After four years in the cycling peloton, Team Colombia-Coldeportes will not return for the 2016 season. Team manager Claudio Corti announced in an official statement on their website that the Colombian team lack the financial resources to continue next year after Coldeportes, their main sponsor, cut their funding for the Pro Continental team.
The team, that is based in Italy but completely consists of Colombian riders, appeared twice in the Giro d’Italia in their four years. They saw appearances in Milan-San Remo, Liége-Bastogne-Liége, Tirreno Adriatico and Giro di Lombardia and had a leading role in several breakaways in the most recent Vuelta á España.
The project was started in 2012 and tried to copy the Café de Colombia style in the eighties that saw cyclists like Lucho Herrera and Fabio Duarte reach great heights. Team Colombia-Coldeportes never saw such great results, but was an important factor in the grand tours they competed in.
Corti stated, “It obviously feels bad to see a program we had opened with enthusiasm and high hopes come to an end. Particularly after seasons in which the team had managed to earn big consideration from all the people in cycling. I will always regret to see this project close before bringing the Colombian flag back to the Tour de France, particularly as I think this goal was not very far away“.
Team Colombia-Coldeportes was seen as an institution for young talented Colombian cyclists to make their way to the highest level of cycling. A goal that they achieved with Esteban Chaves, Jarlinson Pantano and Darwin Atapuma, currently all active in the World Tour. Corti also saw other benefits and continued stressing the importance of the team on Colombia as a whole, “Team Colombia-Coldeportes was created to be more than just a cycling project”, Corti continued. “The significance of this team’s path should not be evaluated only on cycling results, but on the impact it had on the image of Colombia in sports and beyond, and the promotion of its identity, culture and tourism.”
The Italian team manager further claims that he didn’t get the opportunity to seek a solution for the situation that appeared when Coldeportes withdrew part of their funding for next season, “Unfortunately, the final decision by Coldeportes was communicated to us only in the very last few days, meaning we could not proceed any further with the Union Cycliste Internationale, nor we could give a better opportunity to the whole team – riders, sports directors, staff and sponsors – that worked with us in the last year”.
Nevertheless, Corti finished his statement with gratitude to the entities that made the existence and success of Team Colombia-Coldeportes possible. “I sincerely wish to say a big “Thank You” to all those who took part and collaborated in this project, as well as to the President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos and the Director of Coldeportes Andrés Botero, who firmly believed in this project: without them, the return of a Colombian team to top-notch cycling would have never been possible.”
In a radio interview with W radio, Andrés Botero commented on the situation stating how much he feels about the cessation of Colombia’s cycling team, “Unfortunately the budget cuts we have had and the rise of the dollar and euro impeded us from continuing this team in Colombia. It could cost us almost four million Euros, an important number. I evaluated the project with President Santos and we decided that now the priority is the Olympic Games and supporting the qualification and participation of our athletes”.
The sports minister, personally responsible for the creation of the team finished by saying that he didn’t want to speak about ‘a funeral’ for the team, but more like a pause on the road.
For now, what is left for Coldeportes is assisting the 18 ‘escarabajos’ who had a contract at Team Colombia-Coldeportes this year to find a new destination for the 2016 season.
Photo: RCS Sport
By Freek Huigen