Rabobank Development Team to fold after 2016 as Dutch bank ends sponsorship

The Rabobank Development Team is set to fold at the end of next year, prompting doubts about the future of the elite women’s team, Rabo Liv.

According to De Telegraaf, Marcel Wintels, chairman of the Dutch cycling federation (KNWU), has told the federation’s Congress that the Dutch bank will not continue to back the youth squad once the current sponsorship agreement comes to an end at the end of 2016. The squad is based at the KNWU and aims to rear Dutch talent, and the federation will now have to search for funding if such a set-up is to exist in the future.

Cyclingnews has contacted Rabobank, who have not yet responded with a reason for their withdrawal. The bank also sponsors the KNWU directly and has not yet indicated whether it will renew that deal beyond 2016. 

Rabobank had previously sponsored an elite men’s team for 17 years – the team currently known as LottoNL-Jumbo, and previously Belkin – but withdrew at the end of 2012. The catalyst for this was the USADA report and the uncovering of widespread and organised doping at the team.

This latest news marks a continuation of the bank’s withdrawal from the world of cycling sponsorship, and as such throws a shadow of doubt over the future of the Rabo Liv team, one of the oldest outfits in the women's peloton. Despite initially announcing it would pull out when it abandoned the men's team, Rabobank has sponsored the team since 2012, and has an agreement in place through to the end of 2016.

The team, home to the most successful rider of recent years in Marianne Vos, has enjoyed a highly successful 2015 season, topping the UCI team rankings, with Giro Rosa winner Anna van der Breggen the top-ranked individual rider. That said, De Telegraaf notes that Rabobank have barely run any advertising or marketing campaigns around cycling, particularly the women's team, in the last couple of years. 

It is unclear at this stage whether the backing will be extended beyond that or whether 2017 will mark a new chapter in which Rabobank has cut all its ties with professional cycling.

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