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Gazprom-RusVelo suspends racing activities during ongoing sponsor search

Team management says a sponsor search continues, but it decided to stop its racing program Sunday following UCI ban on its Russian backers.

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The Gazprom-RusVelo cycling team, with its Russian backers banned by the UCI after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has “suspended” its activity, but is still looking for another sponsor, management confirmed Monday.

Unable to find another partner, the team financed by the Russian energy group has “suspended” its activities since Sunday, team director Renat Khamidulin told AFP from Italy.

“We have two negotiations in progress with possible partners. But it’s not easy right now to immediately find a sponsor,” he said.

Also read: UCI takes action and bans Russian sponsors

In a series of social media posts on Twitter and Instagram, the team also confirmed its decision.

“We were ready to compete in neutral jerseys with no logos and under neutral team status in Trofeo Laigueglia and further races, however, UCI did not allow us to do so,” the team said. “On the third of March we had a meeting with UCI, where we were assured that our team may come back to racing as soon as we find a new title sponsor.”

The Gazprom-RusVelo team was removed from competition on March 1 by the UCI, a few days after the start of the Russian invasion, like all formations flying the Russian or Belarusian flag.

Racing in the second division worldwide, the team headquartered in Switzerland is made up of 21 riders, of which nine are of Russian nationality and seven are Italian.

The riders are “almost all in Italy,” said the Russian team leader.

“Some train with the Italian national team, others on their own, but their morale is very low,” he said, even if Alessandro Fedeli has finished second in the GP Industria on Sunday in Tuscany, racing with the Italian jersey.

Some riders have been approached by other teams, but no transfers have yet been concluded.

“It’s a painful situation for everyone. The UCI wanted to charge a Russian team but they penalized riders from Italy, Norway, Spain … It seems to me a half-decision that has not been well thought out,” Khamidulin told AFP.

Members of the team train in blank jerseys recently in Italy. (Photo: Instagram/team photo)

The manager does not rule out an appeal to challenge this sanction, and wants a dialogue with the UCI, either directly, or in court.

“One can’t just say, ‘we stop our activity and forget everything,'” he said. “These are 10 years of work and a lot of damage.”

The UCI confirmed on March 14 that the sanction should continue to “be strictly enforced, meaning teams should not be registered under a Russian or Belarusian nationality, nor bear the name of a Russian or Belarusian sponsor,” AFP reported.

On the other hand, the teams concerned can request registration under another nationality, if they fulfill the relevant criteria. The riders and members of the management also have the possibility of committing for other teams outside the transfer window, depending on the circumstance, AFP reported.