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VAJONT, Italy (VN) — Locked in a battle for the overall podium at the Giro d’Italia, Robert Gesink welcomed the news on Wednesday that American company Belkin could take over sponsorship of his Blanco team. After finishing the Giro’s 11th leg today, he explained that he hoped his performance was helping the Dutch team’s future.
“I’ve heard stories today, I don’t know if those are right. An American sponsor? That’d be nice, but I haven’t heard from the team what’s going to happen,” Gesink said. “I hope my presence here is helping the team. I’ll do anything, but I don’t know what the rumors mean. I hope they are true.”
The consumer electronics manufacturer may help close a bad chapter for Blanco.
When the Lance Armstrong scandal hit full speed over the winter, and reached into the team’s past, Rabobank pulled the plug and ended its 17-year run. The Dutch bank, the longest-tenured title sponsor at the sport’s top level, gave enough money for the team to continue this year, racing simply as Blanco, and continued supporting its women’s team, captained by Olympic champion Marianne Vos.
Belkin launched in California in 1983 and grew beyond U.S. borders. Today, the brand markets routers, mobile phone accessories, fiber optics cables, and other technology devices. Its European headquarters is near Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. When contacted on Wednesday, a representative in the company’s London office told VeloNews, “We are interested, but there’s no agreement. However, it’d be a good investment to show the world what we do.”
The team told VeloNews that it would not comment on ongoing negotiations and that there would not be any announcement this week.
The possible good news comes at a time when Dutch cycling is on its knees. Several investigations and confessions have hurt teams’ sponsorship search.
Earlier today, Vacansoleil confirmed its plans to leave at year-end, after five years in the sport, saying it had achieved the marketing objectives it set when it entered cycling. The team is also losing secondary sponsor, DCM. With Blanco and Vacansoleil each searcing for major backing, only one of three Dutch ProTeams, Argos-Shimano, is certain to continue into 2014.
Gesink races on for Blanco at the Giro
Gesink continues racing for a Giro podium place despite sponsorship woes at home. After several years spent aiming for the Vuelta a España or the Tour de France, he decided to try the Italian grand tour in 2013.
“In Holland, they’ve always told me to go for a podium in the Tour, and I said that I first just wanted to try to get on the podium in the Giro or the Vuelta because I think the Tour is a bit harder than those two,” he said. “I’m here to try to get on the podium, of course, like you always try when you start a grand tour. We’ll see in the end if that’s possible.”
Gesink suffered on Tuesday and lost 57 seconds to race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). He now sits fifth overall, 2:12 down on GC. From Vajont this afternoon, he could see the surrounding Dolomites Mountains where the race will be finalized in just over a week’s time.
“Is a win within reach for this Giro?” he said. “I have to make up two minutes, but you never know because no one expected Ryder Hesjedal last year.”
Gesink’s attitude is just what Blanco needs as it tries to secure its future.