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Geox-TMC misses WorldTour deadline

Geox-TMC miss key funding deadline for WorldTour status. Search for sponsor continues in the hope for a pro-continental bid.

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2011 Vuelta a España, stage 18
Geox rides to protect Cobo. Photo: Graham Watson |

Management behind the doomed Geox-TMC team missed a final-hour deadline to meet financial requirements to secure a WorldTour license next season, but they haven’t thrown in the towel just yet.

Josean Fernández Matxín, the sport director of the Spanish-registered team, said the team is still hoping to secure financial backing to continue at the pro continental level for next year.

“Despite the crisis the world economy is now facing, we have contacts with potential sponsors for next season,” Fernández told the Spanish sports daily Marca. “We are going to keep fighting to maintain the team in the second division, but, for that we need a sponsor. These types of things take time, sometimes we are encouraged, but right now we need something firm.”

The team was left hanging on the edge of existence when Geox, an upscale Italian shoemaker, failed to make required bank guarantees to meet requirements to qualify for a WorldTour license on October 20. The company later confirmed it would not continue its sponsorship for 2012.

That caught Fernández and team manager Mauro Gianetti by surprise. Gianetti told VeloNews they were counting on Geox’s backing for 2012.

Management is now scrambling to try to find new financial backers to keep the team alive for next season.

Gianetti and Fernández have been down this road before and have been able to pull something out of the hat, but this time could be more complicated because they’re not left with much time before facing another round of UCI deadlines in just a few weeks to secure professional continental status.

In 2008, in the wake of the Ricco doping scandal that rocked that year’s Tour de France, title sponsor Saunier Duval made a quick exit from the team.

The squad managed to stitch together enough budget to keep the team afloat, first as Scott-American Beef for the remainder of the 2008 season, and then as Fuji-Servetto in 2009 and Footon-Servetto-Fuji in 2010.

The arrival of Geox, the first major Italian sponsor to enter cycling in years, seemed a salve for the team.

Almost immediately there were difficulties, however, and when Geox-TMC missed out on a WorldTour license for 2011, the team seemed to be teetering.

Overall victory in the Vuelta a España by Juanjo Cobo saved the season, but that wasn’t enough to convince Geox upper-brass to hang around.

Despite having 23 riders under contract, without a secure sponsor, management have given the team’s top riders the green light to look for contracts for next season.

Fabio Duarte, the promising Colombian attacker, is the first major rider to leave the team. He penned a deal to join Colombia-Coldeportes for 2012.

Denis Menchov, Cobo and David de la Fuente are all in negotiations with teams for next season.

The definitive exit of Geox-TMC from the WorldTour scenario changes things for the hunt for one of the 18 licenses.

Last week, the UCI released its review of applicants bidding for entrance into the 18-team league. With the top-15 ranked teams are guaranteed entry, coupled with eight carry-over licenses for 2012 for Euskaltel-Euskadi, only three teams — FDJ, Europcar and Ag2r-La Mondial — are in a fight for two remaining licenses.

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