Road

Geox-TMC managers hope Venezuelan tourist program can rescue squad

Team managers from the doomed Geox-TMC team are traveling to Venezuela in a final-hour bid to save their team for next season.

Team managers from the doomed Geox-TMC team are traveling to Venezuela in a final-hour bid to save their team for next season.

According to a report in the Spanish daily El Diario Montañes, Josean Fernández and Mauro Gianetti are heading to South America to try to close a sponsorship deal with a national tourism board.

The idea is to secure sponsorship under a tourism program called Venezuela País de Sueño, which loosely translates to “Venezuela, Land of Dreams.”

The paper quoted national champion Miguel Ubeto, who wrote on his Twitter account the pair were set to meet with officials in a move that would save the Spanish-registered team and give Venezuelan officials an inroad to the European market.

The team has been reeling since title sponsor Geox abruptly pulled the plug on its one-year support on the same day a bank guarantee was needed to meet UCI requirements to gain a WorldTour license.

If the two are successful in securing new backing, the team could still race as a professional continental next year — the same level it raced in 2011 — giving it access to some of Europe’s major races with the chance of securing invites to the most important events.

Several riders have already abandoned the team to secure their futures with other teams. Fabio Duarte and Mauricio Ardila are heading to the new Colombian team, Coldeportes; Daniele Colli is heading to Team Type 1; and Xavier Florencio has signed with Katusha.

Denis Menchov is expected to leave the team as well, with links to Katusha and Astana.

Other riders, such as David de la Fuente and Vuelta a España winner Juanjo Cobo, are waiting to see if Gianetti can pull a rabbit out of the hat in time to salvage the team for 2012.