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Geox-TMC riders are scrambling to find rides following the surprise announcement Thursday evening that the Italian shoemaker was pulling its money out of the team.
Geox’s last-minute decision to not pay a required bank guarantee caught riders and management by surprise. Despite winning the Vuelta a España, riders such as Juanjo Cobo are frantically looking for contracts for next season.
“It’s a big shock. I signed a contract on Tuesday and they told me everything was fine. Since then, I haven’t heard a word from anyone on the team,” Cobo told the Spanish daily MARCA. “I am talking to several teams, but for sure I will not find a contract with the same conditions as the one I just signed. It’s too bad because there will be riders who end up without a job.”
Geox’s departure couldn’t have come at a worse time for riders and staff on the Spanish-registered team.
Most of the other major European squads either already have their rosters full or do not have the money to sign top-caliber riders such as Cobo or Denis Menchov.
Bjarne Riis, manager of Saxo Bank-Sungard, said Friday he does not have the budget to sign any of the top Geox stars.
Geox-TMC boss Mauro Gianetti told VeloNews on Thursday that the team had signed contracts with 22 riders going into 2012 and expected to gain ProTeam status for the coming campaign.
In a statement released Saturday in Spain, lead sport director Joxean Fernández Matxin said management is still hoping to find enough sponsorship dollars to keep the team afloat as professional continental going into next season. They have until the end of October to try to pull together enough money.
In the meantime, riders have the green light from the UCI to look for new contracts.
Menchov, the Vuelta-Giro winner, speaking to the Russian website www.velolive.com, said that he is already negotiating with other squads.
“It didn’t come as a complete surprise, because everything went wrong right from the beginning with this team,” Menchov said. “I am tranquil. I am talking to teams and they are of the top division.”
Other top riders, such as David de la Fuente and Fabio Duarte, should likely land contacts, but others might find themselves out on the street.