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:
Dear Rabobank, you were part of the problem. How dare you walk away from your young clean guys who are part of the solution. Sickening.
— David Millar (@millarmind) October 19, 2012
Rabobank stopped. Disappointing! But think about T-Mobile: They stopped as well, developed into Highroad and became THE team! It’s a chance!
— Marcel Kittel (@marcelkittel) October 19, 2012
Very sad day for our sport Rabobank leave cycling after 17 years sponsoring. Thanks to the dopers!
— PHILIPPE GILBERT (@Phil_Gilbert1) October 19, 2012
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?