Will Team Belkin be at the start of the Tour de France? Both Team Blanco and the US firm have confirmed their discussions about sponsorship of the Dutch ProTour team.
Richard Plugge, Blanco team manager, confirmed to De Telegraaf that, as earlier reported, Belkin is currently at the head of the list. “Although we are still in serious talks with other companies,” he said.
"We have serious interest and indeed see the opportunities to increase our brand awareness through cycling and to show what the world we do. It is premature to say that there is an agreement,” a Belkin spokesman told De Telegraaf.
The company is expected to make its decision within 10 days. A quick decision is needed, not only to prepare the team materiel with the new sponsor's name and logo, but also to reassure the riders that the team will continue, and convince them to stay for next season, if not longer.
Personnel changes in 2014?
If Belkin does come on as sponsor, it may want American riders on the team, and Blanco has already started inquiring as to what Americans will be available in the coming year. “But we have also asked about Asian and European riders,” Plugge said.
However, he did confirm that a more international character would probably be more desirable to a non-Dutch sponsor, which means that a number of Dutch riders may have to look for a new team. This year's roster of 29 riders features 19 Dutch men.
At least two Dutch riders are said to have been contacted by other teams. Team Sky is said to be interested in Lars Boom and Orica-GreenEdge in Tom-Jelte Slagter.
Another question that arises is the role of former sponsor Rabobank. The bank had said that it would continue to pay the contracts of 18 riders, including Robert Gesink and Bauke Mollema, through the 2014 season. However, if the team has a new sponsor, it is not known whether the bank would continue its financial support. Plugge said, “Rabobank has indicated that they also want to help in 2014," which could indicate that there are no solid plans.