Just days before the 99th edition of the Tour de France gets under way in Liege, two UCI WorldTour teams have announced new co-sponsors – and that means a change of name for the outfits that will now be known as Garmin-Sharp and the slightly less snappy Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank.
In each case, it isn’t the new sponsors’ first involvement with cycling; Tinkoff Credit Systems sponsored an Italy-based UCI Pro Continental team in 2007 and 2008, its licence subsequently being taken on by Katusha, while the Japanese consumer electronics giant Sharp is a co-sponsor of GB-based Rapha-Condor-Sharp and is also a sponsor of the Tour of Britain.
Announcing its new sponsor today, Garmin-Sharp team owner Slipstream Sports confirmed that Barracuda, which has co-sponsored the team since the start of this season, would continue to provide its backing – indeed, the full name of the team is Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda, UCI rules only permitting WorldTour teams to have two title sponsors, hence the abbreviated version.
“In the year Sharp celebrates 100 years of creating unique technologies and products that bring genuine benefit to society, we are delighted to become Technology Partner to the most exciting team in one of the world’s most beautiful sports, which perfectly showcases the convergence of technological and human achievement,” commented Paul Molyneux, CEO of Sharp Europe – himsefl a pretty keen cyclist, who took part in the Race Across America in 2010 for the Sharp4Prostate team.
“Sharp has a strong focus on developing its brand presence globally, and this offers us the opportunity to put ourselves in front of a significant, new, world-wide audience,” he continued.
Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters added: “Sharp shares our passion and commitment to the best innovations in technology. We are incredibly excited to partner with them to together develop technologies that will help our riders do what they do every day, even better.”
Garmin-Sharp confirmed that it will unveil its new kit, which continues to be supplied by Castelli, on Thursday, but over in Denmark, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank has already presented the blue and yellow number its riders will be wearing, with the rather startled looking eagle that appeared to be poking its head out from beneath the shorts now dropped from the jersey.
Commenting on the new sponsorship from the Russian online bank, as well as Saxo Bank extending its backing to the end of next season, team owner and manager Bjarne Riis said: “This is indeed a great day and a proud moment for our cycling team, and I believe we now have a very strong setup for the future development of Riis Cycling and our team.
"To continue with Saxo Bank as a main sponsor shows in words and action that together we have been able to build an extremely strong partnership based on the obvious benefits for both of us over the past five years.
“Today, to also be able to announce and warmly welcome Tinkoff Bank on board makes me even more proud. I'm honoured to partner with two such highly professional and dedicated companies, who share a great passion for cycling, but also see commercial benefits in sponsoring our team."
While Riis appears to have the team’s medium-term future secured at least from a sponsorship perspective, it is still desperately in need of UCI points, and was recently reported to be considering a merger with Liquigas-Cannondale at the end of the season when the Italian team’s own sponsor ceases its involvement. That would bring riders such as Ivan Basso, together with their ranking points, to the Denmark-based team.
Riis has already re-signed Alberto Contador on a contract running through to the end of 2015 once the Spaniard’s ban expires in August.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.