B&B Hotels-KTM, the team that was reportedly set to sign Mark Cavendish, has now collapsed after a last ditch attempt to secure sponsorship by team management fell through.
After weeks of speculation, the news of the team's total demise was confirmed by French newspaper Le Telegramme earlier this morning, with team manager Jérôme Pineau reportedly finally admitting in a two-hour conference call that he will be unable to run his team in 2023 due to a lack of sponsorship cash.
"We did our best to save our club but unfortunately we didn't succeed," he wrote in a message sent to the team’s WhatsApp group late on Tuesday night, announcing the final video call.
The final news in the saga of the team’s demise has left some high profile riders, as well as other reported new signings, scrambling to find new teams with Mark Cavendish being among them.
In recent months, Pineau had repeatedly told the media that he hoped to sign Cavendish. However, with the team now unlikely to continue even at Continental level, that is now impossible.
As well as signing Cavendish, Pineau had planned to sign star riders, including Audrey Cordon-Ragot, for a planned women’s team, which will also not be happening.
Earlier this summer, the French former professional Pineau had set out grand plans for his team's future, with the City of Paris and supermarket giant Carrefour rumoured to be backing a project that not only developed the second division men’s team, but also created a women’s squad and development team.
Both potential deals would then turn out to be fruitless, leaving Pineau scrambling for extra funds to keep the team afloat right up until the end of November.
According to a report by Cyclingnews, Pineau had hoped to keep the team going at Continental level, but due to the fact that status would rule out a wildcard invitation to the Tour de France, his planned sponsors were no longer interested. Pineau reportedly informed his riders and team staff of the demise of the team in a video call early on Wednesday morning, having warned them via a WhatsApp message the night before.
"We tell you that Seb and I did our best to save our club but unfortunately we didn't succeed," Pineau wrote on Tuesday , referring to his brother Sebastien, who is also involved in the team management.
"We are not giving up just like that, but there will be no miracles. We are currently desperately seeking to save what is salvageable and to find fall back solutions for each of you."
As a result of the team's sudden collapse, 20 riders are now without teams for next year, including star Frenchman Pierre Rolland.
Rolland was linked this morning to the TotalEnergies squad by the French newspaper L’Equipe, although Rolland took to Twitter to quickly shut down the situation and said that his future plans would be confirmed by him directly via social media.
Including Cavendish, five riders had reportedly agreed to join the men’s team from other squads. They were Max Richeze, Nick Schultz, Cees Bol, and former Bahrain Victorious rider Stephen Williams.
With the transfer window beginning to wind down and teams settling on final rosters for 2023, it remains to be seen whether Mark Cavendish will have a new team for 2023, which might give him the chance to break the all time record for Tour de France stage wins.
Cavendish is currently tied with five time Tour winner Eddy Merckx on 34 wins .
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