Just when it appeared that Jean-René Bernaudeau had managed to safely negotiate a change of sponsor as Europcar leave the sport, and Direct Énergie prepare to step in, his team has been affected by a financial issue that is holding up its registration with the UCI.
According to a story in Ouest France, the SA Vendée Cyclisme management company that administers the team has been forced to pay Europcar’s staff out of the bank guarantee that covers salary payments for three months. Each squad must lodge details of this guarantee with the UCI prior to the start of the season before its racing licence is confirmed.
Ouest France reports that Bernaudeau was summoned to the UCI HQ in Aigle, Switzerland, last week to meet four judges and explain the reasons for salary payments being made from Europcar’s bank guarantee.
According to ‘someone close to the UCI’, as the French paper describes them, Bernaudeau is reported to have told the judges that the issue stems from a financial dispute with the team’s bike supplier, Colnago.
This arose following criticism made by Pierre Rolland prior to this year’s Tour de France, when the French climber urged the team to change its bike supplier. The dispute has allegedly led to Colnago withholding the final payment it owed to the team this season, which amounts to €600,000.
“The licensing commission asked Bernaudeau to clarify the situation and normalise the situation. Drawing on the bank guarantee is not a positive sign to send to the judges,” Ouest France’s source explains.
Bernaudeau has been besieged financial problems in recent years. His team were demoted from WorldTour level last winter after a budget shortfall, while the Direct Énergie sponsorship was only secured in September.
The issue is now in the hands of a court in Roche-sur-Yon, where SA Vendée Cyclisme is based. Judgement in the case is due to be delivered on 14 December.
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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