After serving as a bike supplier for the last four years, Cannondale announced today an increased support role with the Italian Liquigas team, stepping up as co-title sponsor for the new Liquigas-Cannondale squad effective January 1, 2011.
"The last four years we've been involved with Liquigas we have primarily been the technical sponsor so we've worked with the athletes and worked technically on the bikes, but as we've progressed that relationship we've spent more time with the team," Cannondale general manager Bob Burbank told Cyclingnews. "The team and Cannondale have gotten closer and closer together and this was that next logical step.
"From our perspective we really pride ourselves on working incredibly and in direct connection with the pro athletes," he said. "We want to have that very connected, intimate relationship with the athlete because when the athlete performs at the highest level with our products, typically we get the win together."
As part of the newly expanded relationship, Burbank says the two parties will now work much more closely than in years past to develop new products - similar to the model that Cervélo TestTeam had - until very recently - run since 2008.
"Liquigas was known as avery European, very old-school Italian team with very little outside influence," said Burbank. "We did work very closely with the athletes but typically after a lot of the products were developed using some of our other global athletes. Now what we've done is integrated them into our product development process whereas three or four years ago, it wasn't that type of relationship.
"Earlier on in the process typically we would bring them in after concepts were done for colors and graphics and component design whereas now, we would have them involved right from the get-go in the process to get their feedback on frame stiffness, performance, and exactly what they're looking for for that next innovation in product."
Burbank wouldn't say whether or not Cannondale riders were already working on future product right now, though, nor would he or other company officials comment on the exact terms of the contract - including its duration.
However, Burbank did mention that the company intends to grow the stature of the Liquigas-Cannondale team beyond its current scope and expand the roster to more non-Italian riders.
"Our vision of this team is to become more of a global team - there will be at least one American athlete on this team moving forward."