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Rabobank women's team director Koos Moerenhout confirmed Friday that all rider contracts would be honored through at least the 2013 season and his squad will be racing a full schedule next year, despite the bank's decision to pull out of the sport.
"At this point there are a lot of uncertainties, of course, but we have the guarantee that there will be the women's team as it is right now," Moerenhout told Cyclingnews. "So all the contracts will be respected and the team will be on the road for 2013."
The Dutch banking institution announced Thursday that it would end its 17-year cycling sponsorship in the wake of USADA's findings in the Lance Armstrong case. The decision will affect both the men's team and the women's team, which formed just last season. But Rabobank also said it would continue its financial support for the teams through 2013, although both teams will race without the bank's logos and will not figure in any marketing campaigns.
Moerenhout said the riders, staff and others involved with the team were disappointed upon hearing about the sponsor's decision but were thankful for the years of support, and they were buoyed by the fact that Rabobank was not going to "let the team fall apart."
"We are very hopeful," Moerenhout said. "Luckily things don't look as bad as it first looked. We are very motivated to make it a good year for next year again."
Plans for 2013
During its first year in the peloton last season, the Rabobank women's team earned the UCI number one ranking and featured world and Olympic champion Marianne Vos. Earlier this week the team announced it had signed US national road race champion Megan Guarnier to a one-year deal for the 2013 season. Moerenhout said that despite the recent news, his team doesn't plan on making any changes to its approach for next season, although some flexibility may be required.
"The preparation for 2013 will be the same as we what we were planning to do, but of course we have to deal with some challenges like clothing," Moerenhout said, noting that the team does not currently know what sponsors, if any, will adorn the team kit. "Everything has to be decided again. We've had a pretty structured schedule – you get your bike on time your clothing on time, everything was on time. So now we can expect some delays in that and some flexibility that we need to show."
He said team management is also still working out the 2013 program, which could include the UCI Exergy Tour in Idaho.
"We are very new in women's cycling, and we have to really dive into it, so that's what we are doing right now and what we will do in the upcoming months," he said. "At this point we are busy with deciding about the program, discussing with the riders what they want, where they want to go, what their goals are. So that will be our recent action for the upcoming period – to decide the program of the team."
Rabobank financial director Bert Bruggink told Cyclingnews on Thursday that although the men's team "has instructions to continue on its own as soon as possible," the future of the women's team around Vos has yet to be defined. "We want to completely support Marianne Vos' Olympic ambitions for 2016, but we have not yet worked out the details of that support. We are still looking for a solution," Bruggink said.
At the end of a long day that involved meetings with sponsors, staff and a few of the riders, Moerenhout appeared genuinely hopeful about the team's future through next season and possibly even beyond that.
"It's a big disappointment, but on the other hand, we look forward to good cycling in 2013," Moerenhout said. "There are a lot of uncertainties now, but also a lot of hope from what we've heard that the budget will be there for next year. Now we have to start thinking about the years after as well."