Rabobank, one of the longest standing team sponsors in cycling, has announced that it will cease sponsorship of its men's and women's professional teams from 31 December. The decision to withdraw backing is due to the bank's belief that it is impossible for cycling to become a "clean and fair" sport in te wake of the US Postal scandal. The announcement coming as the UCI licensing process for next season draws to a close. Reports are that the team will not be granted a WordTour licence, but it hopes to continue racing in 2013, without a sponsor, which would mean it would have to drop down to Professional Continental level assuming it obtains the relevant licence.
Founded in 1984 as Kwantum, the team, which Rabobank began sponsoring in 1997, has participated in every edition of the Tour de France since then. Earlier this year, a Dutch newpaper claimed that the team had condoned doping from 1996 to 2007, the latter being the year in which it sacked rider Michael Rasmussen while the Dane was leading the Tour de France after it emerged he had lied about his whereabouts for drug testing purposes.
Yesterday the UCI announced that it was starting disciplinary proceedings againt Rabobank rider Carlos Barreda for "apparent violation of the Anti-Doping Rules on the basis of the information provided by the blood profile in his biological passport."
In a statement realeased this morning, Bert Bruggink, a member of the bank's managing board, said: “It is with pain in our heart, but for the bank this is an inevitable decision. 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"
The Dutch bank said that it would continue to sponsor the amateur side of the sport, including cyclocross and youth cycling.
Bruggink continued: “Cycling is a beautiful sport, which millions of Dutch people enjoy and a large number of those Dutch people are clients of Rabobank. But our decision stands: we are pulling out of professional cycling. It is painful. Not just for Rabobank, but especially for the enthusiasts and the cyclists who are not to blame in this.”
Founded in 1984 as Kwantum, the team, which Rabobank began sponsoring in 1997, has participated in every edition of the Tour de France since then.
In a statement, the team said: "The Rabobank cycling team regrets Rabobank’s decision to stop its sponsorship of the men’s professional cycling team. The team was informed about the reasons and understands the decision. We’ve been cycling for 17 years now with the name Rabobank proudly on our shirts and it hurts that going forward we’ll have to do without that name.
"The cycling team is very grateful to Rabobank for the 17 years of loyal sponsorship. The sport of cycling should be grateful to Rabobank for all the efforts it has made in the past years to put Dutch cycling on the map successfully. Through Rabobank, many talents have had the chance to reach their potential.
"We are confident that Rabobank will take good care of the cyclists and staff members of Rabobank Wielerploegen BV in the finalisation of this matter."
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.