Champion System, a team committed to the development of professional cycling in Asia and the promotion of Asian riders, will dissolve after this season due to sponsor withdrawal.
General manager Ed Beamon told VeloNews on Thursday that the main sponsor, clothing brand Champion System, was pulling out of the sport, and that he didn’t have enough time to put together enough sponsor dollars for the 2014 season.
“A week and half, two weeks ago, I got word from Champion System that they were going to stop the sponsorship of the team going forward, that they would not have any funding for the team in 2014. I didn’t actually see that coming, but, you know, started scrambling right away to put something together, to salvage some part of the team if not all of it. And just couldn’t really get it together,” he said. “The couple hopes that I had just started to fizzle, and at this point it just looks like we’re going to have to shut it down and not have a program next year.”
Those riders hitting the market are in for tough sledding, as multiple teams have folded late this season. Here in the U.S., Bissell refocused its effort on development cycling, picking up where Bontrager left off, but spelling tough times for older domestic riders. Across the pond, the Euskaltel-Euskadi, Vacansoleil-DCM, and Sojasun teams will fold at the end of the year.
Americans Craig Lewis, Chris Butler, and Chad Beyer were among the team’s 21 riders in 2013.
“It was late enough it didn’t really give us much of an option,” Beamon said. “We’re all searching. And in my case, I’m trying to help the guys as best I can. But there’s also not a whole heck of a lot to do because so many of the teams are full now. The American programs, none of them are that big. There’s not a lot of opportunity here in the States, and Europe is just flooded with riders right now, with the few other teams that have also shut their doors.”
Asked if it was a difficult time for cycling as a whole, Beamon said it was a tough period, but not indicative of larger ills.
“I think you see this over the years. You have these years that are really dark, where several teams shut down, and you have those years where all of the sudden you have five new teams. I think this is one of those bad years. I don’t really think it’s indicative of anything other than coincidence of timing. The sport is expensive, no doubt, and it continues to get more expensive at the higher level,” he said. “It’s a competitive environment. That’s what we do; we compete on every level. And I think this is just one of those years where the cycle of fulfillment for sponsors has caused a lot of them to step out. I think you know when you get started that you’re never going to have a sponsor forever.”
For his part, Beamon, the former director of the Navigators, Team Type 1, and Fly V Australia programs, hopes to press on with Asian development and to stay in the sport.
“I love it,” he said. “We always find out what the future holds when the future arrives.”