Drone Hopper - Androni Giocattoli is one of the oldest teams in the peloton, and has had several denominations over the decades. In the end of 2022 however, the team is once again on the ropes, struggling to find the necessary means to keep racing at the level it has for the past few years.
At the Giro del Veneto, which concluded the season of many Italian riders, Cyclingnews talked to the manager of the long-standing team, who explained the situation: "They came in with big ideas. We said: ‘Careful, let’s move gradually'." He's referring to the new team sponsor Drone Hopper who's taken the main name title, but is currently not being able to provide the means for the team to keep it's budget.
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"They’re good people at Drone Hopper but, unfortunately, it’s a start-up company. They would like to continue sponsoring us, but they don’t have the means at the moment," he revealed. "They tell me they’re starting to earn money and that they will be able to pay us, but I said I need a guarantee."
Such guarrantee would require a higher budget for the team to be able to keep it's Pro Team level in 2023. Andrea Piccolo who has moved on to EF Education-EasyPost and has thrived in the late-season classics, and Jefferson Alexander Cepeda left the team in August as the team looked for a breather in terms of salary, thus being unable to keep it's best riders.
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"We have a bank guarantee of €350,000, but that doesn’t bring you far with a team at this level and I certainly don’t want to tie myself to that risk. That’s the situation we’re in – we’re in a situation of standby. It’s not true that we’ve decided not to continue, but it’s also not certain that we will continue," Savio continued.
"Given that Drone Hopper is in difficulty, we have to find an alternative solution – that is, a replacement sponsor. Otherwise, we won’t continue because it’s continuous stress. You can’t keep the squad going properly with all these economic issues to worry about. It’s stressful. But stress is a friend of mine that accompanies me every day," he added however, aware of the other difficult seasons the team has endured in the past, even in this subject.
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"Two and a half months ago, we held a conference call and we told everybody – riders, directors, soigneurs, mechanics – that they were free to sign with other teams," Savio admitted. “Almost everybody’s contract was up at the end of this year, but it was about being correct. If we continue the team and they don’t find a place somewhere else, then we’ll talk. But nobody can say that he lost a possibility because Savio led him on.”
Savio has admitted the possibility of holding the team at Continental level in 2023, which would certainly alleviate much of the current pressure. It would however require taking the step back up sooner or later. “That would mean having a team of smaller dimensions, perhaps made up of young riders. But it would have to be a real project, not just any old Continental team with riders from this place or that," he said however, justifying the struggle in moving forward with that idea at the time being.