Équipe Paule Ka has been forced to folded with immediate effect after their headline sponsor failed to pay the team for three months.
The Swiss-registered UCI women’s squad, formerly Bigla-Katusha, will be forced to miss the last two races of the season as the team said they cannot sustain themselves any longer.
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Bigla-Katusha faced a crisis earlier this year when their sponsors were unable to meet their financial commitments due to the global coronavirus pandemic, before French fashion house Paule Ka stepped in with a four-year contract, saving the team at the last moment.
But problems with the new sponsor started almost immediately, when Paule Ka was late to make its first payment in July, then failing to pay the team in August, September and October, despite multiple assurances the money was on it’s way, the team said.
A statement from team management said: “ This is an extremely sad moment in the 15-year history of this squad, which prides itself on the development of exciting young talent within the peloton. The team’s riders and staff were looking forward to spending several more years together in the pursuit of sportive success.
“However, this can regrettably no longer be our shared goal, with the team being forced to dissolve after a decade and a half in the peloton. Now, our main aim is to find both riders and staff new teams to secure their futures.”
The team, which is home to British talent Lizzy Banks, have consistently punched above their weight, taking wins in the Giro Rosa (thanks to Banks) and landing on the podium of the World Championships, European Championships, and boasting multiple national titles amongst their roster.
But after 15 years in the peloton, the team has now closed and will miss the Tour of Flanders and Three Days of Brugge-De Panne.
The team said: “We would like to extend sincere thanks to cycling fans all over the world, followers of the team, and our competitors within the peloton, who have reached out to us during this challenging time to let us know that our presence in the peloton is one that would be sorely missed.”
Banks is now forced to find a new contract late in the season, as she was contracted with Équipe Paule Ka until 2021.