Specialized and High Road Sports have announced "a multi-year partnership" beginning in 2011 that will see Mark Cavendish and his HTC-High Road team mates (as they will be for next season) riding on Specialized bikes in 2011.
Specialized will supply the team’s frames, forks, and helmets. The men’s squad will race the S-Works Tarmac for most road races, the S-Works Roubaix for cobbled classics, and the Shiv TT in time trials. Specialized will also supply S-Works Prevail and TT3 helmets for road and time trials, respectively – although the "TT" bit probably gave that away anyway.
HTC's women's squad will will race on Amira road bikes , and Shiv TT bikes for the time trials. They will also wear Prevail and TT3 helmets. Specialized have invested a lot of money into their women's specific range of bikes and according to Specialized boss Mike Sinyard, the chance to supply a top level women's team was one of the things that excited Specialized so much about the deal.
Specialized has moved quickly to shore up its position in the peloton having seen both it's other sponsored teams, Astana, and Saxo Bank dramatically weakened in the past few weeks. Alberto Contador won the Tour de France this year for Astana – riding Specialized's Tarmac SL – and was expected to continue his Tour winning form for the marque with his move to Team Saxo Bank. All bets on that score are now off as a result of the doping controversy that has since engulfed the Spaniard.
Saxo Bank initially looked to have scored a coup by signing Contador to replace the Schleck brothers, Frank and Andy, who left at the end of this season to set up their own Luxembourg based team – which will be riding on Trek bikes (a development that is rumoured not to have pleased at least one high profile rider of Trek road bikes). Indeed as we also report today the Contador signing and the strong possibility that he won't be riding in 2011 could have had disastrous consequences for the Danish team in terms of its sponsorship arrangements.
While neither Saxo Bank nor Astana now look to have any Grand Tour winners on their roster for 2011 they do have some star riders in the shape of Fabian Cancellara and Alexander Vinokourov that will continue to grab attention for Specialized. The deal with High Road Sports means that Mark Cavendish can now be added to that list. Specialized now have the world's top sprinter, and probably the best all-rounder and time triallist in Cancellara, plus Vinokourov who despite his tainted image continues to deliver as a GC rider even if he is no longer topping any classifications… and probably won't win any popularity prizes either.
Where the news leaves Scott, HTC's previous bike supplier is unclear - they were showing their arero prototype F01 road bike at Eurobike that Cavendish had been riding at this year's Tour - maybe today's announcement explains why they made relatively so little of it on their stand. HTC have enjoyed two phenomenal years as HTC's bike supplier with Mark Cavendish racking up six Tour de France stage wins in 2009 and adding another five in 2010, Andre Greipel also won the 2009 Vuelta points jersey a feat repeated in 2010 by Cavendish along the way HTC Columbia underlined its position as, dreadful phrase, the world's most 'winningest' cycling team.
You can read the joint announcement from High Road Sports and Specialized here
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.