100 kilometres off the coast of Africa, the quiet island of Fuerteventura seems a lifetime away from the clamour of the professional cycling season, but it is here that Blanco Pro Cycling Team – formerly Rabobank – takes the first steps of its 2013 campaign.
The mounds of scorched earth that characterise the island are broken only by the occasional golf course and resort, but while the landscape scarcely inspires, the quiet roads and the climate – a pleasant 20 degrees Celsius in mid-December – make it a prime winter training location.
Blanco Pro Cycling has spent the past week at the Playtias resort on the south of the island. The camp follows a two-day survival course in the biting cold of the Netherlands last weekend, and with the team bonding session behind them, the squad was happy to begin work on the road under rather more amenable skies.
The squad began the week training in their Rabobank kit, but Thursday’s low-key team presentation marked the beginning of a new era, as Robert Gesink, Bauke Mollema, Mark Renshaw et al swapped the famous orange and blue for the black, white and blue of Blanco.
Newly-installed manager Richard Plugge is charged with overseeing operations but also with finding a new sponsor for the team to ensure its survival beyond 2013, when Rabobank’s parachute payments run out.
To that end, the squad has already announced that Robert Gesink will ride the Giro d’Italia in a bid to attract backers, but Plugge told the press on Thursday that there had already been considerable interest from potential sponsors.
There will be no changes to the name or the kit before Amstel Gold Race in April, however, and in the early part of the season, the hope is that the Blanco brand – “it’s a project, not a company,” notes Plugge – can become as recognised as Highroad did in similar circumstances in 2008.
For a full gallery of Gesink, Mollema and new signings Jack Bobridge and David Tanner in the new Blanco kit, click here.