MILAN (VN) — Italy’s Lampre and Wilier families are at odds and splitting after a successful 10-year run. The first division team is annulling its contract with bike manufacturer Wilier to welcome Taiwan’s Merida as both supplier and secondary sponsor.
“They had a problem with their secondary sponsor ISD,” Wilier owner, Andrea Gastaldello told VeloNews. “So, they agreed with Merida, who’ll put in a lot of money.”
Wilier took over from Fondriest as bike supplier for one of Italy’s two ProTeams in 2003 and started a relationship that saw the team win the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France’s green jersey and the Tour of Flanders. It sat out in 2005 when the team merged with Saeco and used Cannondale bikes. However, its agreement of €1.5 million and 130 bikes annually was not enough after Ukrainian sponsor ISD scaled back its involvement.
Lampre and Wilier are now fighting over an existing contract that runs through 2013. Lampre’s general manager, Giuseppe Saronni, signed and announced his deal with Merida with his back turned to Wilier’s Gastaldello family. Lino Gastaldello died in January 2010 while riding his bike and left Andrea run the company with the help of siblings Enrico, Michele and Valeria.
“[Saronni] broke the contract with us without even discussing a solution,” Gastaldello said. “He told us via e-mail in September that we’d no longer be a sponsor for the coming year… A bad ending. We’ve started to work with a lawyer to see how we can be compensated for 2013.”
The team claims that it is attempting to reach agreement with its longtime sponsor over the separation.
“We still had a contract with Wilier when Merida was announced and logically, we are negotiating to annul the contract,” Lampre press officer Andrea Appiani told VeloNews. “Clearly, Wilier is not very pleased. We thought and still think we have the possibility to end the contract. The managers will speak; our team and Wilier will work on annulling it.”
Gastaldello explained that his lawyer is speaking to Lampre’s lawyer to find an agreement. The manufacturer will announce its backing of a new second division team next week, but will be without a first division team next season.
“It meant a lot more for us to be in the first division years ago,” said Gastaldello. “Now, we have clients that know our brand and we don’t need the help so much. But, it’s still worth keeping your name out there in the market via a WorldTour team. We will take a year out and return stronger next year.”
Wilier may have cut ties with Lampre at an opportune moment. The team is deeply tied to the Mantova doping investigation that is due to have its first hearing on December 11. However, it still remains one of only two top teams in Italy and offers firm ground for Merida to face off with Taiwan’s other top manufacturer, Giant.
Appiani confirmed the team would race as Lampre-Merida in 2013. Filippo Pozzato and Roberto Ferrari join the team, which includes former Giro d’Italia winners Michele Scarponi and Damiano Cunego. Investigators have named Cunego in the Mantova case, while Scarponi awaits possible charges in the Padua investigation centered around doping doctor Michele Ferrari.
Lampre showed Wilier the WorldTour door, but it may be the former that finds itself without a star rider in the near future.