A year after almost folding, Melton’s professional cycling team has secured its future thanks to a new business....set up by the team’s own boss.
Metaltek Kuota, founded by Melton cyclist Andy Swain, were close to going under last February when the team’s principal sponsor Knights of Old withdrew their backing on the eve of the season.
To avoid further financial bombshells, the team’s major sponsor for 2015 will be SportGrub, a new sports nutrition retailer set to be launched by Swain and commercial partner Chris Dunkley.
Andy said: “Rather than (the team) just being my passion, it could be something that is more sustainable so we’re not so reliant on other sponsors.
“We still have to attract sponsors and are doing so. Kuota have stepped up again and will be on board in a big way.”
Up-and-coming riders Rhys Lloyd and Zach May have been lost to UCI-ranked teams, but SportGrub Kuota have also recruited.
Former world champion Colin Sturgess is the eyecatching signing, while exciting young Oakham talent Ollie Maxwell is also among five new riders.
“We have lost a couple of riders, but generally we have kept the core of the team, and with the riders we have brought in I think we are stronger,” Swain added.
“The experience Colin brings to the team is second-to-none. It’s quite evident the class is still there.”
Last year, with Swain funding the racing himself and his riders agreeing to forego salaries, Metaltek achieved remarkable success against big budget rivals.
Inspired and united by adversity, they finished sixth in both the ITV4 Pearl Izumi Tour Series and the British Cycling Elite National Series.
Andy said: “After the setback at the beginning, we were the best non-UCI team so it was a brilliant year.
“We lost riders to other squads with a better financial standing and ended up beating those squads which was really good.
“We are measured against the Man Uniteds of cycling. It’s not a level playing field, but it’s the only playing field!”
Swain is confident they will retain their British Cycling Elite Team status for 2015. They have already been invited to compete at the Tour of Ulster in May and two UCI races in Belgium.
The team will hit the local roads next weekend for winter training before heading to Majorca for warm weather training in February.
He said: “We always overperform and that’s what we will set out to do in 2015. We won’t rest on our laurels.
“We take it to the bigger teams; we’re not afraid to attack them.
“The lads are chosen as much for their character as their cycling ability. They’re all in it for each other.”