By Susan Westemeyer
Austrian René Haselbacher, who spent his first eight years of his career racing with Team Gerolsteiner, is sorry to see the German team leaving the sport. The team will discontinue in 2009 after managers were unable to find a new sponsor to replace the out-going water company.
"It is not good for Germany and it is not good for cycling to lose another team," he told Cyclingnews yesterday evening. "It was a well-organised team and it is unbelievable that [Team Manager] Hans-Michael Holczer searched a year for a sponsor and couldn't find one."
Haselbacher, 30, turned professional with Gerolsteiner in 1999, and stayed with it until joining Team Astana in 2007. "I signed in 1998, so 1999 was my first year. It was actually a very small team," he said with fond memories. "We had terrible problems with the first kits, the printing ran the wrong way and you couldn't read 'Gerolsteiner' on the sides. In the first two months we had no sponsor stickers for the car."
Things improved, though. "Three or four years later we rode the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France – we became a big, big team, from such a small team."
Haselbacher will see another team change for the 2009 season after two years with Team Astana. "I am looking for a new team because I don't think I will sign again with Astana."