Team Sunweb have secured their long-term future, signing an unprecedented new agreement with title sponsor Sunweb that will see the holiday company back the team on an indefinite basis.
Sunweb signed up as lead title sponsor of the German-registered team from 2017, and when that contract expires at the end of the 2019 season, a new, unlimited rolling deal will come into force. If the two parties decide to terminate the agreement at any point, it would still run for two full years, plus the remainder of the year in which the release clause was triggered.
Tom Dumoulin extended his contract with the team until 2022 last summer after winning the 2017 Giro d'Italia. The team's current rosters include Michael Matthews, Wilco Kelderman, Coryn Rivera, Ellen van Dijk and Lucinda Brand.
"We keep shaping our future with our new Sunweb agreement and that's a big compliment to the team, which I am extremely proud of," said Team Sunweb CEO Iwan Spekenbrink.
"With this stability, our organizational focus can shift to many, many years into the future. It offers us the opportunity to not only think long-term but also to actually shape our future, ultimately becoming a durable elite cycling establishment for both men and women."
There is no shortage of evidence when it comes to the precarious nature of the business model that underpins professional cycling teams; Jonathan Vaughters' Slipstream Sports set-up came close to folding last year, while the BMC Racing team are currently looking for backing to keep the team afloat in 2019 and beyond.
Long-term sponsorship - and by extension long-term stability and planning - are an increasing rarity in the sport, and as such the Sunweb team's billed their new agreement as 'revolutionary'.
"We're extremely pleased with the extension of our partnership, which contributes hugely to our business goal of significant international growth in summer and winter holidays," said Tim Van den Bergh, Sunweb's CCO.
"Rather than being a temporary sponsor, Sunweb aims to build a strong legacy with the team and also as an investor in the sport, taking responsibility in the fields of youth development and anti-doping. The new agreement should not only be good for Sunweb and for the team, it should also be good for the sport of cycling and its future."
Overcoming loss of sponsorship, building for the future
The team were born in 2005, when they were known as Shimano Memory Corp and had a mix of Japanese, Dutch, and German riders, and have been under Spekebrink’s management since 2008.
Since then they’ve had their own share of sponsorship problems. For the first part of 2012 they had no title sponsor and raced as Project 1t4i until oil company Argos joined and the team became Argos Shimano. The team raced the Tour de France that year and went on to step up to WorldTour level in 2013.
More issues were around the corner, however, as Argos ended their sponsorship early, leaving Spekenbrink to find a new backer for 2014, which he thought he’d done until the company pulled out at the last minute. Fortunately, bike manufacturer Giant stepped up and later that year both Sunweb and shampoo brand Alpecin came on board for 2015. Alpecin moved their money over to the Katusha team - following former Giant-Alpecin rider Marcel Kittel - from 2017, and Sunweb stepped forward as sole title sponsor.
The team, which also comprises of a hugely successful women’s squad now competing under the same name, have been able to start thinking long-term, creating a development team last year and this year unveiling a team campus in Limburg as well as running an independent anti-doping testing programme.
“It has been our dream from the start in 2008 to grow the team, with its vulnerable economics, into a revolutionary, durable cycling establishment. Several building blocks have now come to fruition, one of which is our Keep Challenging Center for athlete development and team optimization,” said Spekenbrink after announcing the indefinite sponsorship.
“On top, we can concentrate on setting up new innovative projects that we are launching in the upcoming years and beyond, where we’re aiming to set new standards in biomechanics, aerodynamics and equipment. To have Sunweb so committed to that dream and our Keep Challenging vision, and so firm on our side whilst exploiting the partnership intelligently in terms of marketing and activation to grow their business, is the very best one could wish for.”
Sunweb’s announcement on Monday was accompanied by a video message from the UCI president, David Lappartient, who said this new agreement sets an example for the future of the sport.
“It is a great pleasure for to see the strong development of Team Sunweb,” he said.
“What is also very important for the UCI is that the team is taking care of the future of the athletes, specifically with the new campus, which will have the full support of a strong team behind them, and the athletes together to work for their future - not only their cycling future, but their future after cycling. The credibility of cycling is something very important for the UCI and for Team Sunweb, and I think the independent testing programme is a good way to be sure about the credibility among the team.
“Taking responsibility of all these elements is finally what cycling looks like for the future, and the UCI is happy to support this strong investment from Sunweb for the future.”