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Team Belkin boss Richard Plugge has told Cyclingnews that he and his backroom staff have already started the search for a sponsor after it was announced on Tuesday that Belkin would end their title sponsorship at the end of the current season.
Belkin came into the sport in June of 2013 and signed a two and a half year contract to sponsor what was then known as Team Blanco. However the Belkin contract stipulated that both the team and the sponsor could end their association at the end of 2014 and Belkin exercised that right less than a year after coming into the sport.
“We found out last Wednesday and that was the first moment when I realised that it wasn’t going in the right direction,” Plugge told Cyclingnews.
Plugge ranks the current team as a top eight squad in the world but would not confirm the sum needed to run the team into 2015. What he would confirm was that Belkin would meet their financial obligations until the end of this season, leaving Plugge with the possibitly – although not his favoured one – of cutting budgets for 2014 and running the team into 2015 on a smaller sum.
“That’s possible but it depends on how I manage the finances. Belkin is not paying anything next year but things depend on my spending for this year. That option could be a possibility but it’s not something that we’d wish to do. It’s possible though. We would rather have a new sponsor though so we can move on for a couple of years.”
Plugge is of course no stranger to sponsorship searches. He took over the reigns when Rabobank terminated their long association with the sport at the end of 2012. Plugge rebranded the squad as Team Blanco and retained the majority of the rider pool before Belkin stepped in. It was a successful period for the team during a stage of uncertainty in the sport as Plugge secured an international brand while Vacansoleil and Euskaltel both disappeared.
That experience could be vital for Plugge who is arguably facing a tougher challenge this time with riders certain to want to finalise their futures by the end of the Tour de France.
"I know the ways in companies, how they make decisions and how they work. That was a good lesson that I learnt last year,” he told Cyclingnews.
Plugge has already begun his search and reached out to a number of companies that expressed interest in sponsorship last year.
“Finding a sponsor, it’s possible. We were always looking for sub sponsors in order to grow as a team. I’ve had a lot of contact since we were Blanco, when we had talks with a number of companies who were just not able to sign before the start of last year’s Tour de France because it came too early. However they were still interested and we kept those contacts. We’re in talks with them still and like I said on Dutch television, we’re not making our first telephone calls to potential sponsors, we’re already in round four or five in some cases.”
And for now, riders on the squad appear willing to give their team boss the one commodity he needs most, time.
“The riders are really happy with the team, the philosophy and with Belkin we were able to show what we can do and what our way of working was like. A lot of riders on the team have already expressed a wish to stay with us and they’re going to give us time. Of course they’ll go another way if things take too long but the sentiment is that they’d like to stay together.”
“We sold ourselves as a Dutch team with an international impact and I think we’re even bigger now. We have a strong Dutch core but the impact we can give a sponsor is international. We’re a good prospect for Dutch and international companies.”