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by José Been
October 16, 2020
Photography by Cor Vos
Equipe Paule Ka – currently 4th on the UCI ranking – is ceasing operations immediately. The women’s team has withdrawn from Sunday’s Tour of Flanders and other remaining races.
The Swiss-based team announced on June 17 that French fashion brand Paule Ka took over as lead sponsors but cites in a press release that the payments ended in August despite promises payments would arrive soon.
It’s the second time in one year team manager Thomas Campana loses the team’s title sponsor: Bigla and clothing brand Katusha. It was announced in April that both sponsors wouldn’t continue and had withdrawn funding immediately. The team resorted to a crowdfunding campaign and drew funds from the mandatory UCI bank guarantee to pay both riders and staff.
On June 17th a new name was announced after French women’s fashion brand Paule Ka took over the role as title sponsor. The funding would be secure until 2024 and the team would apply for WorldTour status. The French brand itself never announced or confirmed the sponsorship deal on their own media.
This all came to a sudden halt just one day shy of four months later. CyclingTips already reported on October 6 that the riders and staff were informed of the dire future of the team by Thomas Campana.
Today this news was confirmed. The team issues a press release stating:
It is with great regret that Équipe Paule Ka announces the immediate cessation of its racing season and, unfortunately, the closure of the team – currently ranked fourth in the world with over 3000 UCI points – due to the absence of sponsor payments since August.
After late payment of its first instalment in July, the French fashion company Paule Ka then failed to pay the team in the months of August, September and October, despite multiple assurances that the payments were on their way.
Equipe Paule Ka employs 13 riders among who Lizzy Banks, winner of Giro Rosa stage 4, Marlen Reusser, silver Individual Time Trial medal winner at the World Championships, American Leah Thomas and New Zealand’s Niamh Fisher-Black and one of the breakthrough riders of the year Mikayla Harvey – 5th in the 2020 Giro Rosa.
Only Danish sprinter Emma Norsgaard has already announced a new team: Team Movistar for 2021 and 2022. The other riders and staff will face an uphill battle to find a spot at a new team this late in the year.
Despite the team stating in their press release that payment issues started as early as July and no payments were received from August, Leah Thomas, Mikayla Harvey and Lizzy Banks all signed contract extensions in August of 2020.
The team started racing in 2005 under the name Bigla Procycling and had big names in their ranks like Annemiek van Vleuten, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Carmen Small.