With Rabobank – Liv announcing towards the end of the 2015 season that they wouldn’t continue their sponsorship past 2016, doubts were thrown up about the viability of one of the biggest teams in the Womens World Tour, but it appears the core of the program will live on.
Dutch superstar Marianne Vos confirmed the new venture, dubbed Fortitude Pro Cycling, will be proceeding.
Vos will be joined by five of her Rabo – Liv teammates and five riders from outside the squad. The team loses two major stars in Anna van der Breggen and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, but retains multiple world champion Vos, young Polish phenom Katarzyna Niewiadoma, and Dutch champion Anouska Koster.
One of the big additions to the squad is Australian rider Lauren Kitchen, who makes the switch from Norwegian Hitec Products. Kitchen showcased her versatile talent set this season, starting off the season in fine form, throughout the Australian summer of racing before being consistently in the mix for the top places at the spring classics.
She’s currently part of the world championship team for the Australians in Doha, Qatar that are looking to come back with the stripes for Chloe Hosking.
Vos announced the new team on Thursday but made no mention of title or equipment sponsors. Perhaps the biggest news is that the team will be built on a new, egalitarian sponsorship model.
“Small businesses, mom-and-pop shops, larger companies with a sizable workforce, multinationals; really, all businesses that believe in our message and are interested in professional cycling are welcome to become part of the Fortitude Pro Cycling enterprise,” said Fortitude team manager Eric van den Boom, who is also the current Rabo – Liv manager.
“The project is based on a new kind of business plan, that will able to create a better synergy between partners so that the effect of participation for them increases and besides that gives the opportunity to constantly and instantly add new fans and partners. The name will always stay like this.”
This flies in the face of the conventional wisdom within cycling, that the sponsor’s name gets primacy of place throughout all coverage of races, discussion of the team and in the media.
“The traditional way of (team sponsorship) is hard to keep up nowadays that goes for men’s and women’s cycling,” said van den Boom. “Therefore the way we created this project is innovative.”
“We’re keen on collaborating with businesses and offering unique opportunities that, at least in the women’s peloton, are rather exceptional. The goal is create value for everyone involved.”
Fortitude Pro Cycling Roster: Rotem Gafinovitz, Yara Kastelijn, Lauren Kitchen, Jeanne Korevaar, Anouska Koster, Riejanne Markus, Katarzyna Niewiadoma, Anna Plichta, Valentina Scandolara, Moniek Tenniglo, and Marianne Vos.