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Unibet director reflects on loss of sponsor

Hilaire Vander Schueren

Hilaire Vander Schueren (Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)

By Brecht Decaluwé in Heist

It's been a few weeks now since Unibet announced that they would stop sponsoring their cycling team after its ProTour team was denied entry in many of the series events, including all three Grand Tours. Unibet's directeur sportif Hilaire Van Der Schueren was at the Eneco Tour, one of the team's final ProTour events in the green jerseys of its online gambling sponsor, and expressed mixed feelings on the sponsor's decision to quit. "It's sad they made the decision because with the recent developments it was possible to continue with a reduced budget."

Van Der Schueren pointed a finger in blame towards the UCI for selling an expensive ticket for events where the Swedish team wasn't allowed to race, but he didn't forget about the stubborn position from the Grand Tour organizers. "It's too bad that cycling has been troubling a sponsor that invests no less than €25,000,000 in the sport. I wonder if they realised that not only the riders but also 60 families are affected if the team can't continue."

Looking back on a troubled season, Van Der Schueren reflected on the constant uncertainty that afflicted the team throughout the year. "It was a difficult season where we never could make a schedule for the upcoming weeks. Constantly we had to adjust our program and keep ourselves busy with the troubles outside the racing itself. Maybe we will still find a new sponsor but Canyon can't do it on their own."

The 59 year-old has seen a lot in cycling but the way the season unfolded was completely unexpected for the Belgian. "At the beginning of the year I thought that we would be able to work for four years on a decent basis. I'm convinced that we have some of the best young riders in our team and I'm annoyed with the fact that we are probably also punished for that." But he told Cyclingnews that while he may be down, he's not out yet. "I'm a fighter and I will not let myself go down but I imagined things would've been different. I don't fear the future, I'm too young to retire just yet and if we can't find a sponsor for this team I might just do something myself," Van Der Schueren said.

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