HTC-Highroad have announced they will be ending sponsorship at the end of this season and the team will be folding.

Earlier this evening team manager Bob Stapleton told a small group of reporters, including Cycling Weekly, that the search for a new sponsor had been running up until this weekend and that deals with HTC had fallen through at the last minute.

“Our conclusion was that it was best to release the staff, athletes and riders from their contractual obligations.”

The news will increase speculation that Mark Cavendish and other top riders from the squad could be heading for Sky in 2012, but Stapleton ruled out that the rumours linking Cavendish and the British team had been a factor in their failure to find a sponsor.

“It was a chicken and egg situation. We are very proud of the success he has had, and if we could have secured funding in a timely manner we would have had a lot fewer problems in general.”

“It was not a defining factor in the search for a sponsor.”

Stapleton highlighted the fact that the team has racked up numerous wins this season with riders across the board.

“The team has had unmatched athletic success,” Stapleton said in a press release later that evening.

“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.”

What next for Cavendish
Mark Cavendish, one of the world’s most sought-after cyclists, told the BBC earlier in the week that he had made his decision about his team for next year and beyond, but stopped short of naming that team.

The sprinter is out of contract at the end of the year and speculation over his future has been rife all year. This development is likely to be followed by Cavendish annoucing he will be a Sky rider in 2012.

Should he go to Sky he is almost certain to take Austrian Bernard Eisel with him. Eisel is Cavendish’s most faithful domestique, shepherding him through stage after stage of the Tour de France, and the Manxman is forever singing his praises.

Whether or not Sky take Mark Renshaw – Cavendish’s Australian lead-out man – is less clear. Although he is an integral part of Cavendish’s lead-out train, Sky’s management may not want the pair riding together in the build-up to the Olympics. 

Related links

Mark Cavendish decides destination for 2012
Which way now for Cavendish