“Four or five” businesses in negotiation to replace Rabobank at WorldTour team
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Monday, October 29, 2012

“Four or five” businesses in negotiation to replace Rabobank at WorldTour team

by Ben Atkins at 12:06 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
High interest in Dutch “white jersey” team from potential sponsors

robert gesinkThe Rabobank team has already been in negotiations with “four or five” potential replacements for its name sponsor in 2013, and could be set to announce a new deal soon, wielerrevue.nl reports. The Dutch bank shocked the world of cycling on October 19th when it announced that it was pulling out of the sport, having sponsored the team since 1996. Two years ago the Dutch bank committed to the team through 2016, but cited the recent Lance Armstrong doping scandal as the final straw, and will walk away at the end of this year.

While it will no longer be called Rabobank from January 1st, 2013, contracts signed with the bank mean that there will be enough budget for the team to be able to run as a “white jersey” operation, in much the same was as Highroad did after the withdrawal of T-Mobile in 2007. The bank guarantee held with the International Cycling Union (UCI) also means that its place in the top level WorldTour is also virtually assured for next season.

Following the shock announcement however, the team’s management immediately began negotiating with potential replacements - the majority of whom are Dutch - Wieler Revue reports, with intensive conversations taking place with four or five of them.

“The companies see a team with an organisation that’s among the best in the world,” the team’s press officer explained. “Moreover there are a number of talents around their 26th year who are about to reap their ‘harvests’.”

While the Rabobank women’s team, led by World and Olympic champion Marianne Vos, is the one part of the outfit expected to survive - with Rabobank committing to supporting the 25-year-old all the way to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics of 2016, Plugge insists that - like Highroad again - nobody will be able to take on the men’s team without taking on the women also.

“The men and women are offered as a package,” he explained. “All potential sponsors know that and also want that.”

With Vos being one of the most marketable sports stars in the Netherlands currently - as well as the relatively small commitment required to sponsor even the biggest women’s team - this is hardly surprising.

The one grey area of current Rabobank sponsorship is its Continental “under-23” team, which has been the source of so many of its current stars. The 18-strong team of riders, which has been in existence since 2002 will ride under the flag of the Royal Dutch Cycling Union (KNWU) in 2013, but will wear Rabobank jerseys to allow the two Germans - Rick Zabel (son of sprint legend Erik) and Ruben Zepuntke - can continue to ride for the team.

“Then the Rabobank sponsorship will end and the foreign membership of the team will probably decline,” Plugge explained.

As well as Rabobank, Skoda Netherlands withdrew its support as the team’s official vehicle provider, but this is also reportedly to be imminently replaced. Most of the team’s other sponsors, including bike supplier Giant (who will also supply clothing in 2013), component supplier Shimano, and helmet supplier Giro have committed to staying on however; Giant has also confirmed that it has considered taking over as main sponsor.

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