HTC Highroad's last hurrah ends in victory
Cycling's 'winningest' team goes out with win number 513
HTC-Highroad, the US-based team that has been the most successful in pro cycling over the past four seasons in terms of races won, has gone out with a bang with Tony Martin and Amber Neben winning, respectively, the men’s and women’s events at yesterday’s Chrono des Nations.
The two wins take the combined totals of men’s and women’s victories achieved by the team to 121 for the season, and 513 since the start of 2008. HTC took its present form after US entrepreneur Bob Stapleton bought the former T-Mobile team in 2007,
Stapleton announced in August that the men’s team would fold at the end of the season, with no replacement sponsor found for Taiwanese mobile phone handset manufacturer HTC.
It is hoped that the women’s team will continue, but with their male counterparts released from their contracts, the destination of the men’s team’s star names has provided one of the most compelling subplots to this year’s transfer season.
That culminated last week with the announcement that Mark Cavendish is to join Team Sky, and Bernie Eisel, Kanstantsin Siustou and Danny Pate all head to the British outfit too.
Martin heads to Belgium’s Omega Pharma-Quick Step, as does directeur sportif Brian Holm. Meanwhile, Milan-San Remo winner Matt Goss has been signed by the new Australian team, GreenEdge, and Cavendish’s former leadout man, Mark Renshaw, gets a chance to step into the limelight with Rabobank.
"It's wonderful to see the team successful again right to the very end of the season," said Stapleton yesterday.
"Both the men and the women won their first race of the season in January and now they have both won the last race. It's testament to the attitude of all of our staff and riders over the years and I'm very proud of their success."
Neben’s victory over fellow American Kristin Armstrong in a time of 27 minutes 58 seconds on the 20km course gives her vital Olympic qualification points over her chief rival, and Beijing gold medalist, to represent the USA in the individual time trial at London 2012.
"This was a great way for me to end the season," she said afterwards. "It was one last, important time trial, and I was motivated to do well. It was difficult to race in October, three weeks after worlds, but it was definitely worth the effort and the crazy travel. It means a lot to win. I am happy and looking forward to some rest."
Martin, who earlier this month won inaugural Tour of Beijing, took the men’s event, held over a 48km course, by more than two minutes, coming home in a time of 56 minutes 20 seconds.
"I felt really good racing here and I was confident after worlds and winning in China," he said. "Now I'm really happy to finish the season on a high and I'm looking forward to some rest and building towards next season."
Riders from HTC-Highroad were among the star turns at last month’s UCI Road World Championships in Copenhagen, with Germany’s Judith Arndt and Tony Martin taking, respectively, the women’s and men’s individual time trial titles.
Those victories were followed, of course, by Mark Cavendish’s victory in the men’s road race, which he won from Goss, with another former HTC rider, Germany’s Andre Greipel, completing the podium.