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Jérôme Pineau is still “waiting for answers” from sponsors for next season as he tries to keep his B&B Hotels team afloat.
The French team was noticeably missing from the list of applicants for ProTeam licenses released last month, while a recent press conference that was to officially unveil the project was abruptly canceled at the last minute.
Pineau has been tight-lipped on the status of his team in recent weeks, but has told French newspaper Le Télégramme that he is hoping for good news by the end of this month.
“We are still working on finalizing our project, a very high-level men’s team, a women’s team, and an academy but we still need time. We have informed the authorities of our need to still have the next two weeks to obtain answers and present a solid file after the UCI and the DNCG (the National Directorate of Control and Professional Management),” Pineau told Le Télégramme.
“I am waiting for answers, I have five very serious leads, I am waiting for definitive answers on November 21, 28, and 29. We are ready to fire. I do not control the time, nor the amounts. I hope they are positive on the overall project, but I do not exclude that it will be revised downwards. Perhaps by asking my athletes to be more reasonable in 2023 before thinking bigger.”
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Pineau announced plans to boost the budget of his B&B Hotels-KTM squad earlier this season, with several big-name riders on his wish list for the existing men’s team and new women’s set-up.
There have been reports of a budget of up to 20 million Euros and links to major brands such as Carrefour and Amazon France.
The City of Paris has also been linked to the team as a major backer. Pineau blames the current economic struggles felt by many countries around the world following the coronavirus pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“There were setbacks. I met Didier Quillot (the former director of the Professional Football League,) in January, the city of Paris in May, we had made a lot of progress with a certain number of companies in August. And then, economic and social instability prompted some to backtrack,” he explained.
The team is not completely out of cash and B&B Hotels is still expected to put in around 3 million Euros next season. Pineau has ruled out shuttering the squad, at least for now, but he would have to make some tough decisions if the financial boost does not come.
“The current budget is not sufficient to hope to evolve at the level where we hope. If necessary, we will have to make decisions. I remain optimistic but the future of the team is threatened,” he said. “I will believe it until the last minute of the last day. I said, I’m waiting for answers. And if a business leader wants to come with us, we won’t slam the door. It will be the beginning of something else or the end of everything. But I rule out pulling the curtain.”
Mark Cavendish was one of the big names linked with the squad for next season. Pineau confirmed that he is still set to race with the team in 2023 and continues to support it despite the financial issues.
“If he did not believe in this project, he would have already signed elsewhere. He is behind us. I can’t hide that he is part of this project,” Pineau said.
Amid the challenges of recent months for Pineau, there were reports that he had told the riders on his women’s team that they were free to look elsewhere. He flatly denied the reports and added said that star rider Audrey Cordon-Ragot had not been poached from the squad.
“As far as I know, she has not signed elsewhere even if some would like it. We always really want to work with her. Contrary to what is said, I never released the girls, I did not ask them to look for another team,” he said.