Team Katusha-Alpecin may close at the end of the 2019 season, with a decision expected this week.
A source close to the team told Cycling Weekly that Head Sports Director José Azevedo informed the team on Friday, the day before the start of the Tour de France, that he would deliver a good or bad decision this week to the staff and riders.
A negative decision would leave many riders and staff searching for work. Currently, however, only eight riders including Alex Dowsett have contracts for 2020.
“It’s not looking good if José says there’s a meeting next week,” said one person in the team, who preferred to remain anonymous.
Some have already signed for new teams. A source said in May that Ilnur Zakarin, who won a stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia, will join Greg Van Avermaet’s CCC.
Bike supplier Canyon and title sponsor Alpecin could move their sponsorship dollars to help rising star Mathieu van der Poel. Corendon-Circus already use Canyon bikes and has a contract for around four years with Van der Poel.
The Dutch star won the 2019 Amstel Gold Race after blasting through the classics season with several top results, the spring being his big road debut after winning the cyclo-cross world title.
Van der Poel will continue to focus on his off-road exploits, building towards the mountain bike event at the 2020 Olympics but will also give time to road racing, having been convinced by the Dutch team to ride the 2019 Road World Championships in Yorkshire.
Without Katusha, Canyon would have more budget to give Corendon-Circus to help build a solid team around Van der Poel. It is a similar move to Cannondale, who in 2008 made sure to support Peter Sagan both in mountain biking and on the road.
Alpecin, which already moved from sponsoring Team Giant (now Sunweb) through 2016, could add enough funds to help see the team advance to the WorldTour by 2020 or at least 2021.
Both Canyon and Alpecin have their contracts ending in 2019 with Team Katusha. Igor Makarov, a Russian billionaire petrol businessman, began Katusha for the 2009 season.
Katusha’s 2019 season has not gone well. With a win from Dowsett in the British national time trial championship and Zakarin’s Giro victory, the team counts only five wins this year. Star sprinter Marcel Kittel quit mid-season to take a break from cycling. Katusha are currently the lowest ranked WorldTour team of 18.
Dutch team Corendon-Circus would not say any deal with Alpecin is happening. However, if Canyon did not have to supply Katusha then it would have only Team Movistar in the WorldTour and the added freedom to manoeuvre towards supporting Van der Poel.