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Cash-strapped Belkin asks fans for money

The Dutch squad sends an e-mail to its fans and asks for donations to help sign a "young talented rider" for 2015

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MILAN (VN) — The Netherlands’ green and black team currently racing as Belkin is reaching out for more money to manage its team in 2015. Thanks to De Lotto’s commitment of 4 million euros it no longer looks to be in danger, but with its plea to fans asking for money it appears it is at its limit to remain in the UCI’s first division.

The Dutch UCI WorldTour team sent an e-mail to its followers this week asking for them to donate so it could hire a “young talented rider” for the next season. Team managing director Richard Plugge explained, “We really involve the crowd in our search for new talent.” But instead, it seems the team lacks money.

Belkin, an American consumer electronics manufacturer, put Plugge in a tight spot in June when it announced it would not continue for a second year. The Dutchman was able to keep most of his riders through the hot Tour de France transfer period while he searched for a backer. Bauke Mollema (to Trek Factory Racing), Lars Boom (Astana), and Theo Bos (MTN-Qhubeka) left, but general classification riders Wilco Kelderman and Robert Gesink are sticking around for 2015.

Plugge appears to have just enough money for 2015 thanks to a July 30 announcement that Dutch Lottery De Lotto will support the team for two years. De Lotto reportedly will give 5 million euros – 4 million to the cycling team and 1 million to Dutch speed skating team BrandLoyalty. Italian bike manufacturer Bianchi said it will continue to give its support for 2015 at a reported sum of 1.5 million euros.

How will Belkin continue to race in the first division, where teams have budgets of up to 23 million euros? With the 2.5 million that it supposedly has in savings after 17-year sponsor Rabobank ended its deal at the end of 2012, it will operate with an estimated budget of 8 million euros, or $10.3 million, in 2015.

However, Belkin could just scrape by for the 2015 season with WorldTour teams running on budgets of 15 to 20 million euros. Sky, BMC Racing, and Astana are said to be operating on as much as 23 million.

Europcar and Lampre-Merida are reportedly running on the smallest budgets. Lampre’s team manager Brent Copeland would not say how much the Italian pre-coated metal manufacturer gives him to run the team, which includes world champion Rui Costa, but he said the minimum a WorldTour team needs is roughly 6 million euros.

Belkin seems to have more than that, but it could use more and is asking fans to give their money through donations of 10, 25, or 100 euros at a time. Fans can follow the team’s progress on the donation website. It currently has raised a little more than 100 euros of its 38,500-euro goal. Note that a WorldTour team must offer a minimum wage of 35,000 euros a year to its riders, or 24,000 euros if they are new professionals.

Even with the appeal to fans, Plugge continues to look for a second title sponsor to stand alongside De Lotto in 2015.

“This is a global sport. There’s a lot of value for money in cycling,” Plugge said in July. “If you’re a Dutch company with an international image then why not back a team that races in France, in America and in Australia?”