Good news for fans of budget supermarkets and professional cycling: LIDL will sponsor Etixx-QuickStep next season.
The German grocery giant will supply Patrick Lefevere’s heavyweights with fresh produce; as much as they can eat.
Should Tony Martin crave aubergine, LIDL will supply. Any longing for guava on the part of Zdenek Stybar will be satiated. Fernando Gaviria, perhaps finding passion fruit in shorter supply in Wevelgem than his native Colombia, need only ask.
For Lefevere, the significance is greater still. After a spring campaign spent ducking rotten tomatoes from the Belgian press, the LIDL deal seemed at first sight to be little more than a man cutting off his enemies’ supply line, but Pat is keen to play up the wider significance.
Lefevere and his chums at Velon are eager to attract investment to the sport from beyond the closed confines of cycling, and by inviting LIDL to the party have stepped beyond its traditional circle of commercial support, where obscure building supplies have for too long held sway (Soudal, anyone?).
If evidence for Lefevre’s new ambition was required, he admitted to terminating his contract with previous sponsor Renson to accommodate LIDL, though any conflict of interest between the German grocery giant and Belgium’s “trendsetting” manufacturer of “louvre panels, ventilation and solar shading products,” isn’t immediately apparent.
Renson is not prepared to leave cycling just yet, however, and has already announced a new partnership with Giant-Alpecin, the none-more-obvious alliance of Taiwanese bicycle manufacturer and German shampoo firm.
Might this sponsorship roundabout have implications for wider society? Will LIDL remain the go-to outlet for Alpecin shampoo? Could John Degenkolb be called upon for door-to-door conservatory sales in the off-season? And just where will Marcel Kittel ply his trade next season, now that Etixx-QuickStep has a heavyweight German sponsor and a vacancy for a heavyweight sprinter (perhaps German)?
Het Nieuwsblad thinks it has the answer, but Kittel is contracted to Giant-Alpecin until the end of next season, and so the only official news in the transfer market for marquee sprinters is that Mark Cavendish will race next season for Team Dimension Data, known currently as MTN-Qhubeka.
It might all be for the best. The only thing less convincing than Kittel’s role in the Alpecin commercials this season has been his form, and the acquisition of Cavendish will satiate Brian Smith’s need to sign at least one ageing sprinter each year.
This fruitful union of Etixx-QuickStep and LIDL might just be the start for a sport that has traditionally struggled to attract mainstream commercial backing, but Alaphilippe, Boonen, Terpstra et al will surely fear the worst in the matter of team kit.
The last time a chain store with a corporate logo in red, yellow and blue took an interest in cycling, certain luckless members of the peloton were made to race in a version of the Castorama uniform. Tomeke has recently re-signed with Lefevere: we must assume there is a clause in his contract to protect against such liberties. A lifetime’s supply of Kiwi fruit would not be compensation enough.
STAT’S THE WAY, UH-HUH UH-HUH
10 – Lizzie Armitstead’s win tally from 18 races this season
6 – Armitstead is Great Britain’s sixth world road race champion
2 – the number of Slovak team-mates at Peter Sagan’s disposal in Richmond
Simpson wins the 1965 Lombardia in the rainbow stripes
Kelly completes his Lombardia hat-trick
Dan Martin banishes the heartbreak of Liége-Bastogne-Liége