It’s not looking good for Jérôme Pineau’s ambitious 2023 plans.
The former pro rider, who appeared in the jerseys of Omega Pharma-QuickStep and IAM Cycling before returning to the sport in a managerial role with Vital Concept, now B&B Hotels-KTM, was set to propel his project forward next season with the addition of a women’s squad, led by Audrey Cordon-Ragot, and the signing of superstar sprinter Mark Cavendish among many other promising names.
However, with a massive hole as far as sponsorship is concerned and time running out, VeloNews and French media have reported that some of the riders expected to race for either the men’s or women’s outfits are looking for new teams for next season.
This is just the next in a string of unfortunate events and perplexing rumours regarding the new setup, most notably the missed deadline for UCI ProTeam license registration and that press conference cancellation, understood to be due to the withdrawal of a major sponsor.
“By nature, I am always worried,” Pineau told Le Telegramme after the cancellation of October’s press conference. “Given the current situation, we are never safe from an about-face from a partner or a rider. Today, it is not easy to take out a loan to buy a house or to guarantee a cycling team… But, once again, we are working. I hope everything will fall into place quickly. I have the people to finance my team. I am in constant contact with them. I believe in it, I hope for a nice announcement in November. That said, when we have announced everything, I will be worried the day after to know if it will work.”
It’s understood that just a small portion of the new team’s sponsorship is coming from current title sponsor B&B Hotels – the City of Paris is also set for involvement, albeit not financial, but according to Le Parisien there are rumblings that they too might exit to avoid “a strategic blow for them” – so Pineau has very little time to find a new major sponsor and millions of additional budget before the final UCI registration deadline on November 15.
With doubts now reaching critical mass, worried riders are naturally beginning to hunt down alternatives. According to VeloNews, one unnamed inbound rider has had words with his current squad, just in case. Meanwhile, Le Parisien has reported that some current riders (at B&B Hotels-KTM) are still unpaid for this season. The French outlet also shed light on Pineau’s desperate attempt to broker a late merger with Israel-Premier Tech as his options for financial backing seem to be running dry.
This last detail, though, is neither verified nor all that likely. For one thing, Israel-Premier Tech, which is due for relegation to the ProSeries, has 27 riders already signed up for 2023, and VeloNews reached out to both teams for verification, getting an emphatic reply from Pineau’s press officer, “Thanks for asking. It never happened.”
Next for Pineau, according to cyclismactu is an appearance before the DNCG (the National Directorate of Control and Professional Management) to provide details of his 2023 project, then he’ll have a little over a week to finalise his financial backing for next year.