Katusha, Astana and now… Vendée

Astana and Katusha are two cycling teams with state sponsors, sports teams that are designed to radiate the national glory of the motherland. Well now there could be a third state-sponsored cycling team: Vendée.

The Vendée is a small départment in France that’s not famous for a great deal. But in order to spread the name, the local authorities are considering spending €2 million on rescuing the BBox cycling team, on the condition that other sponsors come forward to top up the budget.

You might have seen red and white flags by the roadside in the Tour and wondered what they were, not the Austrian nor the Polish flags, these are the flags of the region. The region is headed by Philippe de Villiers, an arch-populist politician on the far right. A staunch catholic, he’s keen on halting construction of mosques and seems to be one of those people who likes foreigners… when they stay in their home country. Presumably he’s spotted an opportunity here for more votes.

In the meantime Jean-René Bernardeau is still hunting for a new sponsor to replace Bouygues. Apparently he’s exploring a few opportunities but time is running out, normally you should be doing the exploration work in winter, not when your best riders are starting to sign contracts with other teams.