28 riders on the street: IAM pulling plug at end of season

Swiss banker Michel Thétaz confirms he does not have a co-sponsor to back the WorldTour team beyond the current season.

BESSANSONE, Italy (VN) — Unable to secure a co-sponsor, Swiss banker Michel Thétaz confirmed Monday the IAM Cycling team will pull the plug at the end of this season.

Not only will more than two dozen riders and staffers be scrambling for jobs, the UCI’s 18-squad WorldTour league will see at least one less team going into 2017.

“IAM Cycling will cease operations at the end of the 2016 season,” said Thétaz in a press release. “This is a failure for which I take full responsibility.”

Thétaz, a Swiss banker and founder of IAM Funds, backed the team in 2013, and made the leap to the WorldTour two years later. Since its inception, the team operated on a relatively lean budget, and Thétaz said securing a co-sponsor was key to the team’s long-term future.

“We have arrived at a key moment in the team’s evolution with the prospect of entering a new three-year cycle; however, that proved to be an impossible undertaking for IAM Cycling since we have failed to find a co-sponsor, and consequently will be unable to continue our progress to the summit of the sport’s hierarchy,” the statement read. “It was unthinkable to consider returning to the lower levels, or even to play a subordinate role to the greatest teams with budgets of 12 million euros.”

The team’s departure ends the likelihood of a possible merger with BMC Racing. The decision will leave 28 riders scrambling for jobs, including American Larry Warbasse.

IAM joins Tinkoff as teams that could also fold at the end of 2016. Oleg Tinkov confirmed he is ending his sponsorship of the squad, but team manager Stefano Feltrin is still hoping to keep it together.