The 2020 season shall be remembered as a marketing campaign like no different however for Lizzy Banks the highs and lows have been taken to extremes.
Her victory on stage 4 of the Giro Rosa in September highlighted excellent kind as soon as racing resumed, however inside a month Banks discovered herself in limbo when her group folded with little warning – dropping its sponsor for the second time within the area of some months.
After a frantic few weeks, Banks has now secured a one-year cope with German group Ceratizit-WNT Professional Biking for 2021, placing pen to paper with a mixture of delight and aid.
“It’s been an extremely difficult interval,” Banks advised the PA information company. “You don’t anticipate your group to fold, however for it to occur twice in a yr is a complete catastrophe.”
Banks’ season appears to be like like a microcosm of biking as a complete this yr – drama on the street matched by pressure off it because the Covid-19 pandemic stretches the funds of groups to the restrict.
She started the yr using within the colors of Bigla-Katusha however, after the season was suspended in March, information got here in June that each sponsors had been pulling out with instant impact.
French style model Paule Ka stepped in with a rescue package deal for the remainder of the yr and a verbal dedication to again the group till 2023, and Banks signed a contract extension in August.
All appeared effectively because the group secured a collection of sturdy outcomes – Banks was second to Lizzie Deignan at GP Plouay earlier than her Giro win, whereas Leah Thomas was third at Strade Bianche and Mikayla Harvey was the very best younger rider on the Giro.
However behind the scenes group administrators had been dipping into their very own pockets as sponsorship funds failed to indicate, and simply days earlier than the Tour of Flanders final month they introduced an instantaneous cessation of racing. Paule Ka has since entered administration.
“It was an enormous shock to us,” Banks mentioned. “Immediately the rug was pulled and your world collapses round you. You don’t know for those who’re going to receives a commission subsequent yr, you don’t know for those who’re going to receives a commission for the remainder of this yr, and also you don’t know for those who’re going to race subsequent yr.
“How do you get an Olympic spot for those who don’t have a group?”
With seven riders unexpectedly in the marketplace groups have dug deep to search out further room, and all those that had been underneath contract with Paule Ka for 2021 have discovered a brand new residence or are within the technique of finalising one.
However the expertise speaks to larger challenges going through a sport so closely reliant on sponsors at a time when the pandemic has left corporations feeling the pinch.
“It possibly exhibits ladies’s biking isn’t in pretty much as good a spot as it may be,” Banks mentioned.
“If one thing appears too good to be true, possibly it’s.”
Banks mentioned there wanted to be “repercussions” for sponsors if they don’t pay up, however admitted it was a “very delicate stability” as the game seeks to draw new funding.
Banks may be a really perfect spokesperson. The bubbling 30-year-old has an ever-increasing presence on podcasts and within the media, and might concoct a pitch for a fly-on-the-wall documentary through the course of an interview.
However for now she does her greatest work on a motorcycle, and is trying ahead to her new position with Ceratizit-WNT subsequent season.
“They got here to us and talked about what they noticed in me, what they noticed as my position within the group and the place I might go,” she mentioned.
“Every little thing lined up with my ambitions and it’s not typically that occurs. After they’re considering the identical as you’re considering, it’s actually thrilling so hopefully that’s an excellent signal.”