Following on the news that Evelyn Stevens and Chantal Blaak will move to the Boels-Dolmans squad in 2015, bicycle maker Specialized and clothing partner lululemon have announced they will shift their support from title sponsorship of the existing team under Velocio Sports to a technical partner role for Boels-Dolmans. Specialized was already an equipment partner with the Dutch team this year.
The team will also include Ellen van Dijk, Lizzy Armitstead, Megan Guarnier, Christine Majerus, Romy Kasper, Katarzyna Pawlowska, and Demi de Jong, all of whom are currently part of the team, and they are also negotiating with one more top rider.
Boels, an industrial machine rental service and Dolmans, a landscaping group, became co-title sponsors of the women's team in 2012, but stepped up their game significantly in 2013, adding top riders Armitstead and Adrie Visser to the programme. In 2014, world time trial champion Van Dijk moved across, and with former Rabo-Liv rider Guarnier for support, she and Armitstead each racked up World Cup victories and the team succeeded in delivering Armitstead to the overall World Cup victory.
Boels and Dolmans will also support women's cycling by sponsoring events such as the Ronde van Drethe and Flèche Wallonne World Cups, and the Boels Rental Hills Classic and Boels Rental Ladies Tour, and are in talks to support La Course by Tour de France.
With the addition of Stevens and Blaak, the team will become the new dominant force in the team time trial, taking over from Specialized-lululemon, which won three straight world championship titles.
Specialized's product manager for the women's division Erin Sprague explained the shift from Velocio to Boels-Dolmans to Cyclingnews, saying, "We are proud of what we have done with the Specialized-lululemon team. When we began our work with them, women's cycling was like a start-up company. Now we're in a growth stage, and in order to elevate the program, we need strong partners like Boels and Dolmans. We were impressed with what they've done for women's cycling.
"[Velocio Sports manager] Kristy Scrymgeour will be moving forward with her team, and we are confident she will find sponsorship to support her programme."
Velocio will continue and aim to repeat as TTT world champions
Cyclingnews spoke with Velocio Sports owner Kristy Scrymgeour, who confirmed that the team will continue with its core group of riders and staff in 2015. She had been aware that Lululemon was intending to step back from a sponsorship role, and that Specialized was looking at being only technical sponsors of a team with a strong title sponsor, but she was unable to sign a title sponsor quickly enough to keep them as partners.
Earlier this summer, she launched Project X, with the aim of crowd-sourcing their budget, and will be combining those funds with a new sponsor for the coming year.
"It hasn't been easy, but in women's cycling we're used to these kinds of challenges," Scrymgeour said. "Persistence is the way forward. Women's cycling is at a stage where there is a lot of positive growth, and great things are starting to happen. Even though sponsorship is still difficult, there is hope now that in the future years it will be easier, now that more races are on live streaming or television."
The team's world championship performance on Sunday was bittersweet for Scrymgeour, especially considering the difficult build-up they had between the impending transfers and a crash that took down three of the riders in the days leading up to the race.
"We had Evie in the hospital thinking she had broken her collarbone, and we weren't sure if we could stay focussed. But we have great staff, and they kept the riders on track. It was an amazing day yesterday, and it was a beautiful win."
Even though Stevens will not be back for 2015, Scrymgeour remains confident that they can still aim for another world title. "We've loved working with Evie. We hired her from the amateur ranks and she's been with us ever since. When an opportunity comes in women's cycling to make a good salary, you have to take it.
"It's just like this year, when we lost Ellen [van Dijk - to Boels Dolmans] - we have to believe we can win again. Now we have to compete against them, but as long as we stay strong and focussed, I believe we will be able to."
Scrymgeour will announce her team's roster and partners in the near future, but could confirm that Specialized will not be the technical partner.