Cycling YouTube star Bas Tietema’s rumoured professional cycling team is taking shape, with gambling firm Unibet coming in as a title sponsor.
Unibet previously sponsored a squad between 2006-2007, after the company acquired fellow betting business MrBookmaker, who had previously funded the outfit. They will now join forces with Tietema, whose ‘Tour de Tietema’ YouTube channel has 151,000 subscribers, providing an established fan base for the team and subsequent eyeballs for the sponsors.
Tietema’s squad will apparently be called TDT-Unibet Cycling Team, according to Wielerflits, and they will race at Continental level with aspirations to eventually move up to be a ProTeam and then “ride the biggest cycling races on Earth”.
So far the identities of six of the team’s riders are known. Bas Tietema will continue after his debut professional year with Bingoal-Pauwels Sauzen and will be accompanied by three other Dutchmen: Hartthijs de Vries, Martijn Budding and Joren Bloem. Then there’s the Czech rider Tomáš Kopecky as well as former British WorldTour rider Harry Tanfield.
“It was a pretty tricky situation where you are actually playing on several chessboards at the same time,” Tietema said in a YouTube video announcing his team’s new title sponsor. “The contracts were, on the other hand, not yet finished with the sponsors. While on the other side you already have to be busy with the riders for the team.”
The team won’t be formed around Tietema, however, who hopes to attract further talent before the start of the 2023 season with the help of Hugo Haak, the former Dutch national track team coach, who will be the team’s manager. It’s also rumoured the squad will use Cannondale bikes.
“Bas will ride for the team next year but that does not mean that we are going to build a team around Bas,” Josse Wester, who runs the Tour de Tietema YouTube channel alongside Tietema, said. “We are mainly looking for very talented riders who can form a strong collective with him and who can ride an interesting race programme mainly in Belgium and the Netherlands.”
A titular gambling sponsor isn’t one without controversy. Despite the previous Unibet team obtaining a ProTour license for the 2007 season, they were not allowed to start the season opener at Paris-Nice, with race organiser ASO arguing that French laws banned gambling companies from being visible during competition. The team subsequently lined up at the GP La Marseillaise and Étoile de Bessèges in France but without the sponsor’s name on their jerseys.
Should the team want to continue focus on Belgium and the Netherlands for their race calendar in the future, they may have to eventually look beyond Unibet as a source of funding. From 2025, gambling companies won’t be allowed to sponsor cycling teams in Belgium anymore, a move that will affect the teams sponsored by Bingoal and Lotto. These laws could follow in the Netherlands, with famous people and former footballer having recently been banned from appearing in betting advertisements following an uptick in problem gambling.
One thing is for sure as this fledgling outfit races its first kilometres – there will be eyeballs on them.