Columbia-HTC put on their most impressive performance of the Tour de France as Mark Cavendish and Mark Renshaw delivered a one-two display in the final stage on the Champs Élysées. Their performance left the remaining sprinters trailing in their wake and team boss Bob Stapleton warning that there was more to come.
It was Cavendish’s sixth stage victory of the race and meant that he has now collected ten Tour stage wins in his short career. "I think six stage wins and a great performance by Tony Martin is thrilling. It's more of what we’ve been doing all year with a lot of wins and riding at the front and we’ve been a generally competitive team from start to finish," Stapleton said in Paris.
Despite such success, Stapleton added that the team will not rest on their laurels, with the new formations of Sky HD and Lance Armstrong’s RadioShack entering the sport in 2010. The new arrivals have sparked the possibility of many of Stapleton’s young and talented riders turning their gaze to a big money move or the chance to ride with the seven-time winner.
"Monday is the start of next season for us and you can always improve. We’ve had a lot of success and that will carry on for the rest of this year by just doing what we’re doing, but we’re hard at work on 2010."
"I'm not concerned," said Stapleton when asked if some of his rider might leave the Columbia team. "I think it’s a good thing. Five or six guys may leave but we’ll bring in five or six more and the team will grow. We’ll bring in riders that fit in and we can develop."
Stapleton’s policy on youth development has been good. Cavendish aside, he has helped the progress of Edvald Boasson Hagen, as well as Tony Martin, who held the white jersey for the best young rider in the Tour for fourteen straight days. In 2008 several riders including Gerald Ciolek, Linus Gerdemann and Bradley Wiggins left the team, with only the latter having a successful Tour this year.
"We look at the whole package; of guys that can move up a level and to try and get as much leadership out of our veteran riders as we can. That’s the formula for the team and the success is in the balance of that. We have to be really smart with how all the pieces come together.
"Every young athlete that has talent wants to be on this team. I’ve got far more interest than I’ve got space available so I feel like there’s a clear recognition of the quality and support. So I don’t worry about the competition of other teams."
Columbia, Stapleton added, pride themselves on their diverse line up of riders, something that he says can be demonstrated by the twenty international flags splashed along their team bus. "We market it internationally. We’re not a British team or an American team. We draw from the whole talent pool. I have a Slovakian kid joining, one from Denmark, America and Belgium.
"We select based on merit and not passport and it’s a huge advantage. Some teams focus on a small pool of riders, but I like the multicultural feel to the team. I like the fact that there twenty flags on our bus and not one."