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It’s rare that sponsors come knocking on your door, but that’s what happened to Argos-Shimano after this year’s Tour de France.
The Dutch-based team was on a roll, winning four stages on the legs of star sprinter Marcel Kittel. Team management couldn’t think it could get any better than that. But it did when a new backer approached them.
“After the Tour, we were approached by a company that will allow us to continue for three more years,” Argos-Shimano general manager Iwan Spekenbrink told VeloNews. “That will allow us to keep building for the future.”
With an economic crisis sweeping across much of Europe and teams closing down in the peloton, including two UCI WorldTour teams in Vacansoleil-DCM and Euskaltel-Euskadi, securing sponsorship is a constant fight for survival for teams.
Spekenbrink knows how fortunate his team is. Strong sponsorship support is the backbone of any successful cycling franchise.
“Switching from one title sponsor to another, it’s a luxury issue,” he said. “We are happy we can do this. It’s a better [financial] commitment. It will give us more opportunity to do things even better than in the past.”
Spekenbrink would not reveal the name or nationality of the new title sponsor, only saying that it was an international company with a world vision for its sponsorship.
Argos, the Dutch-based oil company that stepped up last year as the team entered the WorldTour, will exit at the end of this season.
The new sponsor will be announced at a team presentation in Spain in early January. Shimano will remain as the team’s second sponsor.
“They looked at the sport for an international platform,” he continued. “They saw how the team performed at the Tour. They liked the philosophy of our team and how we do things. They liked it a lot.”
So much so, they’re committed to a three-year deal that will assure the team’s spot in the peloton through at least the 2016 season.
On Tuesday, the UCI revealed the first nine WorldTour teams for 2014, with Argos-Shimano among those waiting for final approval.
In Argos’ case, dealing with the paperwork and other administrative issues that go into transferring the team’s title sponsor was the reason for the delay.
The strong commitment will allow Spekenbrink to keep his two star sprinters, Kittel and John Degenkolb. Both are under contract through 2016.
Despite the arrival of new backers, Spekenbrink is not going on a spending spree to sign big-name veteran riders.
He insists the team will continue to nurture young talent and is investing its windfall into a U23 development squad for next season.
“Some of those young riders we develop will move up to the WorldTour team in the future,” he said. “The others who do not, they will still take a lot out of the experience of racing that will give them lessons for the rest of their lives.”
For 2014, Spekenbrink is sticking to the young-gun philosophy that so far has bore impressive fruit for the team.
The core of the team will remain around Kittel and Degenkolb, the two anchors in the sprints, hilly finales, and spring classics.
New arrivals for next season include Lawson Craddock and Chad Haga. Tom Peterson, who joined in 2013 from Garmin-Sharp, remains for another campaign.
“We are not a normal team. We are not just a collection of riders. We try to support and develop our athletes throughout the year, with science and innovation, coaching, training, and equipment,” he said. “We are seeing that riders are asking to come to our team. That is a sign that we are doing things the right way.”