David Brailsford could have new sponsor ready to replace out-going Sky, but the riders need to know soon, says agent Johnny Carera.
The team announced this morning that at the end of the 2019 season the telecommunications company would end its sponsorship.
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“I think that David Brailsford has something up his sleeve giving he signed riders for 2020 and 2021,” Carera told Cycling Weekly.
“I don’t think he’d just do that, I think he has an alternative, a sponsor in his pocket. Otherwise, you have to pay those contracts. So, someone has some idea and a plan.”
This October, Sky re-signed Egan Bernal on a five-year deal through 2023. It renewed 2018 Tour de France victor Geraint Thomas through 2021.
Last year, it renewed four-time Tour winner Chris Froome through 2020.
Froome is earning an estimated £4 million a year. Thomas’s contract could be worth £3.5 million.
Cycling Weekly understands however that Brailsford was only informed of the sponsor pull two weeks ago, but the team have already been in contact with potential new sponsors.
If Brailsford finds a new backer to continue the team, currently operating on a budget of £34 million, then that company would pay those existing contracts in 2020 and beyond. If the team ceases to exist under new sponsorship, the management company would be responsible to pay for the remaining years in the riders’ contracts.
Brailsford and his staff face a race against time. They have around five months to announce a deal.
“It’s not a great news for the world of cycling that Sky is leaving the sport,” Carera continued.
“You have to understand how much time Brailsford is giving to the riders to find a new sponsor. Normally you give them until May, if they don’t find a new sponsor for 2020 then the riders are free to look around.
“We are talking about star riders, they can’t all just go find teams immediately and earn the same amount of money.
“You can’t wait until September if you are Chris Froome or Geraint Thomas, you need to already find a team. And teams need to start to look for that budget around May if they are going to bring on a big star rider. That’s an important amount of money, so you can’t wait for months.
“By May he should give the riders an idea because then the contract dealing starts already at the Giro d’Italia.”
Carera likened the situation to BMC, which announced it would stop backing its team at the end of 2019 after 12 years. BMC Racing Team boss Jim Ochowicz asked the riders to wait while he looked for a new deal.
Eventually, those without 2019 contracts became nervous and signed new deals. Richie Porte is joining Trek-Segafredo, Damiano Caruso and Rohan Dennis leave for Bahrain-Merida. Ochowicz only announced a new deal with CCC in July at the Tour de France, but was able to keep star rider Greg Van Avermaet.
“You have to consider that staff and riders working, it’s their job and future, they have families to support. The longer they wait, the harder it is to find that money,” Carera said.
“I hope that Sky finds a new sponsor, it’s a great team project and should continue.”