Pro Conti Team Sponsors

You might know what the likes of Trek, Sky or Sunweb do but do you know Aqua Blue from Aqua Protect, CCC from Crelan, Verandas Willems from Veranclassic? I didn’t and set out to find out what all the sponsors of cycling’s second tier teams are about. While the World Tour is fixed with 18 teams, the Pro Continental ranks have grown by five teams to reach a total of 27 squads this year. It’s an interesting glimpse into the sport with health insurance, hedge funds and law firms sponsoring US teams; rural suppliers of verandas and animal feed in France and Belgium. All share the same struggle to get noticed with Pro Conti teams winning just four World Tour races last year.

Androni – Sidermec – Bottecchia
The original “Times Square” jersey, a myriad of textile sponsor logos, Gianni Savio’s still keeping the show on the road. Androni makes plastic toys, for example some of the Hello Kitty toys in Europe. Sidermec make tin and chrome-plated iron sheets and Bottechia is a heritage brand of bike frames.

Aqua Blue Sport
This a website aiming to become “the Amazon of cycling”, an e-commerce platform for cycle sport goods. The idea here is that the team promotes the online business and in turn the business generates enough income to fund the team. They’re growing but get less hits a day than this blog and so for now the project is bankrolled by Irish millionaire and Monaco resident Rick Delaney.

Bardiani – CSF
Bardiani and CSF are two firms under the same roof. They’re a medium-sized manufacturer of pumps, Bardiani valvole, and CSF Inox pipes for the food industry. Think of a pasta sauce factory in Italy and chances are the tomato paste is being pumped by Bardiani pumps along CSF stainless steel pipes.

Burgos is the regional government of Burgos although it’s not so easy to find out more given their website has a blank page for sponsors. BH is Beistegui Hermanos, the “Beistegui brothers” and like Basque cousins Orbea they were once a weapons manufacturer but turned rifle barrels to steel tubing to make bikes and the team is kept on the road with wheeler-dealing from team manager Julio Andrés Izquierdo, Spain’s answer to Gianni Savio.

Caja Rural – Seguros RGA
Another team with two names that are under the same corporate umbrella, Caja Rural is a regional bank in Spain and Seguros RGA is its insurance products business. After Movistar they were the default Spanish pick but now face competition from other Spanish outfits.

CCC Sprandi Polkowice
CCC is a chain of shoe shops in Poland Eastern Europe while Sprandi is a Russian shoe company with close links to CCC. The team has its origins in the small town of Polkowice in south-west Poland.

Cofidis, Solutions Crédits
The biggest team in cycling’s second tier, they have a roster bigger than some World Tour teams and a budget to rival some too. A coffee distribution company? No, Cofidis are a consumer credit company that specialises in the lower end of the market and sometimes gets bad press for predatory practices. The firm’s HQ is in northern France and now has operations in Italy and Spain which explains the recruitment of riders like Jesus Herrada and the desire to take part in Milan-Sanremo.

Delko Marseille Provence KTM
Normally only three names are allowed but they manage four. Delko is a retailer of auto spares in France and beyond in Europe which helps explain why the team has an international roster. Marseille Provence is France’s second largest city in the Provence region and KTM is an Austrian manufacturer more famous for its orange motorcycles.

Direct Energie
Direct Energie is an alternative electricity generator and reseller trying to challenge EDF’s monopoly in France and hoping to use the team to reach parts of France other marketing campaigns can’t.

Euskadi – Murias
The Basque region of Spain and a legendary name in pro cycling thanks to the eponymous pro team that started in the 1990s and became Euskaltel before fizzling out a few years ago. The region is cycling-crazy and with the Spanish economy on the up again so are several new teams in the Pro Conti ranks. Euskadi is the Basque regional government, the URL on the team website clicks through to the region’s tourism web page so maybe it’s funded under the tourism budget? In fact I’m reliably told the real money comes from Murias, also known locally as Murias Taldea, is a construction company building housing and public works like railway stations in the Basque region and beyond. Don’t confuse them with lower level Continental team Fundación Euskadi which what’s left of the Euskaltel team and helped by Mikel Landa.

Fortuneo – Samsic
Warren Barguil’s new team. Fortuneo is an online bank in France and Samsic is large recruitment agency. Both are from France’s Brittany region with Samsic now operating across Europe.

This has been the Russian track cycling program with a road team to allow the endurance athletes to race on the road and turned into its own team. Russian energy giant Gazprom has to be the largest corporate sponsor behind any of the teams in the sport. New for 2018 is they’re hired Italian manager Olivano Locatelli who has “discovered” the likes of Fabio Aru and Yaroslav Popovych and been arrested and had his phone wiretapped along the way too.

Hagens Berman Axeon
Hagens Bermans is Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, a law firm from Seattle that specialises in class action lawsuits. Axeon is just the team name, a “your name here” placeholder much like Greenedge in the past. They’re really a development team for young riders but moving up to Pro Conti ranks lets them race more events including the televized events in the US.

Holowesko-Citadel p/b Arapahoe Resources
Holowesko is Mark Holowesko and a long time sponsor of US cycling, he and his hedge fund’s name have been on the Slipstream argyle jersey over the years. Citadel is one of the world’s largest hedge funds and Araphoe is an oil and gas explorer fracking its way around various parts of the US.

Israel Cycling Academy
An Israeli cycling team co-owned by Canadian real estate magnate Sylvan Adams who retired to Israel and set up the team as well as helped bring, read pay, for the Giro to start in Israel. What next for the team once they’ve ridden the Giro?

Manzana Postobón
Postobon is a soft drinks manufacturer from Colombia and sells apple-flavoured pink soda by the truck-load. The company sponsored a team back in the 1980s and while its great to see this name back and to have a Colombian team in the pro peloton Postobón is not without its controversies, accused of fueling diabetes and obesity.

Vini Fantini

Nippo – Vini Fantini – Europa Ovini
Nippo is a Japanese supplier of paving materials and tarmac supplying car parks and roadbuilding projects and covers the Japanese side of this curious part-Japanese, part Italian outfit. Vini Fantini is an Italian wine business and Europa Ovini is an industrial supplier of meat, mainly lamb but also pork and beef too, hopefully they all marry well with a bottle of Fantini?

Rally Cycling

Rally Cycling
Rally is a healthcare app where users log their daily activities as a means to nudge them into a healthier lifestyles. It’s a subsidiary of United Healthcare, another team listed below. UCI rules (2.2.001) prevent teams with the same “paying agent”, a UCI term, from racing together but there are ways around this which explains why Rally has raced in events with UHC.

Roompot – Nederlandse Loterij
Roompot is a Dutch holiday camp operator with bungalows in woodland and along the Dutch coast. The Nederlandse Loterij is the Dutch state lottery and merged with the Lotto of Lotto-Jumbo meaning another team with a shared paymaster.

Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise
Formerly Topsport, Sport Vlaanderen is the Flanders region’s sports body and it sponsors a team to help young riders – only men need apply for now – find employment in the peloton. Bâloise is a Swiss insurance company from Basel or Bâle as they say in Frence.

Team Novo Nordisk
A Danish pharmaceutical company which, according to Wikipedia, derives 85% of its business from various diabetes management medicines. The team doesn’t win often if at all but just competing is the aim of the game as it has a roster of diabetic riders who show the world they can take part in long distance endurance sports. The team might not grab the headlines but has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, far more than most World Tour teams.

UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team
A US healthcare company offering healthcare and insurance. The company is said to be interested in expanding beyond the US hence the propensity of the team to race outside the US as well as getting in some extra racing.

Vérandas Willems-Crelan
A Belgian firm selling verandas, pergolas, pool houses and other light glass structures, in fact it’s Belgian’s largest manufacturer of these structures and shifts over 1,400 of them a year and this team relies a lot on publicity from the domestic cyclo-cross circuit. Crelan is a bank in Belgium, formerly known as Landbouwkrediet, literally “land build credit” and bank for farmers and other rural dwellers. Neither are sexy sponsors but have probably got their demographics dialled to perfection.

Vital Concept Cycling Club
It sounds healthy and perhaps it is if you’re a pig or a cow? Vital Concept is a supplier and retailer of agricultural supplies offering a range of ingredients from animal feeds to barn doors. As well as covering rural France the business owner is a cycling fanatic from Brittany.

Wanty – Groupe Gobert
Wanty is a mini-conglomerate with activities ranging from quarrying to civil engineering and roadsurfacing, all united by large public works and the raw materials needed for these. Groupe Gobert supplies building materials like insulation or paving stones.

WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic
WB is Wallonie-Bruxelles, the French-speaking part of Belgium and its governmental body. Aqua Protect is a Belgian damp-proofing company and Veranclassic is a Belgian manufacturer of verdandas with sales in France too.

Wilier Triestina – Selle Italia
Wilier Triestina is a heritage bike brand from the north-east of Italy and Selle Italia is a saddle-maker originally from outside Milan and founded in 1897 that also owns the Selle San Marco brand. Both companies are today located within about 15km of each other in a area packed with other cycling brands where the likes Campagnolo, Pinarello, Sidi and many more are all a short ride from each other.

54 thoughts on “Pro Conti Team Sponsors”

  1. Where is the controversy with Postobon sponsoring a cycling team? I didn’t see anything related to cycling in the NYtimes article you shared. Although its name is a clear reference to Trieste, Wilier Triestina is not from Trieste, they are based in province of Vicenza, very closed to Bassano di Grappa and the slopes of Monte Grappa.

    • The Postobón company seems to have generated some controversy, not the team.

      For some reason I thought Wilier had original links to Trieste before moving, but this is wrong. They’re now in Rossano Veneto.

      • Gabriele will no doubt be along to correct, but weren’t Wilier Triestina given a patriotic name when Trieste became the last Italian-speaking area to join Italy “liberated and redeemed”?

        • More or less, eheheh…

          “Wilier” was indeed “W (l’)Italia LIbera E Redenta”, where “W” is “ViVa” (“long live”) and the rest is as Nick says. This part of the name goes back to 1906.
          But please note that “Redenta” is a very specific word referring to irredentism, that is the claim that the natural unity of Italy had to be completed including some region which still belonged to Austrian Empire despite being populated by Italian-speaking population, sometimes even being a vast majority.
          In 1906, that meant especially Trentino and Julian March (Venezia Giulia) which included Trieste and beyond, yet be careful: Wilier’s original name still didn’t include Trieste!

          It must be noted that in the late XIX century and until the WWI, irredentism wasn’t supported at all by Italian governments, which was trying to keep decent relations with the Austrian Empire, for which Trieste was an essential port (and that’s why they grew it into a big city).
          On its part, the Austrian Empire, after losing Venice in 1866, officially decreed that Italian population in Trentino and the Trieste area should be excluded from teaching, justice, public administration, and the press should also be used “with no qualm of sort” to prompt an “energic action” against Italian population, in order to reduce its influence while “germanising” and “slavifying” (!) the region.

          Italy got Trieste back after the WWI, but officially no sooner than 1920. The whole story of those treaties… wow!
          (movie hint – not hugely related, really, but a little so: “The Childhood of a Leader”, by Brady Corbet, a free adaptation from Sartre).

          But it didn’t end there, because after WWII (which was terrible for Trieste, with several nazi massacres and the only extermination camp in Italy) the city was being claimed both by Italian and Yugoslavian partisans! At the end of the day, the city stayed Italian while most of the region went to Yugoslavia. But in 1945 it was still being disputed. It was occupied by Yugoslavian troops until June, when Tito decided to hand it over to the Allies. The Allies managed it as an occupied territory until 1947 when they made it a city-state: it was finally handed over to Italy seven years – and three Giro stages… – later.

          Anyway, it was only in *Autumn 1945* when Wilier added Triestina to its name. That’s interesting because it looks like they never strenghtened their ties to irredentism in brand terms while the fascism was taking advantage of it (the two movements are indeed different, even if fascism very soon appropriated irredentism’s agenda, notably in relation to WWI).

          Wilier Triestina founded a team and were in the first post war Giro, in 1946, with *Giordano Cottur from Trieste* in their ranks. He readily won the first stage to Torino, wearing the first post war leader jersey.

          As inrng’s usual readers can easily imagine, that 1946 Giro *inevitably* included stage finishes both in Trento and in Trieste! Just as it had done in 1919… (also worth noting arrives to Merano in 1921, Portorose in 1922, Fiume in 1924 [!!!], Bolzano in 1933).

          But in 1946 anti-Italian groups blocked the road near Pieris and attacked the peloton throwing stones and nails. The American army – which was really in charge of that territory, remember that! – defended the cyclists, but the stage was neutralised. Part of the peloton decided to move on directly to Udine, while others, Cottur among them, were brought by American to Trieste by truck. There, what remained of the peloton made Cottur cross the finish line first among enthusiast crowds (however, let’s also say that Trieste had already been a popular stage finish and Cottur had won a regular stage in his hometown just before the war).

          • Gabriel, Are you perhaps referring to our own US expat Larry T, when you reference the US Army in Pieris?

            That might explain Larry’s proud enthusiasm for Italian Cycling, Campy, and steel bikes?

            Just kidding Larry.

          • That’s very interesting Gabriele.
            I would also recommend, as background reading, Mark Thompson’s “The White War – Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-1919” which recounts the tragic and confused conflict to reclaim Trieste and Trentino from the Hapsburg Empire and which led to the later rise of Fascism and the loss of Italy’s liberal institutions.

            That this feeling should still live on through some of Italy’s cycling connections is even more interesting.

          • Very interesting.
            I’d also highly recommend Misha Glenny’s 3 part radio series “The Invention of Italy” on BBC iRadio for those that have access.
            There are also series on France, Spain, Germany and the USA

          • @Richard S
            I haven’t been thoroughly following the race but I think that, at least in recent years (which means a lot, given that its history as a pro race dosn’t goes back further than 20-25 years), they’ve been carefully avoiding Italy, so to say.
            You might be thinking about former Giro del Trentino now “Tour of Alps”. The change in name also depend on the fact that they were indeed going north more and more often. Follow the money… (but please note that *currently* both Trentino and Alto Adige / Südtirol are wealthy regions, anyway).

            I wouldn’t be sure about political motives, in this specific case, but it’s worth noting that the situation of the two races someway mirrors Alto Adige / Südtirol / South Tyrol situation: they always say that they’d happily go away from Italy, but they’re enjoying such impressive benefits from Italy itself that it never seems even close to happening, even more so since Austria, on its part, never tried to put on the table any competitive offer. Like they aren’t much interested in getting ’em back.

            However Trentino shouldn’t be confused with Alto Adige /Südtirol (South Tyrol). The former is in fact quite much Italian and always was, the latter is frankly German in tongue and culture, a few municipalities apart (and, well, the Ladin population). At the beginning of 20th century, German speakers were 4 out of 5, there! Just as Tyrol and then Austria tried hard to “germanise” Trentino, while at the same time oppressing local Italian population (which was a 95% or so), from the ’20s on the fascist regime tried to “italianise” Südtirol, which later, in democratic Italy, even led to terrorism, murders included, from local independentist movements.
            Money from the central State helped a lot to pacify the region, which has now been calm and prosper for some 30 years. Political parties defending the idea of going back to Austria or getting independence now represent some 25% of the population in South Tyrol.

          • There’s no doubt that the Grand Tours’ routes have / had political significance.
            The Giro’s choice of Fiume in 1924, as Gabriele notes, very obviously so.
            Would it ever return again; around 300,000 Italians ethnically-cleansed from the loss of Italy’s Adriatic lands (gained after WWI) by the Yugoslavs and the Allies after WWII?

          • Perhaps a Portoroz/Portorose remake, in Slovenia, might be accepted – it’s a touristic resort after all. And Slovenia has been growing a decent cycling tradition in recent years (it also sports a well-known hypoxic hotel by Valjavec, good rider and among Ferrari’s friends). Fiume/Rijeka wouldn’t be accepted at all, IMHO.
            Too much of a provocation from either side.
            Imagine that the recent Tour of Croatia, another handbook tourism/cycling bet, went through Istria a lot, but I believe that they never started or finished in Rijeka, although it’s the third bigger city in Croatia (no need to say that both Split and Zagreb are regular destinations).
            A new race that *should* be started this year, but which I suspect won’t eventually become a reality in the short term, is the “Adriatico-Ionica race”, inspired by ancient Venice territory and routes. They plan to start involving Italy, Austria and Slovenia, then gradually growing through Croazia and Bosnia, and later getting as far as Albania and even Greece. Honestly, I can’t see it happening, but it would be great in landscape (and cultural) terms.

          • Quoting from Guido Rubino’s Italian Racing Bicycles Book Pietro de Molin the founder of Wilier “acquired a little known English brand , Wilier, and set to work building English-style bicycles … under that name (the story that the Wilier name originated as an acronym for viva italia liberate e redenta .. is apocryphal).” (page 168)

        • @gelato4bahamontes
          What Rubino says is very interesting, indeed. I just checked the Wilier webpage and they tell the same story as him. Indeed, “Wilier” sure looks a bit strange, it doesn’t fit perfectly (“Wlilier” wouldn’t work, fine, but why not “Wiler” then?).
          The interpretation of Wilier as an acronym was apparently *prompted by* the whole Trieste / Triestina / Cottur story, which is certain. The creation of the false etymology happened very soon after that.
          “(La) Triestina” was allegedly the name of a specific race model, it entered the team name that way, to promote the bike.
          It’s still peculiar that Dal Molin had to buy an “unknown” English brand. Why purchasing a brand if it’s unknown? Maybe it came with some technical know-how?
          Even more so given that when you normally buy a brand, you try to exploit its tradition, too, while Wilier stated clearly in its head badge that it was founded “in 1906”.

          But what’s even stranger is that the classical head badge (obviously not related to the original English brand, I’d dare to say), before the Trieste halberd came in… featured *only* the double-headed eagle which is typical in byzantin-heritage Europe but which was especially known as the imperial arms of Austria-Hungary! (the coat of arms of Trieste under the Hapsburg domination had the halberd on Austrian colours and *beneath* the double-headed eagle…).
          That surely doesn’t look irredentist at all.

          OTOH, as an English brand, would “Wilier” make sense? Perhaps from “wily”? (I’m asking to native speakers).
          I looked for it as a surname in the Oxford Dictionary of British and Irish Family Names and it looks like that “wilier” was a Middle English ancient word for “workers in willows” (basket-makers and so on). Yet, no family name derived from it as such: “Willier” or “Willer” are the most similar form. A typo – or a not-referenced variant – is also possible.

          Some philologist should start researching…

          • Fair play, I wasn’t expecting somebody to see your correction and raise it!

            “Wilier” is an odd-sounding brand in English, and doesn’t match the pattern of late Victorian company names, which were generally family names, or aspirational names like “Excelsior” or “Eagle”.

            The closest bike brand parallel to Wilier in its “more wily” sense that I can think of is the Liv Envie.

  2. Hages Bermann – the founders are cycling fans. It is good to see them giving back as their main legal business is what many consider as a drain on US society. Some view their type of litigation to be highly beneficial to the lawyers only.

    • It’s getting crowded now, especially given some teams are aiming high but not getting invites for their home grand tours and others like Roompot and Aqua Blue are struggling to get a calendar of races to match their ambitions and needs. It’s Catch-22 (or even self-fulfilling_ because if a team can’t ride the top races it won’t get the top riders.

      • I think dropping teams by another rider in races but keeping same total riders would really help. 22×9=198, 25×7=175. That would still reduce total peloton but allow 7 wild card teams. I know it would reduce opportunities for riders at WT teams but in turn that might lead to the talent being spread around.

  3. Didn’t I read that Mitchelton were required to claim links to the hotel chain rather than the – larger – Mitcheleton wine business to avoid infringing UCI rules on alcohol promotion. In that case how does Vini Fantini get round this, or does the restriction apply only to World Tour teams?

    Another nice sideways look at cycling. Thanks

  4. UCI rules (2.2.001) prevent teams with the same “paying agent”, a UCI term, from racing together

    that line made this come to mind.
    I heard in “The cycling Podcast” that Mikel Landa was one of the owner of The Euskadi-Murias Team, any more info on that – ??

    It seems like a much more murky mix of global, local companies, regions and sympathetic projects.
    Its hard not to like the Novo Nordisk porject, same goes with the Axeon team, which seems really interesting & new basque team.
    Yet the fracking team, just sad….

    • See above, he is part-funding the Fundacion Euskadi team, the Conti team that rides in orange. Euskadi-Murias in the Pro Conti ranks are a different team although given the similar names it’s easy to get mixed-up. There is the tactical aspect too, as a World Tour rider Landa won’t ride often with his Continental cousins but in theory it means when he does he’s got some allies, employees even.

      • It’s typical, after the fall of Euskatel Euskadi. That with in a couple of not one but 2 Basque teams are back racing. I’ve been a supporter of Euskadi-Basque Murias Team since there inception, making a small contribution to funding the team. And seeing the results the team is getting in the early season, it’s great to see. Euskadi-Fundacion also has a women’s team to.

  5. Great summary on the companies.

    And while we are talking about sponsors…..

    Bell, Giro, Camelbak were acquired by Vista Outdoors in (2016/2015).

    Vista outdoors is a large manufacturer of ammunition and also a manufacturer of semi-automatic (AR15 class), as well as many firearm accessories.

    Depending on how you feel you could encourage your LBS to stock different brands in the future – both in Europe/Australia and in the US.

    The company was put together by big money interests with the US military-industrial complex to profit off of firearms.

  6. Quick question: Does anyone here know where I can find cycling streaming online?

    I live in Italy so the Fubo channel that seems to have monopolised coverage isn’t really an option for me!

    • Nobody “monopolises” the streamlinks that show, they just show what’s available. If tv rights are sold from organizers to Fubo, so there are Fubo links, if ES has the rights, three will be ES links. And if you really live in Italy, I heard there’s a new station called RAI.

  7. A brilliant piece as always. Just a quick point regarding KTM: although the bicycle company has the same roots as the motorcycle company it seems the two are distinct and separately owned entities after the group company split into four in 1992.

  8. Another excellent entry provoking excellent spinoff commentary. Props to gabriele et al for the Wilier Triestina learner sidetrack. I had swallowed the acronym story hook, line and sinker.

  9. Sylvan Adams still rides Masters events to the highest levels.

    He has been a regular at the World Masters Track Championships in Manchester (and elsewhere) over the years.

  10. Fascinating article and comments, as usual. Dang, gabrielle, I‘d love to share a pitcher of beer or bottle of wine and talk history with you.

    • For a moment I thought you were talking about two regular commentators:-)

      But how does this ill feeling between the two teams manifest itself? What does it originate from? Was there an incident that one or both teams could not let be a bygone?

      If there is something about the way a team’s riders tend to act in a race or the way its sprint train rides, isn’t it usually several other teams that get mad and the team is disliked by the entire peloton? If there is a feud of some sort between two riders in different teams, isn’t it unusual that it involves whole teams?

      Are there any other pairs of teams that can’t stand each other? Obviously there are teams that consider each other as their “dearest enemy” or main competitor, but I mean more than that.

      Last but not least, could the thing between UHC and Rally be manufactured, i.e, something to get publicity, for cycling journalists to write and TV commentators to talk about and to make the sponsors just a little bit happier?

    • Seems odd since as mentioned in the blog Rally is a subsidiary of UHC.

      Or maybe the Rally side does not receive an equitable share of resources allotted to UHC.

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