HTC-Highroad Hangs it Up; Most Successful Men's Pro Cycling Team Disbanding
According to ESPN, HTC-Highroad team owner Bob Stapleton has admitted defeat in his search for a title sponsor to replace phone-maker HTC and the men's team will cease operation at the end of this season.
Owner Bob Stapleton said Thursday that the sport's chaotic economic structure, along with continuing fallout from the convoluted, still-unresolved doping case involving triple Tour de France winner Alberto Contador and the federal investigation of seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong and his past teams, helped doom the quest.
"I absolutely don't want to be in the position of blaming anyone or to suggest anything other than we didn't get it done, but there are some destabilizing factors in the sport, and there is a concentration of wealth in a handful of teams that is going to make this very challenging for many teams and the sport in general," Stapleton said.
As for the effect of the Contador and Armstrong storylines, Stapleton said, "I don't think there's been a single discussion with a potential sponsor where one or the other wasn't talked about at some length. It's been a factor in everyone's view of cycling that we've talked to in the last year."
Despite being the #1-ranked team in the world, with nearly 500 race wins between its men's and women's teams over the past five seasons, and a squeaky-clean anti-doping program, Stapleton's organization faced stiff competition in recruiting and retaining riders from heavily funded super-teams with vastly larger budgets. ESPN reports that many HTC riders had already announced plans to leave the team, and that up-and-coming American Tejay Van Garderen and Manx sprint giant Mark Cavendish are soon to reveal new deals elsewhere.