Friday 24 June 2011

End of the road for Highroad?

HTC-Highroad owner Bob Stapleton has warned that his team will no longer exist come the end of the year because of difficulties in finding a sponsor - and he blames doping scandals for those difficulties.

"We have a lot to offer," he told, "but we have to shout that story out over the controversy that seems to surround the sport." Although none of the team's riders have been caught doping since Highroad grew out of the scandal-rocked T-Mobile in 2007, cycling in general has earned a reputation for being riddled with widespread doping among the public and that shady image makes potential sponsors nervous about committing the sort of money - around 10 million euros - that a team needs to enter the three Grand Tours.

Highroad has long provided an opportunity for
young talents like 21-year-old Leigh Howard to
learn from the big-hitters on the team and thus
realise their full potential.

Even if HTC does withdraw support and Highroad can find a replacement, Stapleton may find himself without any riders. Reports are flying around the Internet and cycling press that Mark Cavendish will be leaving the team for Team Sky, with many people expecting confirmation once riders are permitted to discuss such matters come August - any degree of uncertainty will see other members, including Tony Martin and Tejay van Garderen, making exploratory approaches to other teams and they may receive more tempting offers.

Highroad have been one of the most successful teams in cycling with their male and female riders achieving an astonishing 462 victories between them since 2008. Stapleton has long had a policy of supporting young talent, giving several younger riders who might have had difficulties getting a place on other teams the opportunity to realise their potential and for that reason alone the organisation's demise would be detrimental to the sport.

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