• IAM's Jerome Coppel at the 85th Criterium International (Getty) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
IAM Cycling is hinging its bets on a big name to help it breakthrough in the WorldTour.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
31 Mar 2016 - 1:27 PM 

The Swiss outfit is searching for a co-sponsor to afford the price tag associated with the calibre of rider it’s keen to attract from 2017. 

IAM joined cycling’s top tier last season and has been winning races (14 in 2015 and four so far in 2016) but the team wants to make a greater impression moving forward.  

“If you want to move on in the WorldTour you need to have top riders in the team and for this reason we need a co-sponsor,” sports director Rik Verbrugghe said. 

“We have a really solid team and we have good potential but we are missing one or two top riders to finish the races. You know, [Peter] Sagan is not one of the cheapest riders and you need to have an extra budget for this.”

Sagan is popularly considered one of the highest paid men in the peloton with an existing contract at Tinkoff rumoured to be worth around €4 million. Verbrugghe provided the world champion only as an example to illustrate his point although the Slovak may be on the market if Tinkoff folds at the end of 2016.

“We are now in a crucial moment where the sponsor, he wants to continue on a higher level and for this he needs to have some extra money and for extra money you need a co-sponsor. We are looking for a co-sponsor and then we can really go a step higher,” he said.

How the acquisition of a marquee signing through an additional backer would work within IAM’s existing business model is not clear. The team founded by investment fund manager Michel Thetaz currently only offers riders one-year deals, which are in contrast to the terms big personalities typically agree to.  

Mark Cavendish, as another example, penned a three-year contract with Dimension Data at the end of last season after the team negotiated a partnership with Deloitte to afford the Manxman and his small entourage.

“A good rider you need to pay him and for this we need a co-sponsor,” Verbrugghe reiterated.

The Belgian said the step-up from Professional Continental to WorldTour for the team only founded in 2013 hasn’t always been easy.

“Two years ago the UCI asked us to go in the WorldTour as there were not enough teams. So we made that step but we were not prepared,” he observed.

However, Verbrugghe likens the transition to his experience with former team BMC, which in six years as a WorldTour squad has won a Tour de France, multiple trade team time trial world championships and currently sits top three in UCI team rankings.

 “I saw the same thing with BMC when they started in the WorldTour and look where they are now. I think the most difficult part of the WorldTour for the team has passed and we need to get over this. We are still working on a good way for 2017,” Verbrugghe said.

“If you put all of this together, you go to the Tour de France, you will have an extra good rider or two riders, so that can hopefully help a sponsor to sign a contract with us for the future.”

Australian Heinrich Haussler has been a mainstay at the squad since its inception and is set to enjoy a protected role at Sunday’s Tour of Flanders and a week later at Paris-Roubaix.

“At Flanders we have a card to play if we are offensive,” Verbrugghe said.

“We know that we are not strong enough to follow all the top guys, [Fabian] Cancellara, [Greg] Van Avermaet, Sagan, so we need to be more offensive. For this we have some good riders like Heino, Dries Devenyns, a young Belgian and then one of the most experienced riders in the peloton, Martin Elmiger.

“I think with those four riders we can really do something in the final but we need to be offensive for the crucial moments. Flanders is really a race where you need to have the legs. Experience is important but you need to have the legs.

“Roubaix it’s a bit different,” he continued. “… Heino as a leader can wait until deep in the final. There he can maybe follow the best riders and I think it’s also one of his goals to do something really good in Roubaix.”