Rabobank’s October 19 announcement that it would discontinue sponsorship of its men’s and women’s professional teams was the first major corporate departure from cycling as a result of the Armstrong Affair and its impact spread past the professional road peloton and onto the dirt.
The Dutch bank has been a major sponsor of cycling for 17 years. In addition to backing men’s and women’s professional road teams, Rabobank sponsored teams in cyclocross, cross-country mountain biking and amateur cycling. Rabobank will continue on with the amateur and cyclocross squads, but has left a financial crater for its newly turned-over team management on the road and cross-country circuits.
The pro road and mountain bike circuits are as different as Formula 1 and Intercontinental Rally Challenge, but the casual consumer — and non-endemic sponsors — make little distinction between the disciplines, according to Evan Morgenstein, president and CEO of sports management firm PMG Sports. Rabobank’s Adam Craig says that the spillover may foretell rough waters for the dirt side of the sport in the wake of the Armstrong Affair.