UnitedHealthcare set to fold if replacement sponsor not found by August 30
Management will not renew Professional Continental licence for 2019
UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling men's and women's teams will fold if management company Momentum Sports Group does not find a replacement title sponsor by August 30, at which point the they will refocus on 2020. The team's owner Thierry Attias told Cyclingnews that he will not meet the August 15 deadline to request an application from the UCI to renew the men's team's Professional Continental licence.
"The team has not requested a Pro Conti licence at this point. We are still waiting on final decisions from two potential partners," Attias told Cyclingnews.
UnitedHealthcare, a health insurance provider, has been the title sponsor of the team for nine seasons, but told Attias over a year ago that they would not renew their contract with the team upon its expiration date at the end of this year. UnitedHealthcare has gone through management changes and had decided that it was redundant to sponsor two cycling teams, as Rally is under the same parent company UnitedHealth Group, and it chose to continue funding Rally Cycling.
However, Attias told Cyclingnews in an earlier interview that he was very grateful for the nine years of sponsorship, "In terms of performance and our relationship with UnitedHealthcare, it is all very positive because they have been a super partner, progressive thinking, and I have nothing but positives to say about our relationship. They sponsored us for nine years, when the average length for a title sponsor is five years, and so we are very happy overall."
Attias has been in discussion with multiple potential replacement sponsors for months now but none have signed the dotted line on a new deal yet. He said that he was up front with his riders and staff about the sponsorship situation and set a deadline of July 31 with which to notify his staff and athletes of the status of the sponsorship search. This deadline was to allow them time to find contracts with other teams for the upcoming season.
It has already been reported that Katie Hall, the team's start climber, will move over to the Boels Dolmans team in 2019. While other riders, such as Jonny Clarke, have announced that they will no longer be racing under the team after this season.
Attias is still holding out hope that one of his sponsor leads will come through, but time is running out. He said that if a contract is not in place by August 30th, then he will not run the team next season, and instead focus on bringing the team back in 2020.
"Their decisions, and the amount of funding will dictate size and scope of the program," Attias told Cyclingnews.
"If they are not able to reach a final decision by August 30th, Momentum Sports Group focus will forego the 2019 season and refocus on creating a program for 2020."
Momentum Sports Group started the men's program under the title sponsor HealthNet in 2003 and during six years became one of the top teams in North America. Ouch took over as title sponsor for one year before UnitedHealthcare sign on to financially back the team in 2010, and the women's team launched four years later.
This season, the women's team secured overall titles in every major US stage race; Joe Martin Stage Race, Redlands Bicycle Classic, Tour of the Gila and at the Women's WorldTour's Amgen Women's Tour - all while riding in support of Katie Hall.
Attias told Cyclingnews that the August 30th deadline also applies to their women's program. "We have never operated the programs separately, and as such they have been tied together both financially and functionally," Attias said.
"Specifics on the women's program moving forward are, just as with the men's program, dependent on future sponsor goals."
If you've ever wanted to know what it feels like to be part of a top-level cycling team, and to be on the ground, inside the barriers, at the Tour de France, then RUNNING WITH WOLVES will take you there. It is available to rent for $3.99 USD or buy for $6.99 USD (opens in new tab).
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RUNNING WITH WOLVES (opens in new tab) from Cyclingnews Films (opens in new tab) on Vimeo (opens in new tab), produced by La Pédale and a special thanks to Quick-Step Floors.
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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.