Former Team Sky rider Ben Swift’s new team had faced an uncertain future after Chinese company TJ Sport pulled out of a sponsorship deal, meaning that the team’s WorldTour licence was listed as “under review” when the UCI issued licences to other teams in November.
However, as revealed by Cycling Weekly last week, the team’s future has now been secured by an unknown Abu Dhabi backer, securing a top-level racing licence for 2017.
That will mean a change of name to UAE Abu Dhabi, with the team being registered in the United Arab Emirates rather than China, as had been expected with the TJ Sport deal, or Italy, as was the case in previous seasons under the team’s Lampre guise.
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After delaying granting the team a WorldTour licence, the UCI gave the team until December 15 to submit the relevant paperwork, a deadline that it was able to hit after receiving backing from the Abu Dhabi sponsor.
The news will come as welcome relief for the team’s employees, including 24 riders, who would have been facing Christmas without knowing if they would have employment come the New Year.
High profile riders such as Ben Swift and Louis Meintjes would have been confident about finding another team for 2017, but team staff and less well-known riders might not have been so lucky.
The granting of a WorldTour licence to UAE Abu Dhabi means there will be a full complement of 18 WorldTour teams in 2017.
The UCI plans to cut that number in the future, taking it down to 17 teams in 2019, and 16 teams in 2020.