Bob Stapleton has revealed that his team's new co-sponsor, HTC, could eventually replace Columbia as main sponsor. He also said that HTC rejected an opportunity to become involved with Formula One in order to enter cycling sponsorship instead.
The Columbia-HTC manager unveiled the team's new kit on the eve of the Tour, just as he did when Columbia came onboard exactly a year ago, and admitted that finding the new sponsor in the current economic climate had been one of the toughest challenges he has ever faced.
"I've been a general manager for twenty-five years," said Stapleton, "and this is the toughest environment I've been in for business. HTC have big goals as an international brand, they're strong and ambitious, they want to expand in Europe, and it was lucky they had goals relevant to ours.
"They were approached by Formula One, and other sports, but cycling, in terms of the technical aspect, the lifestyle and fitness aspects, appealed; the buyers of their phones are engaged in cycling."
Stapleton added that HTC could eventually become the team's main sponsor. "They have the ambition to be the number one sponsor. They're a strong, stable company. Columbia are contracted through to the end of next year, HTC through to the end of 2011."
This fits in with the team's long-term plans. "We're building a longer runway for the plane," said Stapleton.
Stapleton also spoke about the difficulties of selecting the nine riders who make up the Columbia-HTC team, only four of whom featured in last year's successful Tour team. "It was very difficult – we have enough guys for two teams," he said. "We had fifteen guys on the long list, but we got down to exactly where they are in terms of their fitness, and broke it down stage by stage.
"It's a Swiss army knife of riders – we have different riders for different jobs. We have guys who can help to chase down breaks, guys who can defend jerseys and set up sprints. And guys like Bert [Grabsch] who is one of the biggest work horses in the sport."