Europcar has announced that it is extending its sponsorship deal with the team managed by Jean-René Bernaudeau to the end of 2015, putting to an end to speculation that the vehicle rental company was planning to end its link with cycling at the end of this season.
Speaking at the French team's Tour de France rest day press conference, Europcar's group sales manager, Marcus Bernhardt, said, "We are very proud to continue this great adventure and we have no doubts that the sponsorship will continue to give us complete satisfaction."
Europcar took over as the principal sponsor of Bernaudeau's team in 2010 following the departure of Bouygues Telecom. In the subsequent period, the team has enjoyed what has undoubtedly been the most successful period in its long history, particularly at the Tour de France, where co-leaders Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland have both been among the principal actors over the past three editions.
Europcar has indicated that it wants the team to have greater visibility internationally, which is likely to result in a push towards securing a step up from Professional Continental to WorldTour status. According to L'Équipe, Bernaudeau's sponsor would like to see the team competing in next year's Vuelta a España.
Bernaudeau acknowledged that he is looking at bringing in new faces, but affirmed, "We won't be walking into hotels [at the Tour] with a cheque book. We are not going to buy [WorldTour] points." He said the finance for these new signings is set to come from new sponsors, whose identities will be revealed "before the end of the week". Bernaudeau added, "The project will be extremely innovative."
According to Bernaudeau, the new deal should enable him to keep the big names on his roster, including Rolland, in whom Astana has expressed an interest. Asked about this reported approach, Rolland said, "Astana may perhaps be interested in me, but I don't know anything about that."