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Cannondale-Slipstream merger a reflection of Italy’s economic woes

The squad's 2015 merger with Slipstream Sports indicates how far Italian cycling has fallen from its glory days

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MILAN (VN) — The closure of Cannondale/Liquigas after 10 years reflects the current economic plight in Italy. The squad’s general manager Roberto Amadio explained simply that the situation in Italy does not support first division teams.

“This is a refection on the Italian economy,” Amadio told VeloNews.

“It’s a hard time for all the Italian companies, above all for sport. Cycling lives only on sponsorship, and this is a reflection on the economics and politics in Italy. Nothing more.”

On Wednesday, Garmin-Sharp CEO Jonathan Vaughters announced that his team will lose its title sponsor for next year but will welcome Cannondale to the mix. The American bike company (Cannondale is owned by a Canadian company, Dorel Industries — Ed.) has been sponsoring Italy’s top team for four years but with the merger of the teams, it will now back Vaughters’ outfit as its bike and title sponsor through 2017.

Slipstream Sports, the American sports management group behind the current iteration of Garmin-Sharp, has yet to confirm which riders or staff from the 2014 Cannondale squad it will take on board. Vaughters, however, said he will offer to keep all eight riders with existing Cannondale contracts, a list that includes Moreno Moser and under-23 world champion Matej Mohoric. Davide Formolo already confirmed he would join Slipstream’s 2015 team.

The 2014 version of Cannondale consists of 69 people — 28 riders, 12 soigneurs, 10 mechanics, six sport directors, three doctors and coaches, two drivers, and one team manager, cook, secretary, press officer, and hospitality manager.

Amadio began his team with Italian sponsor Liquigas in earnest in 2005. Cannondale joined as a bike supplier and took over the license of the team in 2013. Along the way, the 51-year-old Italian guided the team to three grand tour wins and three green jerseys at the Tour de France.

Ivan Basso, who won the Giro d’Italia for the team in 2010 and also won the race in 2006, and Peter Sagan have already signed contacts to join Tinkoff-Saxo next season.

“I’m sad to see these riders go, for sure,” Amadio said. “In 10 years, I’ve created good teams with good young talents, from Roman Kreuziger to Vincenzo Nibali, Peter Sagan to Daniel Oss, Manuel Quinziato to Ivan Santaromita … They were all my riders.

“The current crop includes Formolo, Moser, and Mohoric … For sure, I’m sad to see them go, but that’s how cycling goes. I’m sure they’ll do well, they are great riders.”

Amadio said Cannondale is leaving behind one of cycling’s prized, 18 first-division licenses in the process. He has no intentions to find a new sponsor and continue the team. He will instead ride out the 2014 season — he is now in Spain with Sagan for the Vuelta a España — before deciding his next move.

“It’s too early to say what everyone’s going to do,” added Amadio. “The team is trying to organize itself, the mechanics, the masseurs and the staff. We’ll have to see in this period if they are able to find work. They are all great people, so I think that most of them will be able to find a solution.”

Times are tough, however, in Italy. Earlier in August, the nation’s economy slid back into a recession for a third time since 2008, with national public debt still hovering at 2 trillion euros ($2.65 trillion). Without Cannondale in Italy, only Lampre-Merida remains the country’s only first division team for 2015.

“Italy has the riders, resources and directors who are smart, capable and able to build great team. When the economy returns to a good level in Italy, the big teams will return, as well,” Amadio said. “I’m afraid we’re going to have to wait a few years before that happens.”