By Laura Weislo with additional reporting by James Huang
Rumors of a new Cervélo professional cycling team have been confirmed, at least in part, by a formal announcement by the Canadian bicycle manufacturer on Thursday. The Cervélo TestTeam represents a co-operation between bike industry leaders Cervélo, Zipp, Speedplay, Vittoria and 3T, all of which have previously sponsored the CSC team, who will use the squad as a proving ground for product development.
Contrary to previous rumours, the team will not be led by Christian Henn, and will not be taking over much of the soon to be defunct Gerolsteiner team. Cervélo co-founder Gerard Vroomen told Cyclingnews. "We will not take over half of the Gerolsteiner team as had been rumored and Christian Henn is not [being] considered for a position."
The team will seek a Professional Continental license, but Vroomen said that the team will not be judged only on results. "Currently pro cyclists are judged only by their racing results, which places a lot of pressure on them to perform," he said in a statement. "Race performance is only one component of Cervélo TestTeam. Our riders will also be involved in field-testing and providing technical feedback. In addition they will participate in activities with our customers, making them more accessible to cycling fans."
Vroomen clarified that the team will be seeking to perform at the top level of the sport. "We are certainly going for top results, and the roster will reflect that," he told Cyclingnews. "But it will not be the only thing the riders will be judged by, that is the difference."
The statement confirmed that the new Cervélo TestTeam will be managed by Cycling United Racing in Switzerland, the same company which runs the women's professional squad Cervélo-Lifeforce.
The team is seeking a title sponsor in addition to the five companies, so the name may change before the 2009 season.
The formation of this new squad represents a shift for Cervélo, who has sponsored the CSC team since the 2003 season. The company has not come straight out to say that it will no longer be a part of the Danish squad's service course, but the statement from Vroomen appears to indicate as such. "We are proud to have played an important part in taking Team CSC from fourteenth to first in the team world ranking and in Carlos Sastre's Tour de France victory."
"It was the dedication to excellence by both the equipment sponsors and the team that made it happen. Most of all we appreciate the confidence Bjarne Riis had in us back in 2002 and thank him for these past six years. The financial realities of pro cycling today have caused a change in priorities for the team, and we respect that."
It is still unclear who will fill Cervélo's shoes at CSC-Saxo Bank, although rumors suggest Specialized has submitted a substantial equipment sponsorship bid that extends far beyond just bicycles.