By Susan Westemeyer and Gregor Brown
Many team riders and staff were surprised when Deutsche Telekom announced yesterday that it would cancel its sponsorship effective immediately. Team Manager Bob Stapleton vowed to continue on the team – to be known as Team High Road – with or with out a sponsor, thus securing the jobs of the team's many employees.
Italian Marco Pinotti, who flew the T-Mobile flag high this season when he took the maglia rosa of overall leader in this year's Giro d'Italia, was a little shocked by the news from yesterday but insists that his schedule will remain the same for 2008.
"I was on my way to the gym," noted Pinotti to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "The message from Stapleton left me a little shocked. It made me laugh to think that tomorrow [today - ed.] at 10:40 [Morris] Possoni and I were supposed to be in Cologne, Germany, to try out time trial bikes with the team's mechanics.
"It is too bad because we are losing a prestigious sponsor," continued the 31 year-old from Bergamo. "However, my programme for 2008 will not change: I am sure that the team will go on and I will prepare for the first team camp in Mallorca." For more on Pinotti's 2008 schedule read Engineering a new path.
Austrian sprinter Bernhard Eisel was surprised at the news, to say the least. "I am shocked, but I can't say anything because I don't know anything," was his first reaction on his personal website.
Andreas Klier joined Team Telekom, as it was known at the time, in 2001, making him the "oldest" on the team. His answer to the news of the day: "I'll just keep on training, as usual. I wasn't very good in school, I can't do anything else [to earn a living]." He continued to Sportwereld that he has "not yet spoken with my lawyer, but I have faith in management."
Directeur Sportif Valerio Piva thought he knew why it happened. "A certain part of the press in Germany has put a lot of pressure on the sponsor, which is the reason," he said on the Belgian Radio 1, according to Sportwereld. "The team has already given important signals against doping. We had hoped that would be enough, but apparently it wasn't. The ground swell of rumours the last few weeks has surprised us all."
Walter Godefroot was involved with Team Telekom/T-Mobile since its second year, 1992, before leaving it in 2005. "I am thankful to the team. I met many splendid people there. There were ups and downs, of course," he told Sportwereld.
Looking back, he continued, "I have no regrets. I can still look at myself in the mirror. You must forget the negatives and remember the positives."
It could be argued that Jef d'Hont started the actions which culminated in yesterday's announcement. The publication of his book this spring kicked off a spate of doping confessions from the earlier years of the team. "This is not a good thing," he told Sportwereld. "Manager Bob Stapleton has done so much."
He does not feel responsible, though. "No. I am not guilty. I could no longer endure the use of doping, and I wanted to warn the youngsters. It is the racers themselves who have the problems and have injured the team," he said. "But in the long run, this is a good matter. Stapleton will find a solution."