When Sep Vanmarcke woke up this morning his only thoughts were about today's fourth stage of the Tour de Suisse. However, that all changed for the Belkin rider and his teammates when they found out that their title sponsor would be pulling out at the end of the year.
"We were really surprised. We heard it this morning. Everybody in the team got a text from Richard. I think everybody is surprised," Vanmarcke told Cyclingnews.
"Everything was looking good for the future. The sponsor Belkin was really happy. They had good talks and they were close to a contract in California, but things went differently."
Vanmarcke is currently riding in support of his teammate Bauke Mollema, who currently lies in fourth overall at the Tour de Suisse. The 25-year-old Belgian says that the news will have little effect on how he races.
"Maybe I will have a little less focus today but, for the next races, I will focus on the races and that is still my job," he explained.
Belkin's decision to use an option in its contract and end its sponsorship this year marks the second time that Vanmarcke's future has been thrown into uncertainty with the Dutch-based team. He signed for them at the end of 2012, days before title sponsor Rabobank pulled the plug. Rabobank gave the team a lifeline by continuing to fund them for a further year and the team began 2013 as Blanco. Belkin inked a two and a half year deal prior to last year's Tour de France, shoring up the team's immediate future. However, this latest news leaves him in the dark about his future once again.
"I don't know where it is leading now. I'm also really confused, like the others, I don't know if it will be worthless at the end of the year or maybe the team can go on," said Vanmarcke. "I hope they find a new sponsor really quickly and we can look at the future."
Vanmarcke went from strength to strength with the Dutch team, finishing second at last year's Paris-Roubaix and third at this year's Tour of Flanders. The team was keen to keep the Belgian, extending his contract for another two seasons – until 2016. His teammates Mollema and Moreno Hofland had also extended their contracts.
While his agent has already indicated that he won't wait around too long to see if the team can secure a new sponsor, Vanmarcke would obviously like to stay put.
"I am happy in the team for sure and I hope that the team can still be alive next year and that we can go on, but we have to look at the first weeks, what is happening and if there will be a team. We can only hope," he told Cyclingnews.
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