Pro Cycling Takes a Hit: Rabobank Ends Sponsorship

Rabobank ends sponsorship of cycling teamsI had another post idea in my head for today, something about my cyclocross bike being built and yadayada, but the news I woke up to today seemed more pressing.

Rabobank to end its sponsorship of professional cycling teams

The Cyclingnews article is here. My first reaction: wow. Rabobank has been a sponsor of a professional cycling team for the past 17 years. They’ve constantly had good results with their riders, and have a stellar ensemble. They have Vos on the women’s team, and it was just announced yesterday that the American Megan Guarnier would join the team alongside her.

Due to the recent USADA reports, and probably Carlos Barredo, they’ve decided to step away from the pro teams. Personally, I think this is a big blow to professional cycling. It’s setting a precedent for other sponsors who have been on the edge to step away. It stops the longest running cycling team sponsor there was and it definitely causes a disruption throughout the industry. I remember when Cervelo decided to stop their team, and though a lot of cyclists were able to hop on board other projects, there were still some that got left behind, and I hope that doesn’t happen again.

It looks like the focus for the teams is to continue on without a sponsor, and I can see that happening perfectly fine with the men’s team, but I am more concerned with the women’s team, which, though it’s the top women’s team in the world, still may have trouble carrying on. There’s been mixed reactions to all of this from pro cyclists as well:

There’s also Robert Gesink’s reaction.

Of course this is all just part of the bigger picture of making cycling cleaner. While Rabobank says, “We are no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport. We are not confident that this will change for the better in the foreseeable future,” I don’t believe that is so. Taylor Phinney, American cycling prodigy and generally cool dude had an interview with Velonation where he states his thoughts on the whole matter:

Phinney appreciates that many fans are demoralised with the extent of the bad news that the USADA investigation into Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service team has brought. He’s a rider who seemed previously to be on good terms with the Texan, and indeed competed on his Livestrong youth team prior to moving to BMC Racing.

However he stresses that like the fans, he is also disappointed by the extent of the deceit which has been uncovered. “There are a lot of people who have lost the faith and I completely understand that,” he said, “but the main thing that I like to remind people is that guys who are my age [are in a similar position]. I was a fan of the sport during that whole era, and so I feel the same sense of betrayal as well. I have gone through the same emotions as the fans have.”

Because of that, he said that he feels a sense of responsibility to show that things don’t have to continue along the same path. “I am happy I am in the position I am in now, to be able to talk about how I ride the bike and the way I approach the races. I am confident in this sport’s ability to turn itself around.

So what are we left with? Rabobank is out, which according to some may be a good thing considering the number of doping allegations that stem from that team in the past 10 years, and a number of riders are left this morning (or afternoon) wondering what their status is. I hope that those two teams (mens and womens) will continue on, and another company that believes in the new wave of riders will step in, bringing a fresh face to pro cycling.

What do you think the impact of Rabobank’s decision will be?

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3 Responses to Pro Cycling Takes a Hit: Rabobank Ends Sponsorship

  1. Ashley, sometimes things need to get worse before they get better. The riders say all the time that they had to dope to save their jobs. Well here you go. They are going to loose jobs because of doping. I feel for the riders on the team who may not have rides next year. But this is an important shift. If the negative consequences of doping start to out weigh the positive side, then maybe, just maybe, the sport will change and clean up.

    • I agree with that, and I’m not saying this will happen, but if this is what should happen, then the majority of sponsors should back out due to connections to doping. I’m not sure that’s right for the sport right now.

      Also, the report dealt with issues from 2007 and earlier, not necessarily with today. Yes there’s still doping happening in the peloton, but from what Phinney said as well as the support he’s getting, I believe the tide is turning.

      From what I’m reading now it seems that Rabobank will continue to pay the riders and honor their contracts, just without the signature blue and orange of the Rabobank kit.