EF Pro Cycling manager Jonathan Vaughters has confirmed the US-registered WorldTour team will continue in 2021 after French newspaper L'Equipe suggested the future of the team was in danger, sparking a number of speculative reports online.
Education First has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, cancelling many of its language school travel programmes, cutting jobs and reportedly moving thousands of students to online programs.
Like a number of other major teams, Vaughters was forced to work with a suddenly reduced budget and most riders in the team have now agreed to a 44 per cent salary cut for all of 2020.
Other staff have lost their jobs, as the professional peloton waits and hopes racing will return in the second half of the season but Vaughters took to social media to deny the L'Equipe suggestion the team could close at the end of the season.
"Things are pretty rough in pro cycling right now. I think things are pretty rough for a lot of people, unless you own a toilet paper factory. We’ve had to make hard cuts. And we are looking for new sponsors to help out in the future. But EF isn’t leaving," Vaughters wrote on Twitter.
In subsequent messages, he also confirmed that Cannondale and Rapha would continue as sponsors.
Speaking to the Canadian Cyclist website, who had cited one of the European stories on the possible demise of the team, Vaughters said: "As we have all learned in the last few months, I have no idea what is going to happen three weeks from now or three days from now, as things change on a daily basis, but as of today EF will remain involved with professional cycling - more specifically our organization. They actually own the team, I don't even own it anymore. They own the team in 2021."
The American team's 30-rider roster includes Tour of Flanders winner Alberto Bettiol, 2018 Tour de France runner-up Rigoberto Uran, Canada's Michael Woods, the US national champion Alex Howes, Tejay van Garderen, talented young Colombian Dani Martinez and Belgian Classics contender Sep Vanmarcke.
According to Procyclingstats, only 15 riders have contracts for 2021. According to L'Equipe, other teams have similar numbers of riders out of contract, with NTT Pro Team listed as having 24 of its 29 riders at the end of their contracts.
In the next few weeks and months riders and their agents will have to negotiate new contracts in a very different and difficult post-COVID-19 sport. Some agents predicting that rider values could be cut in half if some teams disappear and a number of well-known and talented riders flood the market.
Less snarky follow up: Things are pretty rough in pro cycling right now. I think things are pretty rough for a lot of people, unless you own a toilet paper factory. We’ve had to make hard cuts. And we are looking for new sponsors to help out in the future. But EF isn’t leaving.May 28, 2020
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