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UCI boss Lappartient fearful for teams’ survival through shuttered season

Lappartient indicates handful of teams are fighting for survival as Astana boss raises warning over future of his team.

David Lappartient has acknowledged the dire straits facing several WorldTour teams as pro cycling battles through the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

The UCI president didn’t name names, but suggested that the survival of some teams was at high risk as the impact of a slowing economy and falling markets has had impacted some sponsors to a greater extent than others.

“We know that three, four, five teams have more problems than other teams,” David Lappartient said Monday. “We hope they all reach the end of the season.”

CCC Team, Mitchelton-Scott, Bahrain-McLaren, Astana, and EF Pro Cycling are among the many pro outfits that have been forced into cutting rider pay and scaling back its entourage of self-employed staffers to meet falling budgets. CCC Team has been particularly hard hit and is currently facing the prospect of its Polish backer pulling the plug altogether as it reviews its sponsorship contracts.

The UCI’s confirmation of a racing calendar for the year, due to kick-start August 1, acts as a beacon of hope for struggling teams, with race appearances forming the backbone of sponsorship deals. Several team heads have raised alarm bells at the prospect of a season of no racing, with Patrick Lefevere warning last week that Deceuninck-Quick-Step could fold if they see no racing in 2020.

Astana boss Alexandre Vinokourov spoke of the dark situation facing his team on Monday. His Kazakh team cut rider salaries by 30 percent in late March.

“In Kazakhstan, it is very difficult, just like the rest of the world,” Vinokourov told Cyclism’Actu. “The oil and the currencies make it complicated. We have to get through this year. When there are no races, it will be difficult to start cycling again.”

“Is my team at risk if there are no races this year? I think so, just like all other teams,” he said. “The sponsors require visibility. I think that if there are no races this season, our team will disappear.”

The UCI has not been immune to the financial repercussions of a season of no racing, and imposed a series of cost-cutting measures including cutting bosses pay and furloughing staff last month. The governing body has faced a revenue nosedive following the postponement of the Olympics and cancelation of around 30 percent of its calendar.

“Inactivity is hitting athletes, teams, organizers, partners and the large majority of people and organizations that contribute to the vitality of our sport, across all its disciplines,” Lappartient said when the measures were implemented. “The UCI, cycling’s governing body, has not been spared, far from it.”