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Vacansoleil taking positives out of California as uncertainty continues

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Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) on the front of the break.

Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) on the front of the break. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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Andy Schleck (Radioshack) along with Chad Bayer (Champion Systems) and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) fight to hold onto the lead.

Andy Schleck (Radioshack) along with Chad Bayer (Champion Systems) and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) fight to hold onto the lead. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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Lieuwe Westra (Vaconsoleil-DCM) gets a flat on the descent.

Lieuwe Westra (Vaconsoleil-DCM) gets a flat on the descent. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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Janier Acevedo (Jamis-Hagens Berman) and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) waiting for the race start.

Janier Acevedo (Jamis-Hagens Berman) and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) waiting for the race start. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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Lieuwe Westra (Vaconsoleil-DCM) starts the day in yellow.

Lieuwe Westra (Vaconsoleil-DCM) starts the day in yellow. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)

Vacansoleil-DCM performance director Aart Vierhouten told Cyclingnews Tuesday that the team is still uncertain about the European campground chain's plans for sponsorship next year, but he hopes his squad's performance so far at the Amgen Tour of California will help convince the current title sponsor to stay on board.

"The sponsorship itself, in one half month they should say yes or no," Vierhouten said before the stage 3 start in Palmdale. "Now it's still nothing, but I think the point was more that they said for themselves, 'We stop,' and now they have some doubts about stopping completely."

The Dutch team was founded in 2009, first in the Professional Continental ranks before joining the UCI WorldTour in 2011. The team's three-year WorldTour license coincides with its two sponsors' three-year contracts, which expire this year.

DCM, a Belgian fertilizer company, confirmed earlier this week that it would not extend its deal with the team. Vierhouten said Vacansoleil would like to move into the secondary-sponsor role and leave the title sponsorship to someone else.

"What we know is that they don't want to be the big sponsor," Vierhouten said. "And maybe now they are discussing in the company if they will go further as a side sponsor of the team. So a step back, but not leaving the team. But we still don't know exactly what's concrete."

The team grabbed headlines on stage 1 when Lieuwe Westra sneaked off the front with Francisco Mancebo (5-hour Energy/Kenda) and stole a stage win from the sprinters. Westra wore yellow through stage 2 but surrendered the lead to Jamis-Hagens Berman's Janier Acevedo after losing nearly 10 minutes on the final Tramway climb outside of Palm Springs.

But Westra was back in the spotlight again during Tuesday's stage 3 after making his way into a lengthy four-rider breakaway with Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard), Chad Beyer (Champion System) and Gavin Mannion (Bontrager). Westra, too, said he hopes the performances will help the team secure a title sponsor for next year.

"It was good the first day that we won for the team," he said. "But we will see how next year is. I think it's going good."

The team's main hopes for the General Classification suffered a blow when Thomas De Gendt, who finished third last year at the Giro d'Italia, lost 18 minutes on the first day. With Westra's time loss during stage 2, winning the overall battle is no longer a goal for the team. Despite currently leading the points competition, Westra said hanging onto the green jersey is also not the team's goal. He wants to win another stage, and Vierhouten agreed.

"The jersey is fine, of course, it's always good to have some extra publicity for himself and the team," Vierhouten said. "But stages are much more what's on his mind - and with the time trial coming up. So I think in his mind he's pretty confident to have another go at success."

With WorldTour sprint specialists Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) and Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) in the field, Westra will likely have to win from a breakaway like the one he helped power during stage 3. Although that effort was ultimately unsuccessful, Westra will no doubt try and be out there again.

"I'll try and see how the race is going and try to make a good result one of these days," he said.

Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon.