"One of the worst things that could happen"
Robert Gesink has said he is shocked after it was announced Rabobank were pulling out of sponsoring the men’s and women’s professional teams at the end of the season. The news comes in light of the damning USADA report into doping practices at the US Postal and Discovery teams in the late 1990s and 2000s.
Gesink, the team’s general classification rider, was informed of Rabobank’s intent hours before the news officially broke but told Cyclingnews that he was a state of shock.
“It feels like a smack in the face at this moment,” he told Cyclingnews.
“Of course there were a lot of bad things going on in cycling, everyone saw and it’s never a good thing to have a sponsor's name on something like that. Now this generation gets shit from a different generation from before who did wrong things. Now we’re losing one of the biggest sponsors in cycling ever. I don’t have any words for it but it’s one of the worst things that could happen.”
Rabobank has been a top-level sponsor since 1996 and are the sport’s longest serving title sponsor. They’ve have ridden through a number of storms before, notably Michael Rasmussen’s expulsion from the Tour in 2006, the Humanplasma case and the recent revelations that Levi Leipheimer admitted to doping while on the team.
However in recent years the team appeared to take a firmer line, cutting ties with riders associated to a murky past and positioning a themselves with a cleaner image. However on Thursday news broke that Carlos Barredo was under investigation by the UCI for a biological passport violation.
Gesink said he would now wait with the structure and management of the team expected to announce that they will attempt to continue next season but without a title sponsor.
“I’ll wait for a bit and then speak to people from the team and see what the next few days will bring but at the moment I’m still a bit shocked,” he told Cyclingnews.
“We’ve got a great team, a great structure and everything is working well with young talented guys. Stuff is coming out from ten years ago and we don’t even know half the guys who were riding then. It’s not really fair I guess.”
Asked who he blames or feels is responsible, Gesink said:
“I don’t think you can blame one person. This is something that happened a few years ago and it was a bad period for cycling. It’s all come out for the big world to see and I’m only disappointed now in the people that say they’re shocked about what went on and they’re calling themselves insiders. Everyone on the inside knew that things in cycling had to change, and they did. Now we’re working with young guys, doing it the right way and trying to get results in a clean way and doing it the way you should do it. This is the worst thing that could have happened at this moment. You cant’ blame us for things that happened in America or different teams ten years ago.
“I hope so. For myself I had a tough season but I think I’m back at my top level and I think I can have a good season next year. Hopefully we’ll have the same structure and team though.”