Rabobank shocked the cycling world on Friday with the announcement that they were pulling the plug on professional cycling, withdrawing their sponsorship after 17 years in the sport. This leaves both the men’s teams and women’s team scrambling to find another title sponsor.
The decision comes after USADA’s damning report, which taints the careers and teams of numerous cyclists including former Rabobank cyclist, Levi Leipheimer.
Dutch media report that it was a painful yet inevitable decision for the bank as they feel unconvinced that the international professional cycling is able to provide a clean and fair sport.
This is incredibly sad news in particular for the U23 teams and the women’s team, which is one of the best in the world with star riders like Annemiek van Vleuten and World and Olympic champion, Marianne Vos.
Women’s cycling is widely believed to be less affceted by doping, and the loss of Rabobank’s sponsoring is a huge setback for the sport, which struggles to find sponsors as it is.
"Absurd day. The report that Rabobank stops its sponsorship hits me hard and raises a lot of questions. I, too, am waiting for news on further developments," tweeted Vos on Friday.
Vos stated that she understands Rabobank's decision as the bank has long made it clear that it would withdraw funding in case of doping.
"For a bank of course, it’s very important to be reliable and trustworthy," Vos said, while also expressing sadness that women's cycling, "the pure branch of cycling", suffers from this, too.
Rabobank has come out stating that they will honor its contracts and provide the men's as well as the women's teams with the means to continue next year under a “white label”. Additionally, Rabobank expressed interest in continuing to support Vos for the coming years, who’s been the figurehead of its women’s team.
“That is good news for me and I take comfort in that I can continue to bike,” Vos stated in a NOS news segment. Yet in a later interview with Job van der Zon for Omroep Brabant, Vos stated that if Rabobank wants to support her, they need to support an entire team. “I can’t be singled out.”
"Of course, I hope that our women's team can build up even further after this successful year with Rabobank. Pure sport, out of passion, that is what we show," she added on Twitter.