It has been less than 12 months since cycling apparel brand Le Col joined forces with fitness technology company Wahoo to co-sponsor a UCI Continental team. Instead of the team looking to celebrate an anniversary as Le Col-Wahoo, they were on the lookout for a new sponsor to continue in 2023.
According to a report in VeloNews, one of the team partners pulled out earlier this week, with team manager and co-founder Tom Varney aiming to fill a shortage in the budget estimated to be EUR 400,000.
The team recently confirmed a 12-rider roster for 2023, and Tom Varney was reported to say that he “made riders and staff aware that they should find another deal” for next season. It was a tough blow for Varney, who started the team in 2015 with Bob Varney and grew the programme to be the highest-ranked UCI women’s team in Great Britain, with a wild card invitation to the Tour de France Femmes.
When the Drops team was transformed into Le Col-Wahoo last winter, Le Col was reported to triple their existing investment in the team, and offer their aerodynamic expertise to improve elite performance. It was a first-time entry as a top sponsor of a professional cycling team for Wahoo, which wanted to showcase a commitment to women’s cycling. It was not reported if one of these two sponsors had withdrawn, or if other sponsors were involved.
There was some speculation earlier this year that the team would apply for a UCI Women’s WorldTour licence in the near future. In January, the Drops Le Col programme changed its name and launched a new look, with Tom Varney saying that the backing of Le Col and Wahoo would “be integral to the team and its riders getting to the World Tour in 2023”.
Next year’s Women’s WorldTeams will include 15 teams, making room with one spot for a current Continental team to make the jump to the highest level. There were three applications submitted, but Drops Le Col was not one of them. The UCI will confirm the decisions of the Licence Commission regarding the teams in December.
“If we can move on some of our highest-paid riders it gives us more of a chance of continuing,” Tom Varney told Velonews. “We have some other conversations ongoing to fill the gap but as things evolve in the next hours and days, I think what we can do next year will become clearer. It is a particularly unfair situation to be put in, especially at this stage.”
The UK-based team made the most with its wild card invitation to the Tour de France Femmes in July. French rider Gladys Verhulst won the most combative prize after a solo attack on the opening day of racing, while sprinter Maike van der Duin wore the first best young rider classification jersey the same day.