Dutch team Vacansoleil-DCM raced one of its last events yesterday at the World Championships in Florence. Its six men completed the team time trial in 16th place knowing that they will go their separate ways next season.
"It's very sad, not only for me, but for the whole team, staff and riders," Thomas De Gendt told Cycling Weekly. "We've worked together for three years. The riders will find a new team, but for the staff it's very hard and they'll have to find another type of work."
Sponsors Vacansoleil and DCM, a vacation and soil company respectively, announced this year they would not continue into 2014. Management continued its search for replacement sponsors but riders signed for other teams and hope of saving the squad evaporated.
Sports director, Hilaire Van Der Schueren as late as this month was looking for an investment of €1m (£840,000) to continue. Some media reported that the team would drop down and continue in the second division.
"It's over," sports director, Aart Vierhouten told Cycling Weekly on the way to Worlds meeting on Saturday. "We applied for the second division licence some time ago, just as a fall-back option, but we will not continue."
Vacansoleil began in 2009 as a second division team and debuted in the first division in the most dubious of ways, signing Ezequiel Mosquera and Riccardo Riccò. Both riders had ties to doping cases; Riccò nearly dying from a blood transfusion, and lost their jobs.
The highs washed away the lows. Belgian De Gendt soloed to win on the Passo dello Stelvio. His ride through the snow banks earned him third overall in the Giro d'Italia last year. The team collected several other victories at the WorldTour level. Nothing, however, helped attract a sponsor.
Lieuwe Westra joined Astana, promising sprinter Barry Markus left for Belkin and others made similar deals for 2014. The majority, 23 of 29, have yet to find a team or to announce their plans. De Gendt said he is talking with three or four teams.
The team's staff members are also searching. Van Der Schueren joined team Accent Jobs-Wanty, according to Belgium's RTBF. Vierhouten added, "We are all going to try to find places in various teams."
Dutch cycling's other first division teams, Belkin and Argos-Shimano, have bright futures. Argos agreed to a three-year deal last year and Belkin announced ahead of the Tour it would sponsor through 2015.
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