HTC-Highroad may be facing an uncertain future as it seeks sponsorship for the 2012 season and beyond, not to mention the issue of whether it can keep Mark Cavendish who is reported to be heading to Team Sky. However, the US ProTeam’s focus on the road over the next four weeks will be firmly on adding to its success in the Tour de France, with a strong line-up named for the race, which starts in the Vendée next Saturday.
Cavendish and this year’s Milan-San Remo winner Matt Goss, who acted as leadout to the Manxman when he won the points classification in the 2010 Vuelta, provide the pace, with Goss’s fellow Australian Mark Renshaw back in the race after being unceremoniously booted off it last year for headbutting Cervelo TestTeam’s Julian Dean.
The experienced Austrian Bernie Eisel acts as road captain, with the team also featuring Paris-Nice winner Tony Martin from Germany, the Slovak Peter Velits, who got a podium place in the Vuelta last year, and US rider Tejay Van Garderen, making his debut in the Tour.
The American Danny Pate and Denmark’s Lars Bak make up the remainder of the nine-man team.
"As Cav says, for him it's about winning stages," commented Team Manager Rolf Aldag. "He has won 15 TDF stages with us since 2008 and our goal is add to this impressive tally. We believe he is the fastest sprinter in the world and will get the support he's used to with Eisel and Renshaw. We continue a winning formula."
He continued: "Eisel is our most experienced guy and our road captain. He is essential to make crucial decisions in the race and to keep everyone relaxed and confident during the Tour with his leadership and spirit"
"We have adapted our roster to the specific stages of the 2011 course, which include classic-like stages that may deeply challenge pure sprinters, but play to the strengths of Matt Goss,” added Aldag.
“He has won eight races already this year including Milan San Remo and has proven he can win on difficult finishes. He deserves his first start in the Tour de France and will get his chances.
The German added: “He may also be a strong contender for the Green Jersey as the race progresses.”
That may surprise those who see Cavendish as the team’s obvious candidate to chase the points classification, which he lost out on to Thor Hushovd in 2009 and Alessandro Petacchi last year.
Earlier this week, Cavendish said that he planned to go for the green jersey by winning stages, and despite changes to the way points are awarded at intermediate sprints, would use those to minimise losses to rivals rather than chase maximum points himself.
After this year’s race hits the Pyrenees on Stage 12, however, there are only two sprint stages left – Stage 15 into Montpellier and on the final day in Paris – so it could be that Goss will concentrate on trying to sweep up intermediate sprint points on those stages, which would also have the effect of denying points to his and Cavendish’s rivals.
Aldag continued: "After winning Paris Nice Tony Martin is ready to be our GC contender. He has realistic hopes of a top ten position in GC and he'll get the support from the team. He already won on the ITT course in Grenoble this year.
“That will be a strong point for him and we will also rely on him to help power us in the pivotal team time trial on stage two.
“Peter Velits brings remarkable versatility to the roster,” he went on. “He was an impressive third place in the Vuelta last year, despite the work he did for Cav in the first week. He could be working hard for Tony and could also show that he can also contend the GC.
"Young Tejay Van Garderen will make his first Tour de France start and we're confident he's ready. Having survived the Vuelta last year in good form he has shown that he is capable of handing a three-week race. He's had an extraordinary season and will be asked to help in the Team Time Trial and to learn as much as he can. His future is in riding GC in grand tours so he'll try to soak up as much experience as he can.
"Finally we have Lars Bak and Danny Pate. Both of these riders are remarkable on their own, but the success we hope to attain will no doubt come from the endless work that these guys will do during the race. They have proven they can ride on the front forever and do it with a smile on their face. They are a vital part of the team and we are proud to race with them in the Tour De France.
"It took us quite a while to come to our final decisions on the team. We have such a strong, balanced roster overall and it's hard to leave riders like Albasini, Martin Velits, Sivtzov, Rasmussen and Grabsch home," concluded Aldag.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.