Scott bicycles has stepped up to become second sponsor of the Spanish Saunier Duval ProTour squad, which features Leonardo Piepoli, Jose Angel Gomez Marchante, Juanjo Cobo and Riccardo Ricco. Former co-sponsor, Swiss pen manufacturer Prodir has decreased its funding for the team and now doesn't feature on the squad's distinctive yellow kit.
The fact that a bike manufacturer is sponsoring a team is hardly big news, but what it does do is signal another shift in pro team sponsorship from outside companies to those in the bicycle industry. As a whole, the sport is struggling to find the multi-million Euro external sponsorship that ProTour teams require to support a year-long race campaign around the world. And the sport is struggling to maintain any credibility in the light of continuous doping scandals.
Tellingly, the quote from Scott vice president Pascal Ducrot sent out in a Saunier Duval press release starts "we entirely trust Mauro Gianetti [team manager] and his men". Trust now seems to be the most important factor for bike team sponsors as many have been stung by negative publicity and bad politics in the past two years and dropped out of the sport completely (cheerio T-Mobile, Phonak, Liberty Seguros, Unibet.com...).
Prodir was keen to emphasise that it hasn't reduced funding due to doping scandals, but Iban Mayo's positive for banned blood-boosting drug EPO at the Tour de France in July can't have helped. Mayo was subsequently sacked from the squad.
Scott has had a long association with Saunier Duval, having been the team's bike sponsor since its inception in 2004. The squad will ride the latest incarnation of Scott's controversial and superlight Addict bikes.
The team was home to Scotsman David Millar during 2007 - he has now switched to Slipstream-Chipotle for 2008.
Scott bicycles: www.scottusa.com.
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