News

Major shakeups inside Mitchelton-Scott

Australian team's general manager and key associate are out following botched deal with Spain's Manuela Fundación.

There are more shakeups behind the scenes at Mitchelton-Scott.

La Gazzetta dello Sport reported late Tuesday that the team’s long-running general manager Shayne Bannan will leave the team he helped found in 2012, with Bahrain-McLaren’s Brent Copeland coming on. Alvaro Crespi, another Bannan associate, is also out, with Darach McQuaid, organizer of the 2014 Giro d’Italia “big start” in Belfast, also set to join the Australian outfit.

Team officials confirmed the moves Wednesday morning, but did not provide further details about the reasons for the managerial shakeup.

“We are looking forward to having the experience of Brent, who we believe will fit immediately into our proud culture, coming into the team as the new general manager, as well as Darach into the role as chairman and are even more excited to see the action back out on the road in just a few short weeks,” Ryan said in a team statement. “Shayne’s contribution to this team is immeasurable and will have a lasting impact on our legacy, and I am incredibly grateful for his involvement and influence over so many years.”

The latest moves come after a few tumultuous months for the Australian-backed team. The coronavirus shutdown hit the team hard, with the world economic slowdown forcing ownership to reduce wages during the race stoppage. Bannan and others were told to search out for new backers to help keep the team afloat.

The team’s future seemed secure with the arrival of Manuela Fundación, a newly registered Spanish nonprofit based in Granada, Spain, in a deal secured by Bannan and Crespi. Last month, the foundation announced it would take over sponsorship naming rights for the Australian team for the remainder of 2020, and see the team race in its new colors at the Vuelta a Burgos in late July.

There was immediately uncertainty about the ownership of the team as insiders rushed a public announcement to avoid a possible media leak. Representatives of the Spanish foundation, including ex-pro Stefano Garzelli, insisted they agreed to a deal with Bannan with signed contracts to buy out a holding company under Bannan’s control that managed the team’s assets. Ryan, however, insisted that he still owned the team’s WorldTour license, and later stepped away from the deal as it appeared there was confusion on both sides of the agreement.

According to the Italian daily, team owner Ryan relayed a message to team staffers Tuesday that the on-and-off merger with Spain’s Manuela Fundación is definitely off the table. Last week, the team issued a public statement saying Ryan was stepping away from of a tentative deal hammered out by Bannan and Crespi.

Ryan reportedly turned down an offer worth 10 million euros from the Spanish foundation to take over the team’s infrastructure and WorldTour license.

Manuela Fundación representatives told Ciclo21 that it might pursue mergers with other existing WorldTour teams — CCC Team is currently in the hunt for a new title sponsor and Astana is also struggling — or create a new organization at the second-tier level to begin racing in 2021.

The news means that Mitchelton-Scott will remain firmly in Australian hands, at least for the time being.

The team is slated to return to racing at the Burgos tour, with its Mitchelton-Scott colors remaining in place on the team cars and riders’ jerseys.