The Geox-TMC team of Vuelta a España winner Juan Jose Cobo is likely to collapse after its title sponsor, shoe-maker Geox, announced today it would cease its involvement with the sport at the end of the season.
The UCI confirmed to Cyclingnews that the riders are free to seek contracts with other teams, and have been since the squad failed to meet the October 1 deadline to complete its application for a 2012 license.
"Geox's file at that time was not compete and for that reason the team didn't appear on the first list we released," UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani said.
However, since the announcement of the sponsor's exit came after the October 15 deadline to submit rider contracts to the UCI, the riders' points will likely not be counted toward his new team's rankings toward the WorldTour, making Cobo's Vuelta win essentially worthless.
Job prospects for the Geox riders are dimmed further by the demise of HTC-Highroad and the merger of Leopard Trek and RadioShack, which has already shrunk the job market for the sport's top riders considerably, even with the formation of the GreenEdge squad.
The team's management company, Club Deportivo Bike Live issued a press release today stating that Geox had refused to deposit the bank guarantee required to complete its application to the UCI.
Despite renewing the contract of Cobo, the team said it may not be able to continue, but vowed to take Geox to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in order to hold it to its sponsorship contract.
It's the second year of troubles for team manager Mauro Gianetti, who fell afoul of his new sponsor last December when the squad failed to be granted a WorldTour license. Rumors swirled that 2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre would leave, that the sponsor would back out, that there was a power struggle within the organisation amongst others, but eventually the team got rolling for its pre-season training camp without its official kit.
The team was finally presented on February 11, 2011, but faced a season with just one Grand Tour start, despite having two Grand Tour winners on its roster - Sastre and Denis Menchov. Despite Cobo's Vuelta victory, the team racked up only five wins over the course of the season.
Club Deportivo Bike Live made no mention of its women's team, Diadora Pasta Zara-Manhatta, which recently signed world champion Giorgia Bronzini, or how the troubles with the men's squad would affect it.