Desperately seeking sponsors

There was an article in yesterday’s Nice Matin talking about our junior cycling team. Sadly, they are no longer our team. Thanks to our youth team sponsor going out of business, the mayor not ponying up the promised funds and government funding available only for full-time, not part-time, trainers, we had to pull the plug on the project at the end of the season. It’s a real shame, but the good news is that all bar one have migrated to a club in Nice where we’ll be able to keep a close eye on their development. It’s much easier for a large town like Nice, and a club of which the Mayor of Nice is a member, to attract the necessary funding. The most promising junior was snapped up by VC La Pomme in Marseille and we would hope that he’ll eventually be promoted to their continental squad and beyond.

The local Town Hall, while supportive of our ambitions, was cash constrained plus we were in competition with the other local sports teams who have had greater success at a national level. While not all of the club’s members were supportive of our ambitions, many were in favour and share our disappointment at this turn of events. Most of our senior racers have been equally disappointed and have elected to change clubs. They’re a fairly mobile bunch and tend to gravitate to the clubs with the deepest pockets or those willing to cover most of their expenses. It’s not cheap racing every week end, particularly as there’s fewer and fewer races in Alpes Maritimes.

Our senior racers won plenty of podiums and hence garnered the club, and its sponsors, lots of publicity in the local newspapers. Our current arrangements with Skoda are up for renewal and I suspect that they’re not going to be happy at this recent turn of events. M le President is confident that they’ll sign on the dotted line for another 3 years of support, I’m not sure I share his optimism, particularly given the current economic state of affairs. Skoda are not going to pay to have a bunch of old duffers cycling up and down the coast in their colours. Of course, if Skoda don’t renew, there’ll still be plenty of us cycling around in their colours for quite some time to come as we won’t order new shirts until we find a replacement sponsor.

Our ace in the pack is M Le President. As a local business would you want to get on the wrong side of the head honcho down at the fire station? No, I don’t think so.  Unfortunately, neither of the local Skoda concessions are on his turf. As an alternative strategy, we could try and leverage commercial contacts via our membership. However, there are a couple of stumbling blocks. Generally the larger local companies have their own sports associations, including cycling teams. Most of our members work either for the local authorities or said larger companies. Typically, most clubs attract sponsorship from small local companies whose owners are club members. We’re no exception to the rule and have been faithfully sponsored by a number of our members who, as far as I can see, derive little or no economic benefit from the sponsorship, although it is tax deductible.

So, if you don’t have enough money to set up your own Pro-Tour team and fancy seeing your company’s logo paraded around the Cote d’Azur on a daily basis by a bunch of very fit geriatrics, you know who to contact.

Out the loop

I was only in London for a few days but, away from all that is dear and familiar, I felt really out of the loop on my return. Races had finished without me knowing who had won and, even worse, races had started and finished without me knowing the victor. Of course, I could have checked on the internet but I was trapped in the wedding bubble and couldn’t break free of the programme. There’s little if nothing in the UK newspapers on cycling, although, as the wedding coincided with the World Cup races in Manchester, there was some mention of Britain’s track superstars.

I’ve been so busy catching up that I’ve had little time to reflect on the past few days of racing. However, one thing is clear, the promising young guns of the past few years are starting to emerge more strongly. Witness Gesinks’s (Rabobank) win in the Tour of Oman, a hilly parcours than last year, intended as a counterpoint to the earlier sprinters’ fest in Qatar.  Joining him on the podium were Edvald Boassen Hagen (Sky) and Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini – Neri Sottoli).

Over the weekend the Tour Cycliste International du Haut Var, with a title almost as long as the race itself, was won by perennial French housewives favourite Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), second was Julien Antomarchi of VC-La Pomme Marseille and, another former yellow jersey wearer, Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R) was third.

Further south in the Volta ao Algave, Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) took the final day’s time-trial and the GC ahead of Tejay Van Garderen (HTC) and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil). The defending champion Alberto Contador (SaxoBank Sungard), in his first race back since his suspension,  faded into fourth place on the final day.

This week it’s the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista del Sol which kicked off with a 6.8km prologue around Benahavis won by Jimmy Engoulvent of Saur-Sojasun. Jonathon Hivert (Saur) won Stage 2’s 161.8km print into Adra while Francisco Ventoso (Movistar) won Stage 3’s sprint into Jaen. Markel Irizar (RadioShack) leads on GC from Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharam-Lotto) and Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack).

Over in Italy at the Trofeo Laigueglia, Daniele Pietropoli (Lampre-ISD) beat off Simone Ponzi (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Angel Vicioso (Androni Giocattoli) in a sprint for the line. The Giro di Sardegna got underway this week and in yesterday’s 138km first stage from Olbia to Porto Cervo, Peter Sagan proved too strong on the uphill finish for Allessandro Ballan (BMC) and his Liquigas teammate, Daniel Oss. Sadly, very little of this afore-mentioned action has been televised.

I haven’t even glanced at what’s been happening in the Tour of South Africa and Vuelta Independencia Nacional. A girl’s got to draw a line in the sand somewhere. Meanwhile, I will be looking forward to this week end’s Belgian semi-classics: Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.