Geox to abandon Gianetti’s team after ProTeam exclusion?

Geox may abandon Mauro Gianetti’s team, according to Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. Despite having top stars Denis Menchov and Carlos Sastre, the Italian footwear company is reportedly concerned the team will miss the top races without a first division licence.

The UCI on November 22 excluded team Geox from its list of 18 first division teams (called ProTeams next year). Without the licence, Menchov risks being unable to defend his third place at the Tour de France and Geox will fail to receive the maximum return on its investment.

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“If things don’t work out, there is time to think about racing the Giro [d’Italia] and then the Vuelta [a España],” Menchov told Biciciclismo. “When I signed with Geox I knew that it was a new group that could be excluded from the ProTour [first division].”

The footwear company based in Treviso had €865 million in sales last year, 60 percent coming from abroad. It agreed in August to take over sponsorship of Gianetti’s Footon-Servetto team and push for a first division licence for next year. The Italian press originally reported that Geox agreed to the five-year, €50 million contract, but Gianetti refused to confirm the terms.

The team’s 24 cyclists are in Hoznayo in northern Spain for a training camp and to plan next year’s season. Menchov and Sastre have four Grand Tour wins between them. Sastre won the 2008 Tour de France and Menchov had his highest ever finish at this year’s Tour de France, third behind winner Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck. However, without a first division licence, their new team will have to try to enter the biggest races via wild card invitations.

Their points helped the team place 17th in a list of ranked teams the UCI published on November 2. The UCI used this sporting criterion to help it select the 18 first division teams – the top 15 guaranteed a spot. Geox had to fight for its place with the other four teams ranked 16th through 20th. Since Geox missed out, it is forced to race as a Professional Continental team in the second division.

Besides the sporting criterion, the UCI based its decision on ethical, financial and administrative criteria. The decision has made Geox reflect on its sponsorship and its relation with Gianetti.

Gianetti’s team is a continuation of the Saunier Duval team, 2004 to 2008. Saunier Duval left the team following the doping positives of Leonardo Piepoli and Riccardo Riccò for EPO-CERA at the 2008 Tour de France. The team re-structured itself at the end of the 2008 season and raced as Scott-American Beef, Fuji-Servetto and this year, Footon-Servetto.

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