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Froome, Thomas optimistic about Sky’s future

Team Sky will lose its main financial backer at the end of next season, news that puts management into scramble mode.

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Losing its main sponsor does not necessarily signal the end of Team Sky, top stars Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas said in the wake of the shocking news.

Media giant Sky announced Wednesday that after 10 years it would no longer sponsor the British team it helped create in 2010. In that time, Froome won four Tour de France titles, the Giro d’Italia, and the Vuelta a España, and Thomas followed by winning this year’s Tour de France.

“It’s a shock, disappointing to start with but when you sit back and look at it, 10 years is a long time as a main title sponsor in cycling,” Thomas told the BBC.

“It’s been an incredible nine years so far and we want to go out on a high and make 2019 the last and the best year yet.”

The 2019 season will be the last that Sky sponsors the team. The decision to quit leaves general manager David Brailsford in a rush to find a new financial backer.

“We’re still confident in Dave and the team that they can continue and keep the team together,” Thomas said.

“We see a lot of other teams have lost title sponsors but have continued — Movistar was with Banesto and Caisse d’Epargne and has been going for over 30 years with different sponsors.

“It’s certainly not the end, or at least hopefully it’s not the end, so it’s also kind of exciting at the same time. It just gives everyone a bit more motivation to keep pushing on.”

Froome helped Bradley Wiggins become Great Britain’s first Tour winner in 2012, which marked Sky’s first grand tour title. He followed in Wiggins’s steps with Tour wins in 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2017. Froome won the Giro this year and helped Thomas to his Tour title two months later.

“It came as surprise, but at the same time we are all grateful for the time we had with Sky as a sponsor. It’s not over yet, we still have next season to race for and hopefully over the course of the season we can find a sponsor to take over,” Froome told Sky Sports.

“The team has been incredibility successful and I have every confidence that if the team has another season that’s on par with the previous years, then we should be able to find a sponsor.

“Everyone would like a bit of security and we have a year to replace them. It’s not for the riders to be doing, it’ll be at the back of our mind and it’ll serve as extra motivation if anything for us when we go to the races.”

Brailsford said he will need to find a backer by the start of next summer’s Tour de France or let his riders under contract seek out new teams. Waiting too long without a sponsor for 2020 would put the riders and staff members — totaling around 100 — at risk of being left without work or poor deals with new teams.

Froome last year signed a contract through 2020. Thomas renewed this year through 2021. Other riders like Colombian talent Egan Bernal are signed through 2023.

Their contracts and the others’ come out of the massive budget on which Team Sky operates, believed to be north of $43 million. No cycling team has ever had a larger budget.

“Who knows?” Brailsford told ITV when asked if the team will continue. “I can’t give any guarantees but I’d like to think there are opportunities out there.

“My personal responsibility at the minute is to make sure there is a future for the team [and] the riders, and I take that very seriously.”

Brailsford said he considers it an “opportunity” and “it’s pretty exciting” to consider the team’s future. Already, he has “no regrets” about Team Sky’s journey.

“I think our record at the races and what we’ve achieved, the team that we’ve built, the way that we’ve raced, the way we’ve built the staffing team has been a fantastic journey, so we’ve got no regrets whatsoever and we look forward and to continue to build.”