Towards the end of 2007 things were looking shaky for the riders and staff on the T-Mobile team. After months of negative media publicity the title sponsor pulled out. Fast forward two months, though, and the prospects are far better for the squad now known as Team High Road. Andre Greipel, Adam Hansen and Oenone Wood have opened up the 2008 account with fine wins in the Tour Down Under and Australian national championships and, as general manager Bob Stapleton tells Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes, everything is progressing well with the team.
Given that its previous title sponsor pulled out late last year, it's ironic that the new Team High Road appears to be starting the season with outstanding results. While a settlement deal with T-Mobile has given the squad enough of a budget to continue for up to two years, it's still on the hunt for a new title sponsor.
With the change of the team name, it would appear the last link between the present and past has been severed.
For much of 2007, it was clear that the ghost of past indiscretions hung over the current riders. Few of them were part of the earlier team, but revelations about past scandals coupled with isolated incidents involving Patrik Sinkewitz (positive for testosterone) and Leonardo Bernucci (positive for sibutramine, an appetite suppressant) put a dark cloud over the squad.
It was an unfortunate situation for the other riders in the magenta jersey. The general consensus within the sport was that the 2007 team, managed by American businessman Bob Stapleton, was one of those with the strongest anti-doping stances. However, due to the repeated bad press it was getting in the German media and worldwide, T-Mobile reversed a decision it made in August to stick by the team; on November 27th it threw in the towel, stating that due to the scandals it would no longer remain involved in cycling.
All was not lost, though. On that same day, it was announced that the team would continue under a new name. For Stapleton, there was no question of walking away.
"For me, the basic issue was do I want to stay, to keep the team together, to keep these guys on their bikes?" he said, speaking to Cyclingnews in recent weeks. "So this was never for me about the money or trying to bring in new sponsors. It started off by asking myself the question if I wanted to screw up a bunch of people's careers, people who didn't do anything wrong? After all, if we had folded the team these guys were all damaged.
"We have got such a young and promising roster," he continued. "For the guys later on in their careers, it would have been very difficult to cope with [having to find] something new. Because of that, I really felt it was the right thing to do to keep the team going. To maintain our operations and to give these guys a chance to show what they could do."
To read the full interview with Bob Stapleton, click here.