Nippo-Vini Fantini will fold at the end of the season, blaming UCI reforms

The reduction of wildcard spots at Grand Tours will limit the guarantee teams can give to sponsors

Nippo-Vini Fantini will fold at the end of the 2019 season, with team management blaming increased costs and UCI reforms for the Italian Pro Continental team’s closure.

With two more teams set to join the WorldTour ranks for the 2020 season, wildcard spots at the biggest races will be harder to come by, and team boss Francesco Pelosi says that having only two wildcard spots for the Giro d’Italia doesn’t offer much of a guarantee to sponsors, which in turn limits budgets.

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“With the 2020 reforms, teams need a much bigger budget in the face of fewer guarantees,” Pelosi told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “In our case, we’re talking about going from €2.8million to €4.5million in order to cover the increase in the number of riders and staff, and probably in order to access the UCI ProSeries [the new name for the Pro Continental level] races, which could become fee-paying.

“There is no way to continue, and the only solution is to join forces [with another team].”

Rumours were circulating that Nippo-Vini could merge with Bardiani-CSF, although Pelosi has not said whether this was ever a serious consideration.

The Italian team returned to the Giro d’Italia in 2019 after a two-year absence, with their rider Damiano Cima taking victory on stage 18. However, they will face competition from Italian outfits Androni Giocattoli, Bardiani-CSF, Neri Sottoli as well as Israel Cycling Academy for only two wildcard spots.

Two French teams, Cofidis and Total Direct Energie, are the reason for the trimming of the race invitations, as they will both step up to WorldTour level for the 2020 season, beating Arkéa-Samsic, Israel Cycling Academy and B&B Hotels-Vital Concept to claim the spots.

Along with the decreased number of wildcard spots available, the UCI are potentially also planning to change how these are awarded, with a proposal to grant the pair of invitational places to each Grand Tour to the highest-ranked Pro Continental teams.

Another reform set to be introduced will see WorldTour teams receive their license for three years, with an assessment being made at the end of the period to judge each team’s further inclusion, with a ranking and promotion/relegation system being proposed.