Michael Pavitt ©ITG

I admit to being slightly out of the loop on a few issues as the Taipei 2017 Summer Universiade took the vast majority of my focus for the last couple of weeks. 

My awareness of what was happening in cycling was effectively acknowledging that Chris Froome was still in the lead at the Vuelta a España and potentially heading towards a historic feat.

Having now had the Universiade bubble burst I am beginning to catch up with snippets of news I might have missed, and the story of Cannondale-Drapac caught my attention.

The International Cycling Union WorldTour team face the prospect of not being able to get on the start-line for the 2018 season.

It was revealed last Saturday (August 26) that they had notified their riders and staff that they were unable to confirm the team's financial security, with a new partner for the 2018 season having opted not to join them.

"We remain hopeful that this situation may resolve itself in the next few days and that the team may find new financial backing; however, without this guarantee, we felt an obligation to the individuals who make up our team to notify them of our current situation and give them time to look for their best options," a statement from the team read.

"All Slipstream Sports staff have been released from any and all contractual obligations for 2018," the statement continued. "All 2018 contracts will be honoured if our future is secured. We want to be clear. All of our current sponsors and partners (Cannondale, Drapac, Oath, POC) have remained committed to support our team in 2018. 

"These sponsors have lived up to their promises; however, without additional financial backing, the numbers simply don't add up."

If you compare it to other team sports, it seems strange that one of the 18 elite level teams must simply have to pack up and leave the stage when the season draws to a close.

Cannondale-Drapac have turned to crowdfunding to ensure they will compete in the 2018 WorldTour season ©Getty Images
Cannondale-Drapac have turned to crowdfunding to ensure they will compete in the 2018 WorldTour season ©Getty Images

It would be the equivalent of one of the teams in the German Bundesliga suddenly declaring they would not be able to compete in the division next year and stating that all of their players were free to negotiate with other teams. It would be a remarkable prospect.

Granted, there can be no clear comparison between sports in this regard. Each sport operates in its own financial sphere. The swathes of money available in the football world simply do not exist in cycling.

Teams suddenly disappearing seems, somewhat, normal in cycling. The Tinkoff team disappeared from the landscape at the end of last season, when the vocal owner Oleg Tinkoff effectively lost interest. IAM Cycling also did not continue for the 2018 season.

Upon their departures, the Bahrain-Merida team entered the scene with the backing of Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, while Bora-Hansgrohe were granted top level status. The cycling world kept spinning and the travelling circus kept moving from race to race throughout this season.

To be honest, the first couple of months of the season is spent working out what the remaining teams are now called, given the name changes due to sponsorship agreements.

"Ah, so Team Sunweb replaced Team Giant–Alpecin".

From hair products to holiday package providers.

Evidently, there is still something that the sport's hierarchy need to help crack. While it would be up for debate as to whether a solution could be found to prevent the boom and bust nature of some teams, there is an obvious goal to help ensure riders and staff do not find themselves suddenly unemployed and scrambling for work for the forthcoming season.

It could well be a topic to be debated by the two UCI Presidential candidates Brian Cookson and David Lappartient in the build-up to the Congress later this month. The latter has previously called for a salary cap as part of a financial fair play style system, aimed at levelling the playing field with the big budget squads of Team Sky having largely dominated the biggest races.

Rigoberto Uran, left, finished second at the Tour de France but faces uncertainty over his team for next year ©Getty Images
Rigoberto Uran, left, finished second at the Tour de France but faces uncertainty over his team for next year ©Getty Images

Granted, Cannondale-Drapac gave Team Sky their biggest challenge during this year's Tour de France as their leader Rigoberto Uran finished in second place.

Uran, who signed a new contract with the team earlier this month, could soon find himself at another squad given Cannondale-Drapac's financial issues. The Colombian gave the team two weeks to solve the shortfall, having been approached by other teams.

The response of Cannondale-Drapac has been interesting. They have been quoted as saying they require $16 million (£12 million/€13 million) to have a good team for the 2018 season, but are $7 million (£5.4 million/€5.9 million) short. Given the response to their announcement on their financial issues, fans had suggested crowdfunding as an option.

The option has been taken up, with a total of $2 million (£1.5 million/€1.6 million) having been targeted to be raised by an "Indiegogo campaign". It has been stated that a tiered reward structure will offer perks, depending on how much is contributed by supporters from $25 (£19/€21) to $50,000 (£38,000/€42,000). They have already received assurance that insurance agency Fairly Group will pledge to match the $2 million (£1.5 million/€1.6 million) to ensure there is a top level American team.

Whether people deem it prudent enough to pay out of their own pocket to keep a team alive, in return for a hand written thank you letter, invites to ride with the team, attend races or ride in the team car, is purely their own decision.

The concept is quite an interesting one.

There seems a growing attraction for fans to have far more access to the teams they support, rather than the usual access of watching live at the race/matches or watching at home on television. With sporting stars viewed by many as becoming more distant, the idea of paying for access could be one that will be explored more in the future.

Recently, English Premier League side Manchester City unveiled a "tunnel club", which received a fairly mixed reaction. The idea of people paying large sums of money to watch their team’s players line-up in the tunnel before matches seems a bizarre concept to many, but if people have the money and want the experience then why not?

As long as sport remains largely open to everyone to experience at the highest level, I do not think many will begrudge those that pay for access or those that offer it. Again, there is a slight difference between using it to gain further income and trying to keep a team running.

The Cannondale-Drapac experiment could be an interesting one to watch. Should it succeed, could other teams follow suit or would it just be a needs-must idea?