Extremadura loses sponsor, rebounds with grassroots effort

The Spanish Professional Continental team Extremadura-Spiuk could have easily gone under when it lost its co-title sponsor, but instead, the riders and staff banded together to keep the team going by forming a cooperative to tide the squad over until a replacement sponsor could be found.

The Zafra-based team will ride with a new logo on their jerseys, Ciclismo Solidario, which translates as "Solidarity-based cycling", the name the cooperative. The 16 riders, two directors, mechanics, physiotherapists and doctor have together put up around 200,000 €. Marca Extremadura is contributing a further 600,000 €.

"There was no other option. It looked as if we would be out of work," explained rider Israel Pérez. "So when the possibility of forming an association arose, we reached an agreement without so much as a formal meeting."

Team director Alfonso Rodríguez has been approached by other cyclists who have been left jobless after a winter of unrest in the sport, offering to join the squad, but the Spaniard declined. "At this stage of the game our plans have been laid, and it is hard to change them. Besides, a bigger team means more expenses and we have tried to minimise outlay so that if a second sponsor fails to turn up the cost of the squad is as low as possible."

The Extremadura – Ciclismo Solidario team will also offer fans the possibility of contributing to the team's budget. Spiuk will continue as technical sponsor, providing equipment and support in the field of communication. Having made all these financial and organisational efforts, the Extremadura team must now turn to the easiest part of the project: actually racing. "If we put as much effort into winning races as we have into keeping the team going we'll be unbeatable," joked Rodríguez.

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