New sponsor could be announced this week, but riders are edgy
Time is running out for Bob Stapleton and HTC-Highroad – will the team find a new sponsor and if so, in time to hold on to its current riders? Team management has indicated that a new sponsor may be lined up, with contracts to be signed possibly as early as this week, but many riders are apparently on the verge of signing with other teams.
Over the weekend, team owner Stapleton said that while nothing was signed, he was optimistic about a three-year, big budget deal. Yesterday team manager Rolf Aldag told the dpa news agency that “I reckon the contracts will be signed this week.” There was no indication as to who the sponsor might be.
“Now the Tour de France is over and so it goes fast with the contracts. Riders don't want to wait too many days for an agreement - there are also teams at the other end, they must have an answer,” directeur sportif Brian Holm told Ekstra Bladet.
Mark Cavendish is the team's most successful rider, having just won five Tour de France stages and the green jersey, and his contract expires the end of this season. It is commonly assumed that he will sign with UK-based Sky next season, but he has apparently indicated that he is considering staying with Highroad if the team continues.
Cavendish's deadline for the team has actually expired, but Holm thinks he might extend it.
“On the second rest day, said Mark that Bob had one week. It's gone now. But if can he wait seven days, he may also wait eight,” said Holm.
The Danish DS also indicated that he and Cavendish will be on the same team next year, whether it is Highroad or elsewhere. “I'd love to stay with Mark, and we have agreed on that.”
One reason why Cavendish may want to stay with Highroad would be to stay with sprint lead-out men Bernhard Eisel and Mark Renshaw. Both have contracts with the team through 2012, and if the team continues, it would be unlikely that they would be released.