With the Northen European races well under way and the big one about to kick off on Sunday, it’s usual for all the limelight to be hogged by the big guys, the big teams, and the big brands that have something to show off. At this point in the season, all eyes are on the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and it’s here where many teams and sponsors will pump up the hype and aim to get as many eyeballs on them as possible.
But there’s hope for the smaller teams.
Some of the bigger teams choose to rest their riders and sit out of the mid-week races like Three Days of De Panne-Koksijde, and it’s here where many of the smaller teams can finally enjoy their time in the spotlight, especially when the world’s cycling media is already camped out in Belgium. For these smaller outfits — in particular, Continental teams — the Three days of De Panne can be their Tour de France, a chance to showcase their jersey sponsor on TV and in front of big crowds. Belgium alone has nine Continental teams, and as is usually the case at this level of the sport, they run more on passion than money.
Cibel is a producer and seller of oranges and other citrus fruits, and has been the title supporter of this squad since 2009 — which arguably has one of the best kit designs in the peloton as far as faithfully representing the interests of your team sponsor. Despite the team’s modest position, its equipment is surprisingly high quality in many places. Bikes are supplied by a well-established Taiwaneese brand, CKT, that has a quiet, yet solid, following and reputation in Europe — France, in particular. CKT has even gone out of its way to match the paint scheme with the rest of the team livery, something you don’t usually see with a Continental team.
This team hopefully enjoys some of the fringe benefits of having good sponsors: Tarteletto is a maker of cakes, and Superano produces ham. Having classics superhero Johan Museeuw as a technical advisor probably doesn’t hurt, either.
The team’s bikes, however, are an odd affair, featuring Zannata frames, Ryde wheels, and mish-mash of parts that aren’t consistent from rider to rider.
Pauwels Sauzen-Vastgoedservice Continental
There definitely seems to be a food trend when it comes to Belgian Continental teams, as team title co-sponsor Pauwels Sauzen makes sauces for frites. Business is apparently pretty good, too, as this is a Continental team that seems to have a healthier budget than most with three team mechanics, Colnago CLX carbon frames, a mix of SRAM Red and Force components, and Zipp bars, stems, and seatposts. Even the team cars, motorhomes, and vans all looked new and more in keeping with what you’d see on Pro Continental teams.
More northern European than Belgium, the Joke-Icopal team hails from Norway and has had several notable riders pass through its midsts, including Lars Petter Nordhaug, Edvald Boasson Hagen, and Alexander Kristoff. Bikes are from Norwegian brand Gavia, and wheels are supplied by Aerlite — the house brand for a Norwegian online retailer. Whereas many Continental teams are on Shimano’s second-tier Ultegra Di2 groupset, Joker-Icopal goes all-out with Dura-Ace Di2.
The Cycling Academy team is not only the first Israeli registered Pro Continental team, but also the only non-profit cycling team. Bikes are supplied by Cannondale, FSA and Vision provide components and wheels, and groupsets come from Shimano — although as is often the case with Continental and Pro Continental squads, what you’ll find here is Ultegra Di2, not Dura-Ace Di2. Even the FSA equipment wasn’t from the top tier K-Force range, but the more modest SL-K collection.
Veranda’s Willems Crelan
Though Willems has been around as a cycling sponsor for some time, this team is a new set up founded by 2011 Tour of Flanders winner Nick Nuyens. Also situated under the same corporate umbrella is the cyclocross side of the team, with current world champion Wout Van Aert racing in its colours. Team-issued Felt FR1 carbon framesets are fitted with SRAM Red eTap wireless electronic groupsets and Zipp wheels, bars, stems, and seatposts.
Dutch Pro Continental team Roompot was the first to trial bikes in the peloton with disc brakes, but its riders have since reverted to standard rim brakes this year due to the fact they are now sponsored by Campagnolo, the last remaining major player to not have released a race ready disc groupset… yet. Bikes are from Isaac, wheels are from FFWD — another Dutch company — cockpit components are supplied by Ritchey, and Selle Italia supplies saddles.