The current B&B Hotels-Vital Concept team will be known simply as B&B Hotels for the 2021 season following the reduction of the French ProTeam's budget as a result of the squad's co-sponsor reducing its contribution. It means that the team will have to try to save money in its operating costs, and it's all down to the coronavirus pandemic, team manager Jérôme Pineau has told the French press.
Vital Concept – which was the team's main sponsor from its inception in 2018 ahead of becoming co-sponsor this season – has decided to reduce its contribution to the team, resulting in the shortfall in budget of what Pineau says will be between 15 and 20 per cent. French newspaper Ouest France reports that Vital Concept has reduced its investment by €1.7 million – from €2 million to €300,000.
"I don't want to divulge any precise figures, but we're having to anticipate a reduction of 15 to 20 per cent of our budget. Clearly, we haven't had to lower it by that amount yet, but we have prepared ourselves for it anyway," former pro Pineau told Ouest-France in an interview published on Monday.
"I was afraid, yes," he admitted. "At a time like this, you're afraid all the time when you've got a model like we have in cycling, which is dependent on sponsorship, and which can be precarious.
"Fortunately, all my partners are staying on board, and although some won't have as big a budget as they did, there are still staying with us," said Pineau.
"It's a worrying time in cycling, of course; we don't know what's going to happen next, or what next season is going to look like. We don't have home venues or stadiums, and there are no TV rights… It's hard."
Pineau said that the plan isn't to reduce rider or staff salaries to try to make up for the shortfall, but to instead save money elsewhere in the running of the team – although he naturally welcomes any new sponsors that could come on board for next season.
"We didn't want to have to make any 'sporting cuts' when the team is coming out of its best season having shown well at the Tour de France," said Pineau, with the team having taken part in the Tour for the first time this season. "Despite the COVID-19 crisis, we wanted to maintain a competitive team, so we haven't asked anything of the riders or staff.
"Instead, we've been looking at other aspects of the team: the day-to-day running of it, communications, infrastructure… So, yes, the riders may have to adapt a little, but that will be when it comes to things other than their wages," he said.
Pineau also revealed that 2021 was always going to be the last year of Vital Concept's contract, and that their reduction in budget wasn't wholly surprising.
"We can't blame a company – one that has contributed in so many ways to the team over the years – for having had to make other choices during this difficult time."
If any other companies were looking to come on board as a co-sponsor for next season, however, the door would be wide open, Pineau added.
The team has retained its leaders – climber Pierre Rolland and sprinter Bryan Coquard – and has strengthened its squad with the arrival of a number of riders, including Jonathan Hivert from Total Direct Energie, Cyril Lemoine from Cofidis and Quentin Jauregui from AG2R.
The team will again be trying to secure a wild-card place for the Tour de France, and Pineau is confident that B&B Hotels will be there once more, with the team and its main sponsor – a budget-hotel chain – hailing from Brittany and this year's Grand Départ happening in Brest on June 26.
"After a successful first Tour de France, I don't have the feeling that we won't be invited again for next year," Pineau said, with the team having enjoyed an attacking display from Rolland, in particular, who finished second on stage 12 in Sarran behind Sunweb’s Marc Hirschi, and 18th overall.
"We may not be invited, but we obviously really want to be there, especially since it starts in Brittany," he said.
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