000 UCI points - due to the absence of sponsor payments since August," the team announced on Friday morning.

Lizzie Banks won a stage at the Giro Rosa and Mikayla Harvey finished fifth overall. Banks was also second at the GP de Plouay and the USA’s Leah Thomas was third at Strade Bianche. Fortunately those results have helped many of the riders find new teams for 2021. 

"This is an extremely sad moment in the 15-year history of this squad, which prides itself on the development of exciting young talent within the peloton," the team said in its statement. 

"The team's riders and staff were looking forward to spending several more years together in the pursuit of sportive success, having already recommenced the season with a series of victories and top results, including an emphatic Giro Rosa stage win, silver at the UCI World Championships, bronze at the European Championships, as well as multiple national championship titles.

"However, this can regrettably no longer be our shared goal, with the team being forced to dissolve after a decade and a half in the peloton. Now, our main aim is to find both riders and staff new teams to secure their futures.

"We would like to extend sincere thanks to cycling fans all over the world, followers of the team, and our competitors within the peloton, who have reached out to us during this challenging time to let us know that our presence in the peloton is one that would be sorely missed."

Équipe Paule Ka rode Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday and stayed in Belgium but team manager Thomas Compana told Cyclingnews that he does not have the finances to continue to race and will not take part in the Tour of Flanders on Sunday.   

The team have already approached the Swiss Federation to open the team’s bank guarantee and obtain at least part of their missing wages.