TREVISO, Italy (VN) — Italian coffee giant Segafredo had options when it was shopping for a cycling team, but it turned down Bjarne Riis in favor of Trek Factory Racing. The American team announced Wednesday a three-year deal, becoming Trek-Segafredo in 2016.
It is unclear when Riis was dealing with Segafredo and its founder Massimo Zanetti. He could have been seeking enough money to buy back the team license from Oleg Tinkov or to create a new WorldTour team from scratch. “We were also dealing with Riis,” Zanetti told VeloNews. “For some time we wanted to join a cycling team. Riis wanted to create a unique team based around us, but I wanted to join a team that was already built up.
“In that same period, I met [team Trek manager] Luca Guercilena. We negotiated. The fact that Trek was in America helped. We are linked quite a bit.”
Riis, the 1996 Tour de France winner is trying to re-enter cycling at the highest level after selling his team and its WorldTour license to Tinkov two years ago. In a twist, the controversial Russian banker said over the weekend that he will leave the realm of pro cycling at the end of 2016. Riis is also supposed to have the financial support of former sponsor Saxo Bank, but it is unclear at what level of sponsorship or how many dollars the Danish bank wants to give.
“They [Segafredo] were clear; they were talking with different teams, but they clearly weighed it up and selected us — a team that is linked to a solid partner, and that was a bit how the decision was made,” Guercilena said. “I think much of it depended on the business that Trek has in America, they were looking for a partner to better their business. To link themselves with a company like Trek is advantageous.”
When Flavio Becca and Leopard left the sport at the end of 2013, Trek bicycles took over the license. The team is American, where Segafredo has 50 percent of its sales. Riis’s team was always Denmark-licensed and largely with a Danish flavor.
Trek knew Zanetti was shopping around, but did not know about Riis.
“I heard [others were knocking on Zanetti’s door], as well,” Trek’s VP of product development, marketing, and creative design, Joe Vadeboncoeur told VeloNews. “We started talking to him over a year ago, the first conversation was before the classics last year in 2014. Maybe [Segafredo was] talking to many teams, in the end, we are excited and proud that we were ones that are the best fit for them.”
Trek and Segafredo agreed to a three-year deal, from 2016 through 2018. The budget is supposed to be above 15 million euro ($16.4 million). Zanetti not only promised a fraction of his company’s 1.3 billion euro in sales, but Italian espresso for everyone at the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France.