Vacansoleil’s early California showing not enough to save DCM sponsorship

Team loses second naming sponsor and overall lead in California, but will keep hunting stages

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. (VN) — Dutch squad Vacansoleil-DCM gained a leader’s jersey on Sunday at the Amgen Tour of California on the legs of Lieuwe Westra, but soon after lost one of its banner sponsors, in DCM. A day after the team kicked the race off with a stage win and leader’s jersey, it was left without its second title sponsor and, later, Westra’s overall lead.

“They always said, ‘we want to grow with the team,’ and they came on board when we were a Pro Continental team. And they expected to be in the world of pro cycling for five years,” the team’s press officer and commercial manager, Frank Kwanten, told VeloNews on Monday morning. “But then we got the ProTour license in 2007, pretty suddenly. And they increased the investment in 2012, and now they decided, thanks to the fast growth, it’s been enough.”

DCM is a producer of natural fertilizers in Western Europe, and will step back at the end of the 2013.

“We’re very grateful. They helped us come into the WorldTour. You saw in 2010, we didn’t get into a big tour despite a good team. We’re not French, we’re not Spanish, we’re international. So, thanks to their investment, we got onto the WorldTour, and that of Vacansoleil.

“We’re happy with that, and now we want to grow as a team, and there’s room to grow.”

The squad — largely unmentioned in the run-up to the Amgen Tour — didn’t stay in the shadows for long. Dutch time trial champion Westra attacked inside 10 kilometers to the finish line in Escondido on Sunday, taking the leader’s shirt and the stage win. On Monday, Westra appeared to wilt in the 110-plus-degree temperatures in Palm Springs and ceded the overall lead by more than nine minutes. Still, the team has a stage win in the bag and other riders ready to step up. On Monday morning, director Hilaire VanDer Schueren nearly dismissed the team’s GC chances, pointing toward the squad’s stage hunters.

“OK, we have … we have Wiestra, for the general classification,” he said. “We have the other guys for the other stages.”

Chief among those “other guys” are Juan Antonia Flecha, the Spanish opportunist, and Giro d’Italia stage winner Thomas De Gendt. De Gendt fell off the pace on Sunday, finishing nearly 18 minutes down. He did the same on Monday before Westra lost contact on the Tramway Road finish climb. Last year, De Gendt rode to a dazzling third place in the Giro d’Italia after a legendary stage win in the Italian Alps.

California marks the first race back in a month for De Gendt, who was suffering from a knee injury.

“I don’t know how the shape is. I have been training in the mountains a lot the last three weeks, so normally the shape is ok, but I don’t know if it’s good enough for the overall victory,” he said just prior to the start on Sunday. He soon found out that it was not.

“I think the top favorite is [Tejay] van Garderen,” he said. “He is beatable. Everybody is beatable. But he’s in his home country, and he’s very good climber, good time trialist. So it’s going to be hard to beat him.”

De Gendt and now Westra will turn their attention away from keeping pace with van Garderen and new overall leader Janier Acevedo (Jamis-Hagens Berman) on a daily basis. Instead, they’ll look to deliver another stage win and, hopefully, a new sponsor for the Dutch team.

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