Time appears to be running out for the French B&B Hotels-KTM team, which was expected to sign Mark Cavendish for 2023 and also create a women’s team around Audrey Cordon-Ragot.
November 22 has now been suggested as a final deadline for team manager Jérôme Pineau to find major sponsors and register the team with the UCI for the 2023 season.
Pineau and his new business partners in Paris appear to be caught in a cycling doom loop. They have signed riders for 2023 but still don’t seem to have the sponsors in place to fund the team and time is running out for registration with the UCI.
BMC has reportedly sent the team new bikes and training camps have been planned but the lack of sponsorship and clarity is scaring the riders and other key partners such as the City of Paris.
According to Pascal Chanteur, the president of the French UNCP rider’s union, a number of riders have contacted him and are “worried and anxious” about the future of the team.
The team has been linked with several major new signings for 2023, including Cavendish, Nick Schultz, and Cees Bol, as well as contract extensions for key riders such as Pierre Rolland and Italian sprinter Luca Mozzato.
However, the team failed to complete registration and produce bank guarantees and rider contracts with the UCI before the October 15 deadline. The team also cancelled a press conference announced for October 26. Pineau has also changed the structure of the team’s management company, bringing in new business partners but that has only caused further complications.
B&B Hotels are expected to remain as a key sponsor and invest €5 million. Amazon France, Carrefour or Cdiscount have all been rumoured as possible sponsors but have never been confirmed.
The City of Paris was supposed to be a key part of the team’s development in 2023. No public money was involved but the city was keen to provide political influence and prestige but now seems ready to abandon Pineau.
Under UCI rules, riders are free to terminate their contracts after October 15 and go elsewhere, if a team fails to register with the UCI. Some of the riders linked to B&B Hotels are reportedly now on the market and trying to find an alternative for 2023 but few teams have places available on their rosters.
The UCI sets November 15 as the final date to submit sponsor and rider contracts and the bank guarantee needed to cover future unpaid wages. A final appeal can be made to the UCI Licence Commission, perhaps giving Pineau until November 22, but fines are applied for each day of delay, further impacting a team’s finances.
Pineau has kept a very low profile as he fights to keep his team afloat and register in time with the UCI, with a spokesperson only offering cryptic reassurances.
“I understand that people are asking a lot of questions, I understand there’s a lot of talk but, again, it is just a setback. We are working, we are finalising the (UCI) dossier, we are fully focused on it,” Pineau told Le Telegramme (opens in new tab) on October 26.
‘I have a feeling that there was only ever a Plan A and no Plan B’
Pineau apparently didn’t provide information on new sponsors when he was quizzed by the DNCG Pro committee of the French Pro League – which controls teams’ finances – and does not seem to have a backup plan if he fails to find a major sponsor to fund his planned team expansion and the signing of several new WorldTour riders.
“I wish the best for the team and I hope that this will all end well but we also have to face up to reality,” Chanteur told Ouest France on Thursday.
“I know they went to the DNCG at the beginning of the week, but time is ticking because a dossier (application) has to be presented to the UCI by November 22. It’s November 10, and if there’s something wrong, then that’s a problem.
“It’s all a total blur. I’m very concerned about the situation. I have a feeling that there was only ever a Plan A and no Plan B. It’s mid-November, it would have been nice to have one, wouldn’t it?”
Chanteur described the riders as worried and anxious.
“I know that the manager is doing his best to give information to his riders and all his staff, but they read things, they hear things. They inevitably wonder, even if they trust their manager,” he said.
“I want to trust Jérôme Pineau, I know that he does the maximum he can. I hope that the situation can be resolved. I think it’s still possible and I believe it. But that said, you also have to face reality. And having heard Jérôme at the beginning of the week, I am not necessarily reassured.
“He did not bring more elements than those I was able to read in the press some time ago. He said he was still in talks with the City of Paris and certain other people. But I understood that it’s difficult to move forward. That didn’t reassure me much, I must say.”