Team Belkin races the Tour de France this July in hopes of a high placing for Bauke Mollema, but more importantly, its continuation. The American consumer electronics manufacturer, Belkin announced last month it would leave the sport at year-end and left the Dutch team in a frantic search to save itself before its riders jump ship.
“Yeah, we are worried about the guys leaving, but there’s also possibilities coming up for us,” the team’s general manager, Richard Plugge.
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“It’s possible that our search is even better during the Tour de France because there’s a lot of interest on the race and the sponsors see the potential in cycling. They see that the sports progressing well and going in a good way. It’s good.”
Belkin only entered the sport one year ago and saved the team that was racing under the holding name Blanco. After doping scandals shook the Netherlands, Dutch bank Rabobank pulled its funding after 17 years sponsoring the team.
The electronics manufacturer said in its June 17 press statement that its “strategy is to be more globally focused.”
“There’s a lot of value for money in this,” said Plugge. “There are marketing figures for the globalisation of this sport. For example, the Tour Down Under is as big as the Tour de France, but only in Australia. It’s a big thing. Cycling’s for companies that want a global reach.”
Belkin will continue to back the team through 2014, but Plugge has little time as riders typically hunt for new contracts in this period. With the green and black team’s future in doubt, many of the 30 riders may begin to look elsewhere.
“I had a meeting with the Tour riders, saying that we have to stand shoulder to shoulder and fight shoulder to shoulder to show ourselves,” he continued. “Maybe two of the nine are already going to another team, but the seven others are not. I told them, ‘Work together, help the team first and help each other to make sure the team continues.’ That’s what they are going to do.”
Reports already before news of Belkin’s depart indicated that Wilco Kelderman would join Orica-GreenEdge in 2015. Two other Grand Tour riders, Bauke Mollema and Robert Gesink, also have contracts that are up for renewal. They may consider looking elsewhere since the team’s future is in doubt.
Bike sponsor Bianchi reportedly gave Plugge a deadline of June 15 to find a new sponsor and the riders said August 1. Plugge explained that he has “possibilities” though.
“The good part is that we were Blanco last year. We were talking to three parties and from them, Belkin stepped in first, but we kept the two others warm,” said Plugge.
“We have some contacts that were already there for a long time. Also, when Argos pulled its sponsorship [from rival Dutch team, not Giant-Shimano] in November last year, I thought, ‘We better be looking around.’ We did that, we started the process again as if we didn’t have a sponsor and we have four or five contacts already.”
Belkin team in search for new title sponsor for 2015, after technology firm pulls plug on sponsorship