AA Drink-Leontien.nl team set to fold as sponsors pull out
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Thursday, August 16, 2012

AA Drink-Leontien.nl team set to fold as sponsors pull out

by Ben Atkins at 1:37 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Olympic silver medallist faces second search for a new team in two years

lizzie armitsteadThe AA Drink-Leontien.nl team is set to fold at the end of the season as the main sponsor ends its two year association, team press officer Léon de Kort has confirmed to VeloNation. With husband and wife management team Michael Zijlaard and Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel off to seek new challenges and opportunities, after many years in the sport, they are not seeking to replace the sports drink manufacturer.

"Michael and Leontien have new opportunities\challenges for their future, and because of the fact that all sponsor contracts of the team will expire at the end of the season, they've decided to call it a day, after 17 years of full commitment to the sport that they both love," de Kort confirmed.

Current directeur sportif, Dutch former track star Danny Stam, is reportedly seeking new backers for what is one of the biggest teams in the sport, but nothing has been confirmed.

What this means is that Olympic silver medallist Lizzie Armitstead, former World time trial champion Emma Pooley, Sharon Laws, Lucy Martin, Belgian Jessie Daams and Australian Carla Ryan all face the prospect of their team folding for the second team in succession, following the collapse of the Garmin-Cervélo team at the end of 2011.

They were still contracted to the American team through 2012 however, so Slipstream Sports continued to financially back the riders, as well as the team switching to Cervélo bikes. The commitment from the latter was visibly less than it had been when the riders had been part of the same organisation as the WorldTour men’s team however; riders were provided S2 frames in 2012 where they had ridden S5’s the previous year.

The team is also home to American sprinter Shelley Olds, and many of the brightest stars of Dutch cycling, including sprinter Kirsten Wild, Chantal Blaak and Lucinda Brand, who all face the prospect of having to search for a new team.

The team has existed in various forms since 2004, when VKS was built around Zijlaard-van Moorsel’s stella career. It became Farm Frites-Hartol in 2004, then - on her retirement - the Van Bemmelen-AA Drink was formed with Zijlaard-van Moorsel as figurehead, and husband Michael behind the wheel of the team car.

AA Drink took over as title sponsor in 2006, but pulled out at the end of 2008; coincidentally, also an Olympic year. Sponsorship of the team was taken over by Leontien.nl, Zijlaard-van Moorsel’s women’s lifestyle website, before AA Drink - which had continued in the sport with a cyclocross team - was coaxed back last year.

With just the loss of the sponsors, the team might well have had a future, but with Michael Zijlaard and Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel - who is an iconic figure in much of Dutch cyclng - also walking away, it looks unlikely that it will continue.

AA Drink is also currently a sponsor of the Belgian Lotto-Belisol team - both men and women - and appears on the right shoulder of the jersey.

VeloNation has contacted several of the riders involved and will report any comments that they may have on the situation.


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