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 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?
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.
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 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.
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.