Belkin pull plug on team sponsorship after just one year

With Giant reportedly ending backing of Netherlands' other WorldTour team, Dutch outfits chase sponsors

by Simon_MacMichael   June 17, 2014  

Bauke Mollema, Tirreno 2014 (copyright Gian Mattia D'Alberto, LaPresse)

Team Belkin has announced it is looking for a new sponsor after the American electronics accessories firm that is its current backer confirmed it would not be renewing the deal beyond the end of this year. With Giant-Shimano also reportedly searching for a new title sponsor, both WorldTour teams from the Netherlands need to bringing new finance on board.

In a statement, Team Belkin said it “is disappointed by the exit, since it got a lot of positive feedback on the sponsorship,” and that it would start looking for a new title sponsor straight away.

Belkin, which also owns the WeMo and Linksys brands, announced its sponsorship of the team, whose riders include former Tour of Britain winner Lars Boom and Classics specialist Sep Vanmarcke in the build-up to last year’s Tour de France, where Bauke Mollema finished sixth overall.

It aimed to build brand awareness and sales, and says that it succeeded in Europe on the former goal, but has changed its corporate strategy, which is now more globally focused.

Richard Plugge, the team’s managing director, said: "It is unfortunate that this new collaboration is not going to be extended. With the motto #ridethefuture we have generated a lot of goodwill the past year, in an environment that is still critically observed.

“Our innovative method and forward-looking TEAM philosophy has brought the sport back where it belongs, with fans and stakeholders. Our performance, battle mode, transparency and accessibility have not gone unnoticed by the public and industry.

“We will now start an intensive search for a new sponsor to be able to continue the journey that we started. We have full confidence in the future and expect to appear with a new sponsor on the shirt at the start of the 2015 season.

“We are a Dutch procycling team with an international image and World Tour status, therefore we expect to find a new title sponsor. We were already in conversation with additional sponsors and still have sponsorship opportunities open for the upcoming Tour de France," he added.

The Dutch outfit rode as Blanco Pro Cycling in early 2013, describing its new identity as “a new team, a fresh start, a blank canvas,” after Rabobank decided to end its long-term involvement in the top tier of the men’s sport in October 2012 due to ongoing doping allegations against former riders and staff.

The financial institution, which continues to back under-23 and women’s teams until at least the end of 2016, did commit to backing the men’s team and paying staff and riders’ wages through to the end of 2013.

Meanwhile last month, Giant-Shimano sprinter Marcel Kittel said he hoped to continue to ride for that team in 2015 despite concerns over whether the Taiwan-based bike manufacturer, whose contract expires at the end of this year, would renew its backing.

Giant began sponsoring the team at the start of this season after former backer, oil firm Argos, decided not to carry on its sponsorship and a deal with a US-based charity fell through.

The Giant deal is only for this season, but Kittel, quoted on Sky Sports News after winning Stage 2 of the Giro d’Italia in Belfast, said: “The contract is until the end of the year but you can always extend the contract. I think we are in a good way – that’s what I heard from the management of our team – and that makes me not worried because I trust them.”

A third Dutch WorldTour team, Vacansoleil-DCM, folded at the end of last year after the holiday firm that was its title sponsor decided against extending the deal.

23 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Finding big names who are happy to sponsor a historically scarred sport for an extended period is getting tougher.

posted by Beaufort [124 posts]
17th June 2014 - 22:03

like this
Like (16)

I was never convinced that Belkin had any cycling synergy at all, in my mind, a bedroom geek brand, however GIANT SHIMANO is a massive own goal if they pull out, not that I buy Belikin, or Giant, or Shimano......maybe advertising doesn't work on me!

All Campag

posted by Flying Scot [490 posts]
17th June 2014 - 22:13

like this
Like (21)

I kinda knew Belkin weren't in it for the long haul.

They stepped in to save a team that was going to the wall otherwise and were hailed as saviours. I bet they have made a bit of cash on the back of that. It was never going to be a long term investment for them.

To be fair, if I had a massive company who could afford to sponsor a cycling team for say 5 years. I wouldn't be putting into a Pro mens team. That is for sure.

The borefest that has become mens cycling this year and to some extend last is just dragging the sport down.

It seems like alot of the riders are just going through the motions and turning up, doing a race and getting paid. There seems to be a lack of excitement in the peleton.

The whole scene needs an overhaul. It is not fun to watch IMO anymore. I will be watching the TdF because it is the pinnacle of the sport. That is the only reason, there are alot of young exciting riders coming through, being held back to a certain extent by the old guys set in their ways.

Lets shorten up some of the racing. Not till it is Crit style, but cut it back at bit. Have it fast paced from the off. Not this, lets just roll through the first 60-70 miles, let a break go up the road and then control it. Reel it back in with 10km to go and then hammer it for the last 3....BORING.

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8699 posts]
17th June 2014 - 22:47

like this
Like (31)

Gkam84 wrote:
The borefest that has become mens cycling this year and to some extend last is just dragging the sport down.

It seems like a lot of the riders are just going through the motions and turning up, doing a race and getting paid. There seems to be a lack of excitement in the peleton.

Sorry Gkam but did you actually see the last stage of the Dauphine on Sunday? I would hardly call that a borefest- even my wife, who only really watches tennis, was enthralled at the end of it. There is still plenty of great racing out there.

Otis Bragg's picture

posted by Otis Bragg [108 posts]
17th June 2014 - 23:04

like this
Like (27)

I saw bits and pieces of it, but it took 7 1/2 stages to get to that point, where Sky sat on the front and made the race very stale.

The other thing I would do away with. Prologues.....If you HAVE to have a time trail to begin a stage race. Make it a medium length TEAM time trial. Maybe around 40km.

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8699 posts]
18th June 2014 - 0:45

like this
Like (14)

I agree with Gkam for once, and so does Sean Kelly, who suggested during Eurosport's TdF commentary a couple of years ago that they should shorten the stages to liven it up. I've pretty much given up on watching stage races because it's just as Gkam says, every day the same. I might as well just watch the last fifteen minutes of the highlights and skip the loanshark adverts. The exceptions to the rule are much too few and far between.

493rd in GC Fantasy TdF 2014

posted by Sanderville [203 posts]
18th June 2014 - 0:48

like this
Like (8)

Sanderville wrote:
I agree with Gkam for once, and so does Sean Kelly, who suggested during Eurosport's TdF commentary a couple of years ago that they should shorten the stages to liven it up.

This is why I find women's racing so often makes for better viewing.* The shorter stage lengths make for way more tactical options to win a race.

I moan about this often, the current stage lengths are really a hangover from when the races were setup by newspapers in the early 20th century to sell print, not TV. A story of an epic 400 mile stage, such as it often was back then, made for great reading. Of course, how much of what they published was a true account is probably open to debate.

*even when Vos still wins everything!

posted by giobox [241 posts]
18th June 2014 - 6:53

like this
Like (9)

One thing that I find a touch tedious is the tactical riding but with big teams that's going to happen. The British Tour series where a team wins so has to get its riders to the front, not just one man, is good to watch in that respect.
Possibly bigger bonuses for stage positions might get overall contenders pushing harder. the thought of missing out on 5 minutes of bonus for not being in the top 10 over then line would get them moving. I for one bemoan the shortness of races. Agreed sprinting is fun to watch but so is discovering who has the long term strength. I guess modern logistics and laws would prevent full a days riding rather than a third of the available day light. There is not argument that the riders couldn't race that far. Of course they can. They do 150 miles in a third of the time I do so doubling or tripling that should be on. After all it was perfectly possible an hundred years ago.
It won't happen of course but it would be fun to watch. Bit like the Dakar rally I suppose.

posted by mattsccm [245 posts]
18th June 2014 - 7:42

like this
Like (11)

Yeah, we need some excitement in road cycling-bring back the drugs!
Wink

Only kidding.

bobinski

posted by bobinski [107 posts]
18th June 2014 - 9:12

like this
Like (6)

Otis Bragg wrote:
Gkam84 wrote:
The borefest that has become mens cycling this year and to some extend last is just dragging the sport down.

It seems like a lot of the riders are just going through the motions and turning up, doing a race and getting paid. There seems to be a lack of excitement in the peleton.

Sorry Gkam but did you actually see the last stage of the Dauphine on Sunday? I would hardly call that a borefest- even my wife, who only really watches tennis, was enthralled at the end of it. There is still plenty of great racing out there.


To say nothing of >loads< of the Giro stages!

I'm really surprised Belkin think they aren't getting value. Vanmarcke and Kelderman have been two of the riders to watch IMO.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [765 posts]
18th June 2014 - 9:20

like this
Like (6)

Some of the Giro stages were fantastic!

posted by anarchy [53 posts]
18th June 2014 - 10:02

like this
Like (7)

Gkam84 wrote:
I kinda knew Belkin weren't in it for the long haul.

The borefest that has become mens cycling this year and to some extend [sic] last is just dragging the sport down.

How did you know?

Point has already been made about the Dauphine. Sky weren't as dominant as you seem to recall - lots of pulling with not so much to show for it. There were plenty of other exciting races this year as well, including the best Roubaix for a long time.

The Belkin green and the Bianchi celeste never worked together. I guess Belkin's withdrawal will solve that problem.

posted by surly_by_name [138 posts]
18th June 2014 - 10:09

like this
Like (5)

Hmm, I'm torn on this. Personally, I think a big part of the appeal of the sport to me is pushing riders to physical limits, and long stages are part of this. Knowing they are doing what they are doing with 1000s of kms in the legs is part of the drama and suffering of the sport. If anything, I'd like to see a return to the even longer stages of the 60s - 80s.

It's a bit like cricket - the drama isn't in the cut and dash like football, or rugby, its an excitement which builds through the entire race, up to a nail-biting sprint, or grueling climb.

I'd like to see less team radios maybe - I think that could liven things up.

posted by 7thGalaxy [42 posts]
18th June 2014 - 10:53

like this
Like (8)

+1 about getting rid of race radios.

posted by fennesz [82 posts]
18th June 2014 - 10:59

like this
Like (5)

Gkam84 wrote:

Lets shorten up some of the racing. Not till it is Crit style, but cut it back at bit. Have it fast paced from the off. Not this, lets just roll through the first 60-70 miles, let a break go up the road and then control it. Reel it back in with 10km to go and then hammer it for the last 3....BORING.

Um, that's not the most accurate account of how professional bike racing is run I have ever heard... Truth is, much of the action takes place in the opening hour or so of a race, which we never see as its not televised.

I kind of agree with your other sentiments... it is a professional sport, and with so many races now televised, you get to see the professional side... which is, that you can't race full tits for 100 days a year... have a go, if its not your day, back it off.

That's professional sport. It's no different in Rugby, Football, whatever, the reality is, whilst we the fans are looking for spectacle and drama, competitors are looking to achieve what they need to achieve with the least amount of effort or risk.

posted by Jimmy Ray Will [223 posts]
18th June 2014 - 11:05

like this
Like (9)

Rabobank still paid a hefty sum this year, so Belkin got a huge discount. Now that they have to pay all of the costs, they pull out right away and won't even cover one full year themselves. Very selfish.

However, the doping talk in the Netherlands has mostly died down, so perhaps a big Dutch sponsor is willing to go for it. AkzoNobel, DSM, ASML, TNT, Ahold, Shell, TomTom, etc, etc. So many big businesses that can easily afford it.

posted by Aapje [165 posts]
18th June 2014 - 13:11

like this
Like (3)

I was holding this one back, because I didn't want to be the sole voice and look like I was the only one who had a problem with what is happening in the mens racing.

I'd like to see teams cut back for the bigger races. None of the 9 man teams, get it back to 6/7, get a few more teams in the race to make up the field to a full amount.

That way, one team would struggle to dominate any race by sitting on the front the whole time. Each team would really have to send their strongest guys there, not like at the moment, where they put out a team, so that they can have riders who control the pace for most of the stage, then let the guys who are in form/GC places take over.

So shorter stages, most teams with less riders and lets liven up the sport a bit for the next generation of viewing public. At the end of the day, without the fans going to or watching on TV. The sport of professional cycling wouldn't last long.

Without air time, the sponsors aren't going to hang about, where is the money going to come from?

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8699 posts]
18th June 2014 - 15:11

like this
Like (3)

And if there are no sponsors, who would Gkam try and mither for free stuff?

posted by farrell [1331 posts]
18th June 2014 - 15:30

like this
Like (5)

farrell wrote:
And if there are no sponsors, who would Gkam try and mither for free stuff?

You what??

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8699 posts]
18th June 2014 - 15:48

like this
Like (3)

Gkam84 wrote:
I'd like to see teams cut back for the bigger races. None of the 9 man teams, get it back to 6/7, get a few more teams in the race to make up the field to a full amount.
Great idea! Why don't you start an online petition to see if your ideas get noticed? Maybe you could start a Twitter campaign, too...

posted by monica [24 posts]
18th June 2014 - 16:36

like this
Like (3)

I really don't agree with cutting the size of teams down to 6/7. Maybe down to 8 as opposed to 9, but if you only 6 riders per team you're really forcing a team to either focus on sprinters or GC, perhaps with a time triallist thrown in who can give a leadout/do the first pull up the mountain. So on any given day only half of the teams are interested. On a mountain stage, the grupetto might as well form as soon as the stage starts, because half the teams are getting dropped and the organiser won't dare exclude them. At the end of a sprint stage, half a dozen teams are fighting to be at the front because they have nothing else to be in the race for: add a narrow road and it's crash time, every day.

And if you only have 12 WT teams with half a dozen riders and then fill the peloton with lower-level teams, you've got that frantic environment filled with less experienced riders (of racing, and of each other). It'd kill the sport stone dead.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [765 posts]
18th June 2014 - 16:44

like this
Like (2)

Enough of these high-tech/media corporations - it's time to bring back the sausage manufacturer, I say! I want to see a sprint finish between Molteni and Walls

dafyddp's picture

posted by dafyddp [143 posts]
18th June 2014 - 16:52

like this
Like (3)

The racing is just fine as it is. What we probably need to do is convey it better to the public.

I know the Pearl Izumi Tour Series is built for TV, and whilst they still struggle to present a clear message all of the time, it does alright really.

I think half the battle is hours and hours of live coverage, when a one hour highlights programme would be far more appealing. However, you can sell a lot more ads over a 2-3 hour period than an hour, so we are left with some pretty boring coverage.

Making the races shorter, the teams smaller won't change the racing. A shorter race just gets raced harder, and all that happens is there is less attacking as everyone wants to/thinks they can have a go and the speed neutralises things... smaller teams mean an unpredictable race, which can easily be overcome by the teams by letting a big group of say 10-15 riders go off up the road on day one, get 20 mins, and suddenly the race is a load more controlled again.

posted by Jimmy Ray Will [223 posts]
18th June 2014 - 17:15

like this
Like (2)