By Vern Pitt
The iconic multi-coloured Mapei cubetti jersey has adorned many of the sport’s greatest riders as they won Monuments, Classics and Grand Tours but it’s not been seen in action since the professional team folded at the end of 2002.
Now the design will be seen in the peloton once more as it has been revived for small UK club Halesowen A&CC Academy after it struck a sponsorship deal with the Italian grout manufacturer.
However, it won’t be making a return to the pro ranks just yet because Halesowen is a junior and under-23 team of 10 riders based out of the Halesowen velodrome near Birmingham.
Academy manager William Fotheringham said: “We actually got contacted by Mapei because their UK head office is close to the track and they have a policy of supporting local sports clubs.”
As a cycling journalist, author Fotheringham was well aware of the brand’s legendary status within cycling built on its domination of one-day races and Classics through the 1990s with riders such as Johan Museeuw, Andrea Tafi and Franco Ballerini, so jumped at the opportunity.
“The second I said we were interested it was about getting the cubes back on a jersey… I went in and explained about the academy and that went up to [Mapei founder] Giorgio Squinzi — in total it took six months to tie up.”
Squinzi pulled his sponsorship of the pro team after a positive doping test in 2002 and Mapei’s involvement in cycling has been smaller ever since, though the company still sponsors the Road World Championships.
He added: “To some extent they [Mapei UK staff] were aware of the company’s history in cycling; they knew there was an association but I don’t think they fully realised just how much kudos it had.
"I think they are quite surprised at the interest we’ve had.”
Although the wider Halesowen A&CC club dates back to 1937, the academy team was started in 2015 to help develop young riders who wanted to go into elite UK teams or at least have a lifelong involvement in the sport.
Fotheringham said most of the sponsorship will be used to fund sending riders to races such as the Junior Tour of Ireland.
“The irony is most of the riders weren’t even born when Mapei had a team before but they are absolutely flabergasted. They are really aware of the legacy,” he said.
The team’s first race is set to be the Evesham Vale road race on March 8.
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