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IAM riders urged to stick together at Giro

IAM riders got bad news Monday that the team would fold at the end of the year but are optimistic that time remains to find other teams.

ANDALO, Italy (VN) — Riders and staff on the soon-to-disband IAM WorldTour team have been urged to “stick together” and race as one at the Giro d’Italia, rather than try to impress as individuals and shore up new contracts for next year, Heinrich Haussler said.

One of 28 riders on the IAM roster, the Australian said IAM riders and staff learned that the team will stop after this year in an email from IAM owner Michel Thétaz that they received “a couple of hours” before the Swiss businessman’s decision was made public on Monday.

After each recipient of Thétaz’s email at the Giro absorbed its contents on Monday morning — during the third rest day of the Giro that finishes in Torino on Sunday — they then met in the team bus under the instruction of the team’s Belgian sports director Rik Verbrugge.

It was then that Verbrugge told them to work together to finish off the Giro, according Haussler on Tuesday morning before stage 16 from Bressanone to Andolo.

“Obviously the staff and some of the riders were a little bit upset,” said Haussler. “But Rik told us, ‘Now we really need to keep together as a team and not try to do individual things … that it’s because we only can get results as a team. We have to try to stick together.’ He gave us a good talk, kept us in a good mood, a positive attitude to look towards the future.”

The future of IAM had been uncertain for some time as Thétaz, who owns the financial management company IAM [Independent Asset Management] looked for another sponsor in vain. But Haussler said the team, which includes Leigh Howard, Mathias Frank, Matteo Pelucchi, and Mathias Brandle, had expected a decision “sometime” in May.

However, the harsh reality of Thétaz’s final call to stop the team was still a blow. “We all got an email from Michel — one or two hours before the press release,” Haussler said. “I don’t think anyone else from the team knew; for example, the [other] sports directors and Rik got the same email as we did. For a lot of staff and riders it was a shock.”

However, Haussler said he respected Thétaz for making his decision now, rather than later in the year and leave everyone in doubt, and possibly without time to find a new team.

“You have to say it is fair because it’s May. It’s not August or September,” Haussler said. “You also have to remember that it’s his own money out of his own pocket. It’s not, for example, Coca-Cola or other big companies where they just throw away the money like that.

“It’s a lot of money. You have to hand it to him that he did it [created the team] in the first place.”

Haussler said that for all the riders in the IAM team, which began in 2013 and was promoted to WorldTour last year, there is still plenty of time for them to pursue new contracts this year.

Asked if the Giro team would now use the setback as motivation, Haussler said, “Exactly. The riders have their own future in their own hands. They want to get a contract, or they need a contract … then they need to get out there in the groups or try and get a good result.

“I’ve been in situations with Cervelo or Gerolsteiner, where we only got the news [of those teams stopping] in September or October, and you stand there pretty much with nothing.

“It’s still really hard. It’s not an easy situation for anyone when a team stops. But it is May and opportunities are still there to perform and put yourself out there and show yourself.”

Haussler said the possibility of the team folding had led him to consider his future. But while the 32-year-old does not know his fate, he reaffirmed his desire to join another WorldTour team.