Horner's Lupus Racing team will not return in 2017

Lupus Racing directeur sportif Phil Cortes told Cyclingnews Tuesday evening that after two years of competing on the Continental level, the team will not return for the 2017 season.

Cortes, who worked his first full season with the team this year, said there was no indication that the team would fold until staff and riders got the word on Monday.

"Yes, the team is closing," Cortes said. "We learned on Monday as a team, and honestly, I don't now how to spin this as a positive."

Team owner Brendan Sullivan did not respond to Cyclingnews' requests for comment, but Lupus rider Chris Horner confirmed to Cyclingnews Wednesday morning that the pro team was stopping, although it's unclear if the Lupus amateur team will continue.

The late notice will put the riders in a bind to find a spot for next year, as most Continental teams have already finalised their 2017 rosters or are very close to doing so. A director for another US Continental team told Cyclingnews that he has been receiving resumes from Lupus riders.

"It's not fair in a way," Cortes said, "but on the other hand we have to be thankful for the push along that it has been for two years at the Continental level. I really felt like we were finally getting legs in terms of a program that was going to be stable and move forward. That's why I signed on and that's what everybody else had in mind."

The team started in 2014 as a club program and jumped to the Continental level in 2015, competing at the Tour de Langkawi and the Tour of Alberta at the end of that season.

Lupus hoped to increase its presence in the big US races and bolster its stage-racing abilities for this season by initially signing former SmartStop and Euskatel-Euskadi rider Jure Kocjan, but that fell through when a retro-active test of an anti-doping sample Kocjan submitted in 2012 returned positive for EPO and the UCI provisionally suspended the 31-year-old Slovenian. Lupus immediately fired Kocjan and signed Horner a week later.

The team scored four UCI wins in 2016, starting with Mike Olheiser's stage win at the Dominican Republic tour in March. French rider Thomas Vaubourzeix won the Challenge du Prince and a stage of the Tour de Tunisie in Tunisia, and Bryan Lewis took the team's final win during stage 2 at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Saguenay in June.

The team competed at the Tour of Utah in August and the Tour of Alberta at the beginning of September. Lupus last raced at the Reading 120, where Nicolae Tanovitchii finished seventh.

While riding with a mission to raise awareness of Lupus, an autoimmune disease that affects nearly 1.5 million people in the US, the team's main sponsor was Jamison Capital Partners, a New York-based hedge fund management company run by Stephen Jamison. Sullivan told Cyclingnews before the 2016 season that Jamison was a cycling fan who had committed to "two or three more years" of sponsorship.

That commitment for the Continental team appears to have ended this week.

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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.