Vacansoleil joins battle for Devolder as part of team expansion
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Monday, June 7, 2010

Vacansoleil joins battle for Devolder as part of team expansion

by Ben Atkins at 8:55 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Dutch team wants former Belgian champion for a bigger 2011

stijn devolderVacansoleil is the latest team to enter the battle for the signature of Quick Step’s two-time Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Stijn Devolder. The Dutch team claims to be in advanced talks with the rider, according to BN/De Stem, and says that they have already reached a personal agreement.

“Furthermore, we are already agreed,” said the team’s general manager Daan Luijkx. “We want it and Stijn wants it. Now we have to come to a financial agreement.

“We could use him well as a spearhead in the classics,” he added. “Moreover, the core of our team will be intact in 2011.” Vacansoleil currently boasts several aggressive riders including Björn Leukemans and Johnny Hoogerland, recent Tour of Luxembourg winner Matteo Carrara, sprinter Borut Bozic, and French brothers Brice and Romain Feillu.

There has already reportedly been interest in the former Belgian champion from BMC Racing and RadioShack. A move to the latter would see him back together with the management of the US Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams, where he rode between 2004 and 2007.

Having won the Tour of Austria and worn the leader’s jersey in the Vuelta a España in 2007, Devolder was signed by Quick Step in 2008 with the twin roles of aiming at the overall classification in the Tour de France and to support Tom Boonen in the latter stages of the classics. Devolder promptly won De Ronde twice himself, but has won little else and a combination of illness and poor form has seen him flop in the Grand Tours. Recently he has come under increasing pressure from Quick Step’s general manager Patrick Lefevere to produce better results; he responded by winning last month’s Tour of Belgium.

Onwards and upwards for 2011

The Dutch holiday company has already agreed to sponsor the team through 2014 and Luijkx has already hinted that he may like to apply for a ProTour license. This could be made easier with the acquisition of a new sponsor he says.

“We have agreed with the company [Vacansoleil] that as from next year a new joint name sponsor could go on the jersey,” Luijkx confirmed. “If we can find one there will be further opportunities to expand the team.”

This year the Dutch team was disappointed to miss out on invitations to the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France, both of which begin in the Netherlands. It was also denied a start in the Ardennes Classics, the Critérium du Dauphiné and a number of other big races. It hopes that by signing new names like Devolder will mean that they have better luck next year.

“It depends on whether the regulations are changed in 2011,” said Luijkx. “Sixteen teams from 2008 were already sure of participation in the Grand Tours whether they had performed well or not, like Footon[-Servetto]. This year there are some strong new teams like Sky and RadioShack, and it’s logical that they, and Garmin and Katusha, get the wildcards; but next year is different.”


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