London: British media company Sky on Wednesday said it would axe its sponsorship of road-racing powerhouse Team Sky after next season, ending a decade-plus partnership that has won the Tour de France six times with three different riders.
Team Sky has clocked up eight Grand Tour wins since its formation in 2008, but has endured controversy this year for using special exemptions to administer drugs aimed at enhancing performance.
The outfit, which has 322 wins in total, will operate as Team Sky for the 2019 season and could continue under a different name if a new backer is found, the Sky statement said.
“The vision for Team Sky began with the ambition to build a clean, winning team around a core of British riders and staff,” said team principal Dave Brailsford.
“While Sky will be moving on at the end of next year, the team is open-minded about the future and the potential of working with a new partner, should the right opportunity present itself.”
The news, which was broken to stunned riders and staff over dinner at their training camp in Mallorca on Tuesday night, draws to an end more than a decade of success during which the team won six Tour de France yellow jerseys as the Giro D’Italia and Vuelta a Espana - along with 52 other stage races and 25 one-day races.
Team Sky’s principal Sir Dave Brailsford paid tribute to his team and said he hoped that a new sponsor would be found for the 2020 season. However, with Sky having investment more than GBP150 m over the last 10 years - making Team Sky comfortably the richest outfit in world cycling - it remains to be seen whether a viable buyer can be found.
“While Sky will be moving on at the end of next year, the team is open minded about the future and the potential of working with a new partner, should the right opportunity present itself,” said Brailsford. “For now, I would like to thank all Team Sky riders and staff, past and present - and above all the fans who have supported us on this adventure.