Drone Hopper - Androni Giocattoli have endured some difficult seasons when it comes to finances in the last few years, but 2022 has been a specially hard year, as the team could be facing it's end. Gianni Savio, manager of the team, has revealed the team has been saved however, and will be riding Continental level in 2023.
"The economic situation of the team is currently good, in the sense that there are no problems in ending this season," Savio revealed in an interview with OASport.it. "This is because (Team CFO) Marco Bellini and I have found alternative solutions to make up for the payments that have not been made by the Drone Hopper, which is three times behind."
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The Italian team has struck a three-year teal with Drone Hopper, which has become the main title sponsor of the team - and was, ideally, set to go all the way into 2025. However the company has found struggles to fulfil it's payment responsibilities, putting the team in a very hard position regarding it's current and traditional spot as a ProTeam level.
"We always consider the Drone Hopper contract valid. We are waiting for them to get back on track to get their project off the ground and then we can continue together. Clearly, next year he will not be able to be our main sponsor, but we are giving him the opportunity to continue supporting our project," Savio explained.
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Earlier this summer the team had to let go two of it's star riders - Andrea Piccolo and Jefferson Alexander Cepeda. "It was a matter of making a choice. Either sell Piccolo or don't pay the salaries at the end of the month to all members of the team and so we opted for the first choice," he said, with the newly-signed Italian and Cepeda moving to EF Education-EasyPost who looked to save their position in the World Tour.
"We said right away that in case the riders and staff have received another opportunity to sign on the fly, in case we have to make the team we will talk about it again. No one will ever be able to say that they have lost a job opportunity because of us. We were corrected and three months ago we reported the situation to everyone," the manager of the team founded in 1996 said.
"It is a situation that caught us unprepared, we will see how we manage to get out of it. Finding sponsors has never been easy, today it is even more difficult. The economy is not booming, the pandemic, the war, the rise in electricity prices, are all elements that keep companies away from sponsorships."
The team has however managed to secure it's continuation, and the future of many of it's riders at professional level. With this new - and reduced budget demand - plan, Savio is hoping to be able to negotiate some last-minute deals to be able to further finance the team, hoping to soon get back to the second division in cycling.
"The various negotiations that we have started all over the world to date have not brought me a concrete result. There are still two alternatives that our interlocutors are considering, because at this point our idea is more aimed at a Continental," he concluded.