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Four years after it made its debut, the Colombia-Coldeportes team is coming to a halt, with the Colombian-backed, Italian-based Pro Continental squad not continuing into 2016.
The team has been rumoured for some time to have an uncertain future, a situation that was exacerbated when its name didn’t appear on the UCI’s list of teams that had applied for a licence for next season.
This week suggestions of a delay in paying this year’s salaries also emerged.
As of Wednesday, what is now official is the demise of the team.
“Due to the impossibility of its first backer, Colombia’s Sports Ministry “Coldeportes”, to confirm the necessary funding to continue the cycling activity at the highest level, Team Colombia-Coldeportes and its General Manager Claudio Corti regretfully announce that the only South-American Pro Continental team in cycling will not line up at the start of the 2016 season,” the squad said in a statement.
In four years it competed in two editions of the Giro d’Italia, one Vuelta a España, four Il Lombardia races, two each of Milan-San Remo and Tirreno-Adriatico and one Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
It helped the career progression of Esteban Chaves, Darwin Atapuma and Jarlison Pantano, but also didn’t have the success it had been aiming for. In four seasons, the squad clocked up just 11 wins, and fell short of its goal of riding the Tour de France.
This year it lists taking the best climber’s jersey in eight stage races as a highlight.
The final event for the team was the Abu Dhabi Tour.
General manager Claudio Corti commented on the news and claimed a Tour debut had still been possible.
“It obviously feels bad to see a cycle we had opened with enthusiasm and high hopes come to an end,” he stated, “particularly after seasons in which the team had managed to earn big consideration from all the people in cycling.
“I will always regret to see this project close before bringing the Colombian flag back to the Tour de France, particularly as I think this goal was not very far away.”
He added that he didn’t believe the team should be assessed on results alone, saying that it had a positive impact on the image of Colombian sports and also promoted the country’s identity, culture and tourism.
“Colombian sport proved capable to compete at the highest level in the World of cycling, and that was the most important goal achieved by the Colombia-Coldeportes project. The way our team was welcomed by the Colombian sports fans all around the world is the biggest statement of what the team managed to do in four years.”
Others have highlighted what they see as failings in the project, with a lengthy article in El Tiempo [translated by La Ruta del Escarabajo] being heavily critical of Corti. It blames him for poor organisation and said that the backers of the team put too much trust in the Italian.
That view may or may not be shared by the sponsors, but Corti said that confirmation that the team would not continue was only communicated to him this month.
“Unfortunately, the final decision by Coldeportes was communicated to us only in the very last few days, meaning we could not proceed any further with the Union Cycliste Internationale, nor we could give a better opportunity to the whole team – riders, sports directors, staff and sponsors – that worked with us in the last year.”
CyclingTips has sought comment from both the UCI and the team itself in relation to claims that riders have been unpaid for several months. A similar situation occurred in the past, with frustrated riders taking to social media to highlight the issue.
The team has confirmed delays but said the situation will be resolved soon.
“When it comes to governmental funds, delays in delivery are part of the business,” a team spokesman told CyclingTips. “I can tell you that the team is waiting for a payment from Coldeportes, that is reported and expected to be coming in short time.
“After the payment is sealed, the team will be able to regularly settle everything until the end of the year.”