Gianni Savio's Drone Hopper team set to miss the 2023 Giro d'Italia

Italian hopes squad can continue at Continental level as they search for a new headline sponsor

Drone Hopper
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Giro d'Italia will likely be missing one of its most constant participants next year, as Gianni Savio's Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli team looks like it will drop down to Continental level.

The Italian ProTeam was absent from the recent list of squads that had applied for a UCI license for that level next season. While a lifeline might still be found, it seems unlikely at this late stage, with the UCI's final deadline coming in a fortnight, on November 10. 

The various incarnations of the Androni Giocattoli team have been ever present at the Giro, with the squad missing just five of the last 26 editions in their famous kits plastered with sponsors. The team has been involved in the last five Giri, and last won a stage with Fausto Masnada in 2019.

While there's nothing stopping the Giro's organisers, RCS, handing the team a wildcard, it is extremely unlikely to give one out to a team in the third division.

In an interview with OA Sport, Savio said that he is on the hunt for a new title sponsor but the global financial situation has made it hard; the amounts that he is dealing with will likely see the team drop to the Continental level.

“We are interested in guiding the team into 2024 and setting up a Continental line-up for 2023,” he told OA Sport. “Finding sponsors has never been easy, today it is even more difficult. The economy is not booming, the pandemic, the war, and the rise in electricity prices, are all elements that keep companies away from sponsorships.

“The various negotiations that we have started all over the world to date have not brought me a concrete result. There are still two alternatives that our interlocutors are considering because at this point our idea is more aimed at a Continental.”

Thankfully, the squad could complete the season and pay its riders and staff.

"The economic situation of the team is currently good, in the sense that there are no problems in ending this season," Savio said. "This is because Marco Bellini (Team CFO) and I have found alternative solutions to make up for the payments that have not been made by the Drone Hopper, which is three times behind."

The riders and staff were given permission to seek employment elsewhere months ago.

"We said right away that in case the riders and staff have received another opportunity to sign on the fly, in case we have to make the team we will talk about it again. No one will ever be able to say that they have lost a job opportunity because of us. We were corrected and three months ago we reported the situation to everyone."

The team had a four-year contract with Drone Hopper the company were unable to meet their obligations. Savio said "they are good people" who talked about supporting the team in a bid to join the WorldTour.

"We always consider the Drone Hopper contract valid. We are waiting for them to get back on track to get their project off the ground and then we can continue together. Clearly, next year he will not be able to be our main sponsor, but we are giving him the opportunity to continue supporting our project," Savio said.

Savio's team has always been known as a hotbed of young talent, especially from South America, with Egan Bernal and Iván Sosa among those coming through the Italian outfit.

This year, the Italian rider Andrea Piccoli and the Ecuadorean Jefferson Cepeda were sold to EF Education-EasyPost to cover salaries after Drone Hopper missed three months of payments.

"It was a matter of making a choice. Either sell Piccolo or don't pay the salaries at the end of the month to all members of the team and so we opted for the first choice," Savio said.

The 23-year-old Eritrean cyclist Natnael Tesfatsion is heading to Trek-Segafredo next year, but the future for the rest of the team appears to be up in the air.

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.