Rabobank Groep’s men’s pro cycling team will continue under the placeholder name of Blanco Pro as the Dutch lender ends its 17-year long sponsorship following the doping scandal involving Lance Armstrong.
Rabobank last month dropped its 15 million-euro ($19.6 million) of annual spending on its Tour de France team because it had lost confidence in pro cycling following a probe by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
The USADA report, which described widespread cheating, said American rider Levi Leipheimer doped when on the Rabobank team in 2003. Leipheimer is a former teammate of Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life for what USADA said in October was “serial cheating.” Armstrong, also of the U.S., has always denied doping.
Harold Knebel will step down as director of the men’s Rabobank Wielerploegen BV as of Dec. 31 and be replaced by the team’s communications manager Richard Plugge, the biggest Dutch mortgage lender said in an e-mailed statement today.
Bicycle brand Giant will remain as a subsponsor, Rabobank said.
“In 2013, we will see whether a new sponsor will step in so the team will be able to continue in 2014,” the bank said.
Its women’s team, which includes Olympic road-race champion Marianne Vos of the Netherlands, will continue as the Rabobank Liv/Giant team in a new four-year deal, the bank said today. The team will be placed in an independent foundation founded by Vos.
The lender had initially said last month it would withdraw its name from both its men’s and women’s pro teams on Dec. 31 and fund them for one more year through a foundation.
Rabobank board member Bert Bruggink told reporters last month that the bank was “no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport.” He added it had been a “painful” decision because it affects fans and cyclists who aren’t deserving of blame.