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LUCENA, Spain (VN) — IAM Cycling is folding at the end of 2016, but the team is pedaling out of the peloton with its head held high.
The Swiss team scored its second stage victory of this Vuelta a España on Wednesday with Mathias Frank winning out of a breakaway in the debut of the Alto Mas de la Costa climb. Jonas van Genechten won stage 9, and its riders have been banging on the door with top-10s in several stages.
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For a team that couldn’t buy a win, IAM is on a roll in its final weeks as a squad.
“We have always been attacking, always trying to win. Finally, this season, we’ve been able to show what we are capable of,” Frank said. “It’s a real shame the team stops, but that is the way it is.”
The recent Vuelta success comes as part of the team’s best season since it launched in 2013. Despite having some high-profile names, such as Sylvain Chavanel, along with some top results, the team had never won a grand tour stage coming into this season.
In May, team owner Michel Thétaz announced the team would close at the end of 2016 after he was unable to find a co-sponsor to help carry the financial burden of the WorldTour team.
And that’s when the team started on its incredible roll. Roger Kluge won the team’s first grand tour stage at the Giro d’Italia. Jarlinson Pantano won a mountain stage at the Tour de Suisse, and followed it up with a stage win at the Tour de France. And so far in this Vuelta, the team has two stage wins, and vows to keep attacking.
“We have a good atmosphere here on the team despite the team closing,” said Larry Warbasse, who is still hunting for a ride in 2017. “It doesn’t seem like any guys are walking around with their heads hung low. Most of the guys have contracts, a few of us still don’t.”
Wednesday’s win for Frank comes following a few rough seasons with crashes and injuries. The 29-year-old finished eighth in the 2015 Tour, but crashed out this year. A solid all-rounder, he came to this Vuelta to make amends.
“It has been more than two years since I have won, so the time was right,” Frank said. “It was important to prove that I could be up there. I have been chasing a grand tour stage win my entire career, so to finally have one is nice.”
Next season, IAM’s riders are moving on. Some, like Warbasse, are seeking a contract, while others have secured their respective futures. Kluge joins Orica – BikeExchange; Pantano and Matthias Brandle head to Trek – Segafredo. Heinrich Haussler joins the start-up Bahrain – Merida, with Van Genechten landing at Cofidis. Stef Clement heads to LottoNL – Jumbo and Dries Devenyns to Etixx – Quick-Step. Frank joins Oliver Naesen, Sondre Holst Enger and Clément Chevrier all moving to Ag2r – La Mondiale.
A captain at IAM, Frank will slot into a helper’s role during the Tour behind Ag2r leader and rising French star Romain Bardet.
“Bardet is one of the most promising riders in the peloton, and this year he was second in the Tour, and that shows he is capable of winning the Tour,” Frank said. “I want to be a good teammate in the Tour, and then take my chances in the smaller races.”
IAM Cycling, meanwhile, will shut its doors following the final WorldTour races in Italy. Next season, Bora – Argon 18 and Bahrain are lining up to take its place in the WorldTour league.