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Manuela Fundación officials insist they have signed deal to control team

Shocked Spanish representatives demand more explanation on sudden termination of takeover deal.

Confusion continues in the ongoing saga between Mitchelton-Scott and Manuela Fundación over the fate of the WorldTour team.

On Thursday, team owner Gerry Ryan dropped a bombshell, and backed out of a deal that was supposed to see the Spanish foundation take over the long-running Australian-backed team. Ryan abruptly cut off the agreement, promised that the team would remain Mitchelton-Scott for the remainder of 2020, and that riders and staffers would see a return to full wages when racing resumes in August.

In Spain, officials representing the foundation reacted with dismay, and insisted there is a confirmed deal that gives them control of the team.

Ex-pro Stefano Garzelli, who represented Spanish non-profit Manuela Fundación in negotiations with Mitchelton-Scott, said a signed contract with the team’s general manager Shayne Bannan confirms the Spanish takeover.

“I want to clarify everything as soon as possible,” Garzelli told Italian outlet Cicloweb.it on Friday. “My image is damaged, and so is the foundation’s. Ryan’s words were like a cold shower, and totally unjustified.”

According to Garzelli, the Spanish group signed a deal in early June with Bannan to buy the team’s license in 2021, and immediately take over sponsorship when racing resumed in late July. Garzelli said the agreement included buying out the Swiss-based holding company, which Garzelli said is controlled by Bannan, as well as the team’s infrastructure. Key jobs inside the organization, including Bannan’s and some other staffers and sport directors, were also guaranteed under conditions of the deal.

Garzelli said the foundation president, Spanish contractor Francisco Huertas, reached out to him this spring to hunt for an existing team that might be interested in a merger. Garzelli, who lives in Spain, heard through the grapevine that Mitchelton-Scott was in need of cash, and came in contact with Alvaro Crespi and Bannan, who both work as managers for Mitchelton-Scott. Garzelli said after a series of negotiations they agreed to a deal and signed papers on June 5.

“I personally carried out the negotiations, and it’s important that we clarify everything immediately,” Garzelli said. “Everything was done with transparency and clarity. Everyone involved is quite shocked. The fact remains that there is a signed contract, and we have everything we need to go ahead, and we intend to.”

There still has not been an official reaction from the foundation, and it’s unclear if the Spanish group will challenge the legality of the latest moves.

The news was seen as a boon for Spanish cycling, which once dominated European racing only to see Movistar as the nation’s lone WorldTour team. With Ryan’s abrupt reversal, however, it appears the Manuela project lasted less than a week.