By Ryan Dabbs
French ProTeam Delko has folded with immediate effect due to financial difficulties.
The world second division team's management learned on Friday that the team would no longer compete in the peloton, with Delko's final event being Paris-Tours on Sunday, where their rider Julien Trarieux managed a ninth-place finish.
While there hasn't been an official announcement from the team itself, sporting director Benjamin Giraud confirmed the team is folding to DirectVelo.
"The decision was made very recently, but I preferred to wait for our last race before announcing it," Giraud said. "I didn't want the riders to have a hard time before the Tour de Vendée and Paris-Tours. Besides, we had a good week, and we finish on a good note, which is good.
"Economically, the situation has been no secret for a long time. It is what it is. We are concentrating on the sport and the image is very good and I want to be happy about that. When you're in the business, you know the difficulties we've been through and despite all that, the guys have remained strong until the end."
The last podium the team won came on Saturday 9 October, at the Tour de Vendée. Spaniard Eduard Prades finished in second-place behind Bram Welten (Arkéa-Samsic), though at that point he didn't know of the team's fate.
Team Delko began in 2011, taking over from amateur team VC La Pomme Marseille. Delko competed at Continental level for five seasons, before entering the ProTeam level in 2016, once Delko became the main sponsor.
However, financial difficulties became apparent after the team lost its Nippo and Provence sponsorship deals last year. The city of Marseille, the Bouches-du-Rhône department and the South region also then let go of the team, as Delko failed to participate in Paris-Nice for the first time in eight years.
Team manager Phillipe Lannes couldn't change the team's dire financial situation either, letting go of several staff members and riders during the season as a way to balance the books. Biniam Girmay joined Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, Clément Berthet signed for AG2R-Citroën, and Axel Zingle opted to go to Cofidis for his first WorldTour contract.
"We need money to do battle, and economically the team was at its worst. In these conditions, it was already good to be able to go to Paris-Tours," Giraud said.
"We finished on a big race, and we performed well, I think that's great. It's better to finish in a good way than to do everything half-heartedly just to say that we're going to the end of the season."
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