The longest-running UCI Continental team in the UK will close its doors at the end of the year. Faced with an uncertain economic climate and a difficult sponsorship environment, team owner – Cherie Pridham – has taken the difficult decision not to continue with her Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK.
Through her Cherie Pridham Racing vehicle, Pridham has run a UCI Continental team for 11 years, first as Raleigh-GAC and latterly as Vitus Pro Cycling. During that time, her teams notched up UCI wins at the Vuelta Mexico Telmex and the Tour de Normandie and were regular fixtures in the Tour of Britain and the Tour de Yorkshire. Scott Thwaites, Ed Clancy, Sebastián Mora, Albert Torres, Mark Christian, Matt Holmes and Graham Briggs are amongst the riders that have featured in past squads.
Of the current squad, Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling has already announced the signing of Frederik Scheske for next season. This leaves 11 riders with no publicly confirmed team for 2021: Stephen Bradbury, Adam Kenway, Chris Latham, Tom Mazzone, Chris McGinchley, Darnell Moore, Michael Mottram, Joe Sutton, Dan Tulett, Joey Walker and our very own Joe Nally. We know that at least two of these have already agreed deals with other teams but there will nonetheless be some whose futures are uncertain.
Pridham, who was the only female manager of a men’s UCI team, says she will remain in the sport, with the team’s press release declaring that she will “continue to place her vast experience at the service of a scene she described as ‘close to my heart'”.
The team will continue up until the end of 2020, participating in e-racing and other activities.
The news marks a continuation of recent men’s UCI Continental team woes in the UK. Last year saw the termination of both the Madison Genesis and Team Wiggins Le Col teams. Whilst in 2018 both JLT Condor and One Pro Cycling closed.
There has also been an exodus in sponsorship for men’s UCI Continental teams in recent years. As recently as 2017 there were 5-6 well-funded UCI Continental teams, with many riders earning a respectable wage. By contrast, in 2021, we understand there will be four Continental teams, with sponsorship levels for each team much lower than the teams of the recent past. And riders earning a wage will be the exception rather than the norm.
That’s not to say it’s all bad news. Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling and a number of men’s and women’s elite teams have reported that they have increased their sponsorship for 2021. And we understand that another British women’s team will join Drops and CAMS-Tifosi at the UCI Continental level next year.
Nonetheless, this latest closure of a long-running British team suggests that making road racing a more attractive proposition to potential sponsors remains one of the key challenges the domestic sport faces.
Featured photo: David Hares. 2019 OVO Energy Tour Series