Team Wiggins directeur sportif Simon Cope has told Cyclingnews that the team has funding for an additional two years and that they will run a 16-strong rider programme in 2018.
The team will only consist of under-23 riders next year – thus solidifying their position as a feeder squad for WorldTour teams. The team has also denied that they are in financial difficulty after French rider Corentin Ermenault told Cyclingpro.net that he had not raced after June because "the team was financially broken."
The shift to racing with just under-23 riders means that track specialists Andy Tennant, Chris Latham and Steven Burke will leave the team. Tennant confirmed his departure to Cyclingnews on Tuesday, while Cope confirmed that junior world time trial champion Tom Pidcock would race on the road for the team in 2018.
"We've another two years to run with Skoda. We've just signed 14 riders so far for next year," Cope told Cyclingnews.
In relation to Pidcock, who has been compared to a young Peter Sagan, Cope said: "Yes," in response to whether he had signed the 18-year-old, "but I don't know if that's common knowledge though."
"It's going to be all under-23 riders next year. We just need to sign two more now. We'll go to 16, all under-23 and focus on racing in Europe. We'll support the Premier calendar as well."
With a greater emphasis on developing young riders, the track specialists have been deemed surplus.
"The problem is that we have those guys, and it's not their fault, but when we want to use them they're not available and when we don't really need them they are available. It's not really working because they've got so much track racing going on. That's why we've sort of stepped away from that."
2018 is on the cards
Despite Cope's assurances over the stability over the future of the team, reports on Monday suggested that the well had run dry.
Corentin Ermenault, who has been with the team since the start of the year, told Velopro: "I couldn't race after June because the team was financially broken. My national coach expected me to race in the national championships but I couldn't because I only raced for my brand team this year."
The French rider's last race in Wiggins colours came in June at the Baby Giro but he is not the only rider to have had a light calendar in the second half of the year.
Andrew McQuaid, who owns the team, and also works as a rider agent for some of the biggest names in the sport, told Cyclingnews that the team had no financial problems and that riders' salaries had been paid. He added that the team stopped their international race programme in August but have raced domestically since them.
As for next year, he told Cyclingnews: "We have complied with all British Cycling application deadlines so far and will continue to do so in order to register the team for next year."
The team failed to qualify for the Tour of Britain as they did not meet the points criteria. Several of the team raced the Tour Alsace at the end of July. Despite racing several low-key races, that was the last UCI registered race on the team's programme.
Cope admitted that the squad's season was virtually over, although they will race a non-UCI registered race in Hong Kong in October and some of the riders have raced domestically. Several riders will also race on the track in national colours.
"They've been racing. [Joey] Walker won a race in Yorkshire and others have been riding in Belgium but the other thing is that we've not been able to get in anything," Cope said.
"Everyone thinks that because we're Wiggins we can walk into any race but that's not true. There's not that much in August unless you go way over to Eastern Europe and the costs for that are astronomical. Not getting in the Tour of Britain was a big blow but I knew we'd be in trouble from the start of the year. The qualification doesn't suit what we're trying to do which is move riders onto WorldTour teams and to do that you need to race in Europe. That's why the British Academy races in Europe."
"McQuaid does all the dealing with the sponsors. I just sort the race programme out. I'm waiting for the calendar to come out now. As far as I know, 2018 is on the cards. Skoda signed a contract for three years and this year was the first, so hopefully it's another two years and beyond. I've put together a new spreadsheet for next year but we're also going to Hong Kong this October for a race."
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