The ignominious implosion of Team B&B Hotels-KTM is causing some ugly aftershocks this off-season.
Marquee stars are scrambling for career survival while others have called time on their life as a pro after the highly-hyped, big-budget 2023 project of B&B chief Jérôme Pineau disintegrated last week.
“Pineau knows that it is a disaster, a bloodbath, if you have to tell 24 riders in December that they are at the end of their contract,” B&B rider Eliot Lietaer told Het Nieuwsblad after the team’s potential riders for 2023 were let free of their contracts.
Tour de France sprint star Mark Cavendish, multiple French-champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot, and grand tour veteran Pierre Rolland are among the star names caught in the aftermath of the premature death of Pineau’s team. Potential sponsorship deals fell through last week, forcing Pineau to shutter the budding squad.
After thinking an 18th pro season was on the horizon, B&B Hotels captain Rolland reluctantly hung up his racing wheels Tuesday. The Frenchman had harbored hopes of finding a new team only to see his hopes hit a brick wall this week.
“I would have liked for the adventure to continue, but fate has decided otherwise and I’m announcing that I’m ending my professional career,” Rolland said when he confirmed his retirement Tuesday.
Unlike when CCC Team hit the rocks in summer 2020, the mid-winter collapse of Pineau’s dream means many WorldTour and second-division ProTeam squads already filled their rider limits for 2023.
“My career is already ‘made’ in a way, so for me, it’s not the most difficult day,” Rolland said, referring to the demise of B&B. “The young people, the staff, the mechanics, those who haven’t approached other teams and find themselves in this situation – for them it’s hard.”
Away from the headline-grabbing names like multiple grand tour stage-winner Rolland, scores of riders, mechanics, soigneurs, and admin staff face unemployment heading into the new year.
“We won’t have much choice anymore,” B&B rider Jens Debusschere said. “If an opportunity arises, we will have to grab it with both hands.”
The lucky few, the desperate dozens
Ramon Sinkeldam and Victor Koretzky struck gold by respectively signing with Alpecin-Deceuninck and Bora-Hansgrohe soon after the B&B project fell apart.
Luca Mozzato also hit a home run when he confirmed Tuesday he will stay on French soil with a deal with Arkéa-Samsic.
“Signing with Arkéa-Samsic represents a great opportunity for me given the situation I’ve been in for the past few days,” Mozzato said. “I am also happy to stay in France, to continue to wear the Breton colors within an even stronger team, which will join the UCI WorldTour in 2023.”
Multiple-time French champion and the winner of several Women’s WorldTour races Cordon Ragot had been slated for a banner role at Pineau’s women’s team. The 33-year-old instead slots into the newly formed and off-radar Conti-level Zaaf Cycling Team.
Many others won’t get as lucky. Dozens of riders contracted with the men’s team in 2022 or strongly linked to the men’s or women’s squads for the coming year are still hunting new homes.
Although Cavendish has reportedly signed a contract for 2023, the contenders are rapidly reducing.
Israel-Premier Tech closed its roster after last week snapping up former B&B rider Stevie Williams, and Trek Segafredo recently confirmed it’s not hunting for “Cav.”
American ProTeam Human Powered Health is reportedly linked to the Manxman in what would be a coup for the team as it hunts a rare wildcard selection from ASO for the Tour de France.
Many other touted new signings for Pineau’s project, including Max Richeze, Nick Schultz, Cees Bol, and Olympic champion Anna Kiesenhofer will nervously be wishing for a contract-shaped gift this Christmas.