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Beamon: Champion System may not fold after all

HUAIROU, China (VN) — Ed Beamon is still fighting to keep alive China’s first professional team for next season. At the Tour of Beijing today, he explained that he has several connections that may save Champion System from folding.

“We’re working to try to put some sponsorship together,” Beamon, the squad’s general manager, told VeloNews. “We’ve made some pretty good connections in the last two weeks. There’s still a chance I can keep this team together and at least keep some of these guys involved.”

The American said a week ago that his team would shut down. Clothing company Champion System decided to pull out for 2014 and Beamon was unable to find another backer at the time. Since then, Beamon has had several backers reach out.

“At the time of the announcement, I was getting a lot of questions and I felt like it was important to put something out there,” Beamon said. “I don’t want to create false hope but since those interviews, I had some more connections.

“I feel more positive today than I did a week ago that we might be able to pull something together. I have to be realistic, it’s really late. I know that even if I had an interested party, there’s still a lot of work to do to pull it all together in time to get a team registered.”

Beamon’s riders snapped their helmets shut and rolled toward the start line in their home race, the Tour of Beijing. Champion System fielded three Chinese riders on its eight-man team. The lineup also includes Americans Christopher Butler and Chad Beyer, along with Japan’s Ryota Nishizona, who was in the escape group during the opening stage.

The team will finish its season at the Japan Cup and the Tour of Hainan in South China. In order to continue in 2014, however, it needs Beamon’s hard work to pay off and the UCI to give the nod.

“It depends on the UCI because we’ve passed the [team registration] deadline,” Beamon continued. “I hope I’d get their support if we find the budget. It’d be a shame to see this program, as an Asian program, not continue.”

The 2012 roster included four Chinese riders and after moving its registration from Hong Kong for the 2013 season, it became China’s first professional team.

“The niche for this team is its ability to help develop cyclists here but also to help create a connection to professional cycling here,” UCI president Brian Cookson said. “As a Chinese team and Asian team, it’s enabled the cycling community here to have an identity.

“The UCI gets it, race organizers get it, not just race organizers here, but race organizers in Europe, race organizers in America. I think Asia is really important for the future of cycling. It’s going to put the sport in a very difficult position if we don’t broaden Asian and Africa, and new developing economies.”

Cookson said he wanted to support grassroots initiatives.

“You have to develop cycling in those counties in a way that’s appropriate … that can maximum the benefits for everybody,” he said.

Beamon has a team that fits that mold, but it’s running out of time.