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Gianni Savio confirms Drone Hopper team will drop down to Continental level

Italian says that the team is seeking a new headline sponsor after Drone Hopper misses three months of payments.

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Gianni Savio has confirmed that his team will drop down to Continental level for 2023 with a view to returning to the professional ranks for 2024.

Savio’s Drone Hopper team was absent from the recent list of squads that had applied for a UCI ProTeam license for next season and had supplied all of the relevant paperwork. It’s not the first time that this has happened for Savio, but this time it looks like the Italian won’t be able to secure the last-minute funding he needs to keep his ProTeam license for 2023.

In an interview with OA Sport, Savio said that he is on the hunt for a new title sponsor but the global financial situation has made it hard. While he has some options, the sums that are on offer would not be enough to keep his squad in cycling’s second tier.

“We are interested in guiding the team into 2024 and setting up a Continental line-up for 2023,” he told OA Sport. “Finding sponsors has never been easy, today it is even more difficult. The economy is not booming, the pandemic, the war, and the rise in electricity prices, are all elements that keep companies away from sponsorships.

“The various negotiations that we have started all over the world to date have not brought me a concrete result. There are still two alternatives that our interlocutors are considering because at this point our idea is more aimed at a Continental.”

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Savio and his team penned a four-year deal with Spanish startup Drone Hopper. However, the company is behind on its monthly payments to the tune of three months. Despite the lack of funding from its primary sponsor forcing it to drop down a level, Savio is still hopeful that the contract with Drone Hopper can be revived.

“We always consider the Drone Hopper contract valid. We are waiting for them to get back on track to get their project off the ground and then we can continue together,” Savio said. “Clearly, next year he will not be able to be our main sponsor, but we are giving him the opportunity to continue supporting our project.”

The financial struggles following Drone Hopper’s lack of payments forced Savio into allowing some of his top riders to other teams. In August, Jefferson Cepeda and Andrea Piccolo were snapped up by EF Education-EasyPost to begin racing immediately.

Piccolo had been one of the team’s top performers this season during the very short period that he rode for the team. The 21-year-old Italian signed up in July after the closure of the Gazprom squad due to sanctions imposed by the UCI following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.

“It was a matter of making a choice. Either sell Piccolo or pay the salaries at the end of the month to all members of the team and so we opted for the first choice,” he said.

With the team’s future uncertain, Savio says that he has opened the door to his riders and staff to sign with other teams if an offer comes up.

“We said right away that in case the riders and staff have received another opportunity to sign on the fly, if we can make the team then we will talk about it again,” he said. “No one will ever be able to say that they have lost a job opportunity because of us. We were corrected and three months ago we reported the situation to everyone.”