Don't expect sponsor before Amstel Gold Race, says Plugge
Blanco Pro Cycling Team formally unveiled its new colours to the world with a presentation in Fuerteventura on Thursday evening. After 17 long years in the peloton, the familiar Dutch orange of Rabobank is no more, replaced instead by the navy, white and blue of a team in search of a new title sponsor.
Like Highroad in 2008, Blanco has sufficient funding from its departed sponsor to see it through the coming campaign but must find a new backer before the end of 2013 in order to continue in the sport.
New team director Richard Plugge – his appointment was announced only on Thursday morning – said that a number of potential sponsors had expressed interest, but he told reporters that there would not be any concrete news until the end of the spring at the earliest.
“Don’t expect a sponsor before Amstel Gold Race but there is a lot of interest in this new project,” Plugge said.
The short presentation began with a brief promotional video bearing the tagline of “New team, fresh start, blank canvas.” While new arrivals such as Sep Vanmarcke and Jack Bobridge were on hand in Fuerteventura, the biggest changes in personnel come on the management staff.
After a year as communications director, Richard Plugge makes the step up to overall team director. Plugge paid tribute to the work of his predecessor Harald Knebel, who was himself installed to oversee a reformation of the team in the wake of the Michael Rasmussen affair of 2007, but he expressed the wish that the new Blanco name would be more than a superficial makeover.
“It’s a new vibe, a different atmosphere and a new way of working,” Plugge said, explaining that the team’s moniker came about by chance. “It’s a blank canvas, a new sheet of paper. In fact, the word ‘blanco’ came up so often in the last few weeks that we thought, ‘why not?’”
Merijn Zeeman arrives at the squad as head of coaching after a successful spell in a similar role at Argos-Shimano, and the Dutchman is hopeful that he can contribute to a change in culture at the team.
“In cycling culture, you turn pro, ride for 15 years and then become a coach, but that’s something we want to change,” Zeeman said. “Coaching is not only about training riders, it’s also about developing our own coaches, so we will have coaching training with the Cruyff Institute in Amsterdam.”
Out on the road, the big innovation comes in the race programme of team leader Robert Gesink, who will ride the Giro d’Italia for the first time in his career. The 26-year-old will be flanked by Steven Kruijskwijk and the young talent Wilco Kelderman in Italy.
“We’re going there with a strong team and we’ll have some younger riders like Wilco there too,” said Gesink, who will co-lead at the Tour de France with Bauke Mollema.
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