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Orica – GreenEdge goes digging for new title sponsor

Mining services company Orica announced it will back the team through 2017 before ending its relationship with the Australian squad.

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MILAN (VN) — Despite Esteban Chaves’s runner-up finish at last month’s Giro d’Italia and Matthew Hayman’s Paris-Roubaix win in April, Orica – GreenEdge now has some work to do in order to stay afloat after next season.

Overnight Thursday, mining services company Orica announced it would renew for 2017, but that will be its final season as the team’s title sponsor. The move leaves a big gap to fill in the team’s $15.8 million budget.

“We have a lot of interest in the team and we need to chase that up,” team general manager Shayne Bannan said. “We can’t just rest on our laurels, we must work to find a new sponsor. We must work the market.”

Bannan saw off his riders Adam Yates and Simon Gerrans in the Critérium du Dauphiné stage race in France Friday morning. Another Orica team starts in the Tour de Suisse this weekend with Michael Matthews. Those riders are en route to Tour de France, where Orica set the record speed in the Nice time trial in 2013 and held the yellow jersey. Bannan must now think about the future beyond July.

Gerrans and Chaves have contracts beyond 2016, but Bannan and owner Gerry Ryan must create stability to convince some of the others to renew or bring in more helpers to support its growing classification team.

Ryan, one of Australia’s richest men, bankrolled the men’s and women’s Orica squads in the franchise’s start-up phase and into its first season in 2012. Orica joined as title sponsor midway into the team’s debut year. Australia’s first and only WorldTour team has since collected wins in three monuments — Milano-Sanremo, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and this April in Paris-Roubaix. It has won Tour stages and has worn the yellow jersey. Last month, Chaves led the Giro team to a stage win in the Dolomites and a second-place overall finish.

Some of the team’s estimated $15.8 million annual budget still comes from Ryan. Bannan said, “Gerry enjoys the team and is committed as long as possible.”

The rest comes from Orica, which sells explosives and blasting products to mining companies. However, the 2012 mining boom that Australia enjoyed is now fading.

“Given the more challenging environment facing the resources and mining services sectors, it is the appropriate decision for Orica at this time,” Orica’s vice president of corporate affairs Samantha Stevens said. “We wish the teams all the best for the future.”

The Australian economy continues to experience growth and enjoys low unemployment compared to the rest of the world. Bannan said the economy is “reasonable” back home.

“Companies are interested in the team,” Bannan explained. “It’s good news that Orica backed us for another year, we can continue to chase leads for future sponsors.”

Aside from the Australian outfit, the cycling landscape is changing. Next year, pro cycling could welcome its first team from the Middle East with Bahrain prince Nasser vying for a spot in the WorldTour. At the same time, Swiss squad IAM Cycling and Russian team Tinkoff are both folding.

Top organizer ASO is shaking up the system by pulling its events, from the Tour de France to Paris-Roubaix, out of the WorldTour and taking away the guaranteed spots top-tier teams have in those races. The UCI is working on finding a deal before the close of 2016.

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What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.