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.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.