George Hincapie expects his professional team Hincapie Racing to return to UCI Continental status for 2019.

George Hincapie is confident that his professional cycling team Hincapie Racing will return to the North American pro road scene in 2019.

The team’s return, however, will likely include a step back to UCI Continental status.

“I am hopeful. It’s looking like we’ll be able to save the program,” Hincapie told VeloNews. “I have the commitments from the sponsors that we need in order to be back as a [UCI Continental] team next year.”

The news comes three weeks after the team — called Holowesko-Citadel presented by Arapahoe Resources during the 2018 season — revealed it had missed the deadline to register for UCI Pro Continental status for next season. Founded in 2012, the team raced at the UCI Continental level for its first six seasons. The squad stepped up to the UCI Pro Continental ranks for the 2018 season; the move allowed the team to participate in the Amgen Tour of California and select events across Europe.

The step up from UCI Continental to Pro Continental status often requires a sizable boost in cash. UCI Continental teams can often survive on a budget in the low- to mid- six figures; Pro Continental teams often require an operating budget that surpasses $1 million. Pro Continental teams must pay each rider a minimum salary, and the squads have higher overhead costs for staff, insurance, and travel.

Hincapie said the team’s financial crisis occurred after a potential sponsor for 2019 backed out shortly before the deadline to register for UCI Pro Continental status. The sponsor was set to replace both Holowesko and Citadel as title sponsor of the team. Hincapie’s longtime benefactors, investment manager Mark Holowesko and Ken Griffin, owner of the investment firm Citadel, had both planned to step away from the team following the 2018 season, he said.

“Mark Holowesko and Ken Griffin have been backing our program because they love cycling and because they wanted to help us get to the next level. We almost did it,” Hincapie said. “We had a signed term sheet from a European sponsor and things were gravy, but at the last minute the deal blew up because they weren’t able to provide the funding.”

In early September, the team published a statement on its website saying it was seeking additional funding for the 2019 season. VeloNews also learned that the team recently terminated contracts with several riders for 2019.

Hincapie said the squad had to end its two-year contracts with riders because the team would no longer have UCI Continental status for next season. In 2018 the squad had a roster of 16 riders; prior to that it raced with just 12 riders. Hincapie said the roster will likely shrink for 2019.

“Unfortunately, we won’t be able to have the same number of riders,” he said. “There will be cutbacks and we’ll try to keep who we can.”

The news comes amid a series of team setbacks within North America’s professional cycling scene. In early August, longtime professional squads UnitedHealthcare, Jelly Belly presented by Maxxis, and Silber Pro Cycling announced they were all on the hunt for title sponsors.