Citing ‘scandal and deceit’ Exergy cuts sponsorship of pro men’s team
Team Exergy, a men’s UCI Continental pro team since 2009, will not return in 2013, the team said in a statement Tuesday.
Exergy Development Group, the alternative energy consortium that sponsored U.S.-based men’s and women’s road teams, as well as several major U.S. events, spent much of 2012 struggling to pay its cycling sponsorship contracts on time.
Those financial problems nearly brought an end to the U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross until several industry sponsors, including Trek Bicycles, WD-40 Bike, Clif Bar, SRAM and RadioShack, stepped in to save the series — a series that has proven pivotal as Americans prepare for the first-ever world cyclocross championships to be held on U.S. soil, in early February.
However in a press release, rather than attribute the decision to its troubled finances — which include several federal lawsuits — Exergy Development Group CEO James Carkulis said that the decision to step away from sponsoring the men’s team was due to “the corruption prevalent within the sport,” adding that Exergy Development Group “shall continue to invest in the future of men’s professional cycling when the funding will be met by a degree of sincerity and determination to reconstruct the sport.”
In October, after the fallout from the USADA doping case into Lance Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Service team, cycling sponsor Rabobank pulled the plug on its sponsorship of the long-running Dutch WorldTour team.
Word trickled out Tuesday that the team was folding and that its riders were free to seek out new employment for 2013.
Contacted for comment, the team’s marquee rider, former U.S. champion Freddie Rodriguez, currently riding from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise awareness for his youth cycling foundation, acknowledged that he’d also heard rumors of the team’s demise, but added that he could not comment without full information.
“At this point, I’m not in a position to know what is the truth,” said Rodriguez, who had a contract with the team through 2013. “I really hope it works out. In Exergy we finally have a company in the sport that has good product, in clean energy. With the current state of the economy, that has put a damper on the situation, but hopefully something gets worked out, and everything that we’ve created this year continues.”
However by Tuesday evening Exergy had issued a statement detailing the decision to end its sponsorship of the men’s team (posted, in full, below). The statement implies that the team will provide financial assistance for riders facing unemployment, though specifics were not provided.
The women’s team — home in 2012 to U.S. Olympians Kristin Armstrong and Lauren Tamayo, as well as national criterium champion Theresa Cliff-Ryan — will not be affected. The women’s team finished second in 2012 in USA Cycling’s National Racing Calendar rankings and third in the inaugural National Criterium Calendar standings.
“We have a signed contract with Exergy Development Group and will continue with the company as our title sponsor into 2013 as Exergy TWENTY16,” women’s team manager Nicola Cranmer emailed in a statement to VeloNews. “We will be expanding our focus on supporting the next generation of American riders with a UCI team and a bolstered junior program of twelve athletes.”
The news came as a surprise, as just 10 days earlier, bike manufacturer Wilier had announced its sponsorship of the men’s team for 2013.
Full statement from Exergy Development Group (November 27, 2012)
Over the last four years, Exergy Development Group has become one of the largest contributors of sponsorships in North American cycling, and the company remains committed to the sport. Exergy Development Group has been the title sponsor of the men’s professional cycling team, Team Exergy, since 2009, and recently announced its return for a fourth season. However, circumstances have persisted since the announcement which continues to erode the stature of men’s professional cycling. Exergy Development Group shall not return to this level of sponsorship in 2013.
Exergy Development Group has patiently awaited substantial changes between the time that the sponsorship was announced and the present, yet the industry has failed to fully grasp the gravity of the taint of scandal and deceit. The company cannot condone half measures to alleviate the severity of the problem, and requires a dramatic transformation to guarantee those who ride clean are allowed to excel at their profession and bring pride back to the sport.
James Carkulis, CEO of Exergy Development Group states, “I am totally disheartened to have to place our sponsor dollars for our disciplined men’s team on hiatus for the 2013 season, but there is no choice given the corruption prevalent within the sport. The magnitude of this situation should not be taken lightly and ignoring the severity is not going to rebuild the public’s trust in the sport. This has not been an easy decision, but one shared by our team management. In cooperation with management, we will ensure that each rider is placed and provided for. Exergy will not sit idly by, but intends to offer up rational solutions over the next month which regenerates the greatness of this perfect synthesis between man and machine.”
Exergy Development Group shall continue to invest in the future of men’s professional cycling when the funding will be met by a degree of sincerity and determination to reconstruct the sport. Exergy Development Group shall reevaluate each of our other major men’s race sponsor commitments and support those which insist on fundamental change. Exergy shall continue to support women’s and junior cycling through the professional women’s cycling team, ExergyTWENTY16, and expand opportunities for women to excel. The company shall also continue to support USA Cycling and the many events involved. The company shall continue to contribute to a groundswell of supportive efforts which focus on cultivating ethics, grace, and commitment emblematic of cycling like the Fast Freddie Foundation and youth development. This critical decision has been forced upon many of cycling’s major sponsors, and although Exergy Development Group shall continue to enable youth development and provide parity into women’s cycling, the company requires massive overhaul to the system to produce a sport that can be trusted and respected before it returns to its previous sponsorship participation.