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Mitchelton-Scott to race under new title sponsor

Australian squad to become Team Manuela Fundación, officials deny reports that team license was sold.

Mitchelton-Scott confirmed Friday it will be taking on a new name and identity with immediate effect.

The team will race as Team Manuela Fundación following a new sponsorship agreement with the Spanish non-profit entity, the Manuela Fundación. The team will take on a new pink and blue color scheme in a total rebrand from its past gold and black livery.

Despite a report in Spanish media that the foundation purchased the team’s license last week, and that the team’s service course would move from Italy to Granada, Spain, sources confirmed to VeloNews that longtime team owner Gerry Ryan retains control of the team and that the team’s support staff and service course will remain unchanged this season.

There isn’t much information available about the foundation (reportedly named after the founder’s daughter) or Francisco Huertas, a businessman based in Spain’s Granada region. The foundation website says it will debut in October, but it already backs a regional team managed by Spanish ex-pro Manuel Calvente. A photo last week posted on the foundation’s Facebook site included Calvente, ex-pro Stefano Garzelli and former track Olympic medalist Jose Manuel Moreno, saying the group would make “Manuela’s wings fly this year” at the world level.

The arrival of the new Spanish title sponsor is good news for the GreenEdge franchise, which has been supported since its inception by Australian business magnate Ryan. A longtime effort to try to bring on a Chinese sponsor fizzled with the coronavirus, so the sudden arrival of new Spanish backers gives the team renewed financial backing.

Mitchelton-Scott had been one of many teams to suffer the consequences of the financial downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and confirmed in April that it would be slashing salaries for riders and staff. The new deal, announced Friday, will enable the most recent iteration of the GreenEdge Cycling franchise to keep racing through the coming years.

“After an unsettling and uncertain period, particularly in recent months, we are thrilled to have the support of Mr Francisco Huertas and the Manuela Fundación to ensure our future in 2021 and beyond,” Ryan said.

The Manuela Fundación is a self-funded social entity aimed “to help create a more supportive world.” The project, run by husband-and-wife pair of Huertas and Maria Angustias González, will officially launch Oct0ber 4, focusing its early work in Spain. Huertas also backs a regional cycling team in Granada, Spain, and tried to buy out a soccer team in Jaén.

“It’s been an intense period of hard work between Manuela Fundación sports director Emilio Rodríguez and Mitchelton-Scott general manager Shayne Bannan,” Huertas said. “It’s an incredible opportunity and an honor to be able to reach this agreement.

“We want to thank Gerry Ryan for all of his work and contribution so far, which has taken the team to its best. Now we will continue to boost this legacy and give great joy to the fans of this sport.”

Mitchelton-Scott had been one of many teams that had resorted to financial cutbacks when coronavirus put the brakes on the racing season alongside the likes of Lotto-Soudal, EF Pro Cycling, Bahrain-McLaren, and Astana. It was confirmed earlier this week that CCC Team had lost its title sponsor, leaving team owners searching for new backers. The involvement of the Manuela Fundación has saved Ryan from a similar situation.

“We have always believed in our product and values as a team for prospective partners, but the significance of this long-term deal is not lost on us, especially considering the recent hardships of not only the cycling world and sports industry, but the wider world’s health and economic climate,” Ryan said.