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This time they’ll be sporting their own labels. While Litespeeds have been a part of the European peloton for years, the American framebuilder will now actually be supplying a team of riders on bikes that are marked as such. Lotto, the pro team sponsored by the Belgian national lottery, has announced a three-year sponsorship agreement with Tennessee-based Litespeed.
The Belgian team had been riding GTs since July of 1999, but the recent bankruptcy and sale of Schwinn/GT left the future of that sponsorship in doubt. Litespeed director of marketing Herbert Krabel has been actively courting European teams since last year in hopes of joining a growing number of American builders with UCI Division I and II road sponsorships. Litespeed had been a background sponsor of the old Motorola team in the mid-‘90s, manufacturing titanium bikes that sported the Merckx and Caloi labels. The company has also produced bikes frames for individual riders, though again, the Litespeeds were often dressed up as Looks, MBKs and Treks.
“We’ve been looking around for a good match and when Lotto asked if we were interested, we jumped at the chance,” Krabel said.
Krabel said Litespeed had already reached a deal for the 2003-04 seasons, but was anxious to lock in 2002 if the opportunity arose. With the recent bankruptcy sale of GT and the apparent lack of interest by GT’s new owners in professional team sponsorship, the door was opened for Litespeed to sign on for next season.
Litespeed vice president Randy Finnell said that the company will continue to play an active role in the U.S. race scene, though it is at the end of its relationship with the U.S. Navigators squad – which will be riding Colnagos in 2002.