Team High Road: Giant stays, Audi drives away

Team High Road, the new incarnation of the former T-Mobile team, has lost one more sponsor, but will keep its supplier of the team's most critical gear: their bikes. Bike supplier Giant has indicated that it will stay with the newly named team, but the Directeurs Sportif will have to find a new way to follow the riders around after automobile manufacturer Audi said that it will stop supplying the team with cars.

The team lost its title sponsor on Wednesday, as well as clothing sponsor Adidas following a season during which the team could not escape the repercussions of past doping practices. The team's manager, Bob Stapleton, took over ownership of the team, running on funds from various sources, one of which is reportedly a settlement from T-Mobile, whose sponsorship contract lasted through 2010.

Giant, Europe's largest bicycle manufacturer, said on Thursday that it would continue working with Stapleton's team. "It is our intention to continue," Tom Davies, head of sport marketing for Giant Europe, told dpa. "We do not plan to stop."

The firm said that it was not influenced by other sponsors leaving the team. "We don't follow them. It is our intention to go on working with the young and promising talent," Davies said. The firm has a contract with the Stapleton team through 2010.

Audi, on the other hand, took a different route. The company cited the withdrawal of Deutsche Telekom as the reason for its own withdrawal. "Through the removal of Deutsche Telekom, the team has lost its most important partner and with it, the basis on which Audi had committed itself. Therefore we will not continue our engagement in the coming year," said Audi spokeswoman Iris Altig.

Audi joined Adidas in withdrawing sponsorship from the former T-Mobile Team, although team spokeswoman Kristy Scrymgeour told Cyclingnews that "Adidas has committed to financially back the team until the end of 2008." She continued, "The announcement from Audi and Adidas are not a surprise to anyone. It was expected and we are moving quickly to adapt and get everything in place by January."

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