TUCSON, Arizona (VN) — Alberto Contador may have stepped off the bike and retired in September after finishing the Vuelta a Espana, but his formidable presence in cycling will continue as he adds “Continental team owner” to his resume.
Polartec-Kometa is the newest addition to the Alberto Contador Foundation banner of teams and will serve as the development team for WorldTour squad Trek-Segafredo. Junior and under-23 teams round out the quorum.
The U23 team gathered in Tucson for a training camp earlier this month, with four riders from the Continental team joining them. Contador was coy in his opening remarks about the program’s ambitions.
“In this moment, we work to have good professional riders in the future in different teams,” Contador said about the program’s riders progressing to the next level. “Of course, we also look to the front. We want to continue to go step-by-step … I will not say one or the other whether at the WorldTour level with a WorldTour team.”
When VeloNews followed up with Contador on one of the team’s training rides about whether there will be an Alberto Contador Foundation team in the WorldTour in the future, he confirmed that is his plan.
The Continental team will be comprised of 11 riders, only four of whom are from Spain. The diversity is surprising, considering the majority of the riders on the junior and U23 teams are Spanish.
The four Continental riders present in Tucson were U23 Spanish national road race champion Isaac Cantón, Juan Camacho, Miguel Ángel Ballesteros, and Diego Pablo Sevilla. Both Ballesteros and Sevilla joined the Alberto Contador Foundation as juniors and have progressed through the ranks.
Polartec, an international fabric company headquartered in the United States and known throughout the cycling world for boasting clients such as Rapha and Castelli, has worked with the foundation’s teams for the last three years, since the previous kit sponsor uses Polartec fabrics. The company has agreed to a new three-year sponsorship deal, as has co-title sponsor Kometa, an Italian company.
Polartec’s sponsorship also calls for it to provide the team’s apparel, which will serve as the company’s first foray into cycling apparel design. As a result, Polartec has decided it will not sell the team garments to the general public — at least for the first year.
Gary Smith, who took over as Polartec CEO in 2012, decided to partner with the foundation because of the people involved.
“Just speaking candidly, we weren’t looking to sponsor a cycling team,” Smith said. “There’s lots of places as a company you can spend money to have your logo displayed. I’m not a big believer in that. It’s superficial and not distinctive.
“Working with this team, we’ve talked about the people and the relationship aspect, which is super important. And there’s lots of places you can choose to work. There’s great people and a compelling mission behind what they are trying to do.”
The camp in Arizona was Smith’s doing.
“To get on a plane, cross multiple time zones, have to ride, that’s a life lesson, whether you become a professional cyclist or not,” Smith said. “As a businessperson, I have to deal with that constantly. Flying time zones, adjusting to different cultures, different foods, strange beds, all that sort of thing. I think it’s a really good thing as young men for them to experience that.”