Team Sky is in talks with the Colombian president over possible sponsorship by an oil and gas firm from the country, according to reports.
Sir Dave Brailsford is believed to have met with Colombian president Ivan Duque and the head of the sport ministry Ernesto Lucena to discuss the team’s future, including a potential sponsorship by Ecopetrol.
Team Sky’s parent company Comcast is due to pull its sponsorship at the end of 2019, with team principal Brailsford working to secure the squad’s future.
Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that the meeting was to discuss the possibility of Colombian company Ecopetrol taking over, creating the first ever Colombian WorldTour team.
The firm, worth $64billion (£49billion), is one of the big four oil companies in Latin America and ranks among the top 25 in the world.
Head of sport Lucena told Colombian newspaper El Espectador Sky’s budget, the largest in the professional peloton, could be covered by three or four multinational companies.
The Colombian government hopes to see the first ever team from the South American nation to ride at the highest level.
A Colombian-backed Team Sky would maintain the same roster of riders while taking on more South American talent.
The team has a history of picking up Colombian pros, including Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First), Sebastián Henao, and most recently Egan Bernal and Ivan Sosa.
Bogotá-based Ecopetrol, formed in 1921, is 88 per cent controlled by Colombian state-owned companies.
Last month, reports emerged suggesting that Team Sky’s new parent company Comcast could continue to part sponsor the team beyond 2019.
The company reportedly offered Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford enough cash to fund 70 per cent of the budget for the 2020 and 2021 season, giving him the opportunity to find the remainder from another sponsor.
Rumours also suggested that a merger with Pro Continental team Israel Cycling Academy could be on the cards, as Israeli-Canadian billionaire Sylvan Adams hopes to take his team to the Tour de France by 2020.
Another recent report suggested Russian tycoon Oleg Tinkov had made an offer to Team Sky, after he left cycling behind in 2016.
But Tinkov called the suggestion “bulls**t.”