Rabobank stuns cycling with sudden withdrawal from the sport
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Friday, October 19, 2012

Rabobank stuns cycling with sudden withdrawal from the sport

by Shane Stokes at 3:40 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
Seventeen years of sponsorship come to an abrupt end

RabobankIn what is a major shock for the world of cycling, one of the sport’s longest-running sponsors Rabobank has abruptly announced that it will quit its backing of both its men’s and women’s teams in just over two month’s time.

The Dutch sponsor said that its decision came after the publiciation of the US Anti Doping Agency’s report last week. That primarily concerned Lance Armstrong and the American US Postal Service/Discovery Channel teams and had very little overlap with Rabobank, aside from an admission by Levi Leipheimer that he had also doped while with the Dutch team [he raced there between 2002 and 2004 –ed]. It had nothing to do with its women’s team, but this has not stopped Rabobank from acting.

Bert Bruggink, member of the Managing Board, was scathing about his view of cycling. “It is with pain in our heart, but for the bank this is an inevitable decision. We are no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport,” he said. “We are not confident that this will change for the better in the foreseeable future."

The bank started backing the sport seventeen years ago and in addition to sponsoring men’s and women’s teams, it also backs youth squads and cyclo cross. Its loss as a sponsor is therefore massive for the sport, although there is the small consolation that it will continue backing amateur cycling, specifically for youth and cyclo-cross .

The team suffered a blow yesterday when it was announced that one of its riders Carlos Barredo was under investigation by the UCI for biological passport issues. His contract is due to end in December, yet while Bruggink doesn’t mention it, and while the suspect blood values for Barredo may predate his 2011 joining of the team, many will wonder if this was the last straw.

“Cycling is a beautiful sport, which millions of Dutch people enjoy and a large number of those Dutch people are clients of Rabobank,” he said. “But our decision stands: we are pulling out of professional cycling. It is painful. Not just for Rabobank, but especially for the enthusiasts and the cyclists who are not to blame in this."

The backing of the men’s and women’s teams will end on December 31st of this year. Riders such as Robert Gesink, Lars Boom, Theo Bos, Steven Kruijswijk and Luis Leon Sanchez are all on this year’s men’s team, while the women’s squad includes world road race and Olympic champion Marianne Vos, amongst others.

Those riders will be left reeling by today’s news, particularly as they are left with very little time to try to find alternative teams for next season.

The sponsor will hold a press conference this morning at 10.30 in Utrecht.

Stand by for more on this story…


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