Professional cycling's most successful team of recent years, HTC -Highroad, is to fold at the end of this season after failing to find a replacement sponsor for Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer HTC. All riders have been released from their contracts so they can find other teams, and the future of those like Mark Cavendish whose current contracts expire at the end of the season, is now certain to lie elsewhere.
In a press release issued this evening, team owner Bob Stapleton, the telecommunications entrepreneur who bought what had been the T-Mobile team in 2007, said: "After an exhaustive search to secure long term sponsorship we have concluded that it's time to release our team members to pursue other options. Our team's success has been based on our outstanding people. It's in their best interest that we make this decision now."
"The team has had unmatched athletic success," he continued. "The dedication shown by our athletes, management team and staff year after year has been exceptional. Together they created one of the most successful teams in cycling's history. Our athletes are the most sought after in the sport, and our management and staff are the most capable in cycling. They will lead new teams and the sport forward. Helping to create the individual success of the people in our team has been the most important and enjoyable element of our management team. We wish everyone the best for the future."
"Finally, we would like to thank our partners who worked very closely with us over the years to help set Highroad as the benchmark for elite cycling teams," added Stapleton. "We are very proud of the performance and value we gave our sponsors and our fans."
HTC-Highroad will continue to race through to the end of the season and is hoping to have achieved its 500th win by then - it currently stands at 484, including 54 Grand Tour stages, more than half of the latter achieved by Mark Cavendish.
The British rider revealed earlier this week that he had decided where he would be racing in 2012, and did not rule out staying put. Had it been his intention to remain with HTC-Highroad, that door is now closed to him.
The demise of the team will been keenly felt on the women's side of the sport, where it was one of the biggest names in the peloton.
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.