Video: Stapleton busy seeking sponsors

Mark Cavendish's clever tribute to cell phone maker and sponsor HTC

Mark Cavendish's clever tribute to cell phone maker and sponsor HTC (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Bob Stapleton made his first appearance at this year's Tour de France on the day Mark Cavendish won his third stage in the race and the American was just as confident as his sprinting ace as he talked about the team's sponsorship search.

HTC are presently set to pull out at the end of the year, leaving Stapleton with a title sponsor vacuum.

"We're busy on that. We've got a number of discussions under way. Obviously our goal is to focus with HTC and continue with them. They've had probably one of the most successful sports sponsorships in history with this team and that's the logical conclusion but at this stage we're trying to develop all the options we can. There are discussions with other companies and we'd love to get something done as soon as we can and that's the main goal," he told Cyclingnews.

Pressed for a deadline, Stapleton refused to publicly give a date, stating that the team would assess their position at the end of the Tour de France.

"I don't think there's a deadline. Our goal is to see where we are at the end of the Tour and assess what's likely to happen."

Stapleton entered the sport at the end of 2006, rescuing the remnants of a damaged team and built a new project based on transparency, pragmatic racing tactics and unparalleled levels of success in both men and women's cycling. While a number of riders have left the team over the years he and his backroom staff have consistently impressed with production line of champions in both stage and one day races.

Today's success at the Tour was the team's 49th grand tour win. Yet despite the prospect of a number of riders leaving regardless of whether he finds a new sponsor, Stapleton is adamant that he can nurture both riders that stay with the team and those that are recruited in the future.

"What we're focussed on is these repeatable systems where we find and develop fine young talent and I think we've shown that we can do that over the last three or four years. So I think our goals are to do that work and we think that we can consistently create value for sponsors. The team has generated something like 400 million in euros in media value over the last three years, and that's a big number and we think that we can sustain that level as we develop new athletes."

One possible outcome should the team survive would be a merger with another squad. In June it was reported that a tie in with UnitedHealthCare had been discussed but at the Tour, Omega Pharma Lotto has been rumoured to be in discussions with Highroad.

"It's great. I've heard several rumours since I've been here just a few hours. There have been a number of interesting phone calls and conversations, but that's all I can say."

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