By Susan Westemeyer
Team High Road got the season off to a spectacular start in January in Australia, with two national titles and André Greipel's dominance in the Tour Down Under. Things haven't quite continued at that rate over the first part of the season, and the U.S. based team has been struck hard by injuries and illnesses, but team owner and manager Bob Stapleton explained on the team's website, www.highroadsports.com, that he is very happy with how things have gone. "We've had a much better start than we could have hoped for."
The team continued its Australian success with sprinter Greipel winning the unofficial prologue and four stages of the Tour Down Under to claim not only the overall title but also the UCI ProTour leader's jersey.
While the team has had some wins since then, it has made more headlines with medical reports. Illness hit the squad at the Tour of California, with intestinal problems wiping out half the members. A more serious illness sidelined team captain Michael Rogers, who is out with Epstein-Barr virus for a couple of months, while Linus Gerdemann, suffered a double leg fracture and knee injuries in Tirreno-Adriatico.
Meanwhile, the women's team has been holding up its end, with 14 wins already in the young season.
High Road was pleased to be assured of invitations to the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France, and all the other races sponsored by their organisations. "Our relationship with the organisers of both races, ASO and RCS, remains very important to us," Stapleton said. "In the past, ASO has seen our younger riders do very well like in the Tour de L'Avenir, as well as Linus' great performance in last year's Tour de France."
Looking forward to July, Stapleton added, "This year, our roster and the Tour de France in general are going to be wide open. It will be a chance for our talented new faces to shine once again."
The team has continued to concentrate on its main philosophy of "focusing on the up-and-coming talent in cycling," Stapleton said on highroadsports.com. "Our veteran riders know they are here to be leaders for our younger riders, accelerating their learning curve, and sometimes sacrificing their own chances to do that. Teamwork, personal commitment and intense focus on the success of the entire team. That's our team's fundamental approach."
This focus will continue, he said. "We've taken another major step towards creating and developing the big future stars of the sport. That's what fans and the event organisers want to see and what makes our team attractive."
"We've got even more strong young riders on our roster than ever before. 21 riders from our men's and women's teams are under 26," the American noted. "High Road is focused on developing a sound athletic foundation for our team and the sport. Additionally, we've further extended our commitment to clean cycling and fair sport, based on a comprehensive program with ACE [Agency for Cycling Ethics]."