Bob Stapleton, the owner and manager of the High Road team, has revealed that new sponsor Columbia Sportswear came along almost by chance rather than the result of a detailed search for a sponsor.

Speaking during a telephone press conference on Monday, Stapleton said the new team colours are still being designed and will be officially unveiled two days before the start of the Tour de France.

?I didn?t intend to look for a sponsor until after the Tour de France,? Stapleton revealed.

?I first approached Columbia in 2005 for the women?s team and living in the north-west (USA), I knew the company pretty well and knew it?s a well respected company.?

?I was looking for someone whose brand would fit with this outdoor active brand image that I think cycling can deliver. We casually approached them because we had good connections in the company. It was a little bit of luck, having some visibility in front of the company. It was just a good fit.?

?Talks have been going on for two months but it all came together at the last minute and we signed last week. Everything starts tomorrow. It was all a whirlwind. We had a meeting of the minds, and now we?re literally off to the races.?

?If you want an idea of the team colours, look at the Columbia logo. It?s blue, black, yellow and white. They?re sensible colours and should look really good, I hope??

TEAM TO HAVE INTERNATIONAL OBJECTIVES

Stapleton confirmed that although Columbia are a US-based company, the team will continue to have riders from around the world to help promote the Columbia brand, especially in Europe.

?Columbia are buying into our fundamental philosophy and goals and want to support us and be active in both continents. Their goal is to work with our own marketing aspirations,? Stapleton said.

?I?m very excited to introduce the brand into sport. There is no change in the direction of the team and we will continue to aim at the top of the international calendar. It?s really an endorsement of our programme. We?ve got a really international team with riders from 17 different countries and lots of emerging stars.?

?A huge factor is that Columbia sell a lot to women and so are very supportive of the women?s team. They want to really propel the brand forward in both Europe and the USA. They were attracted to the sport because it?s an outdoors recreation. They believe sport has a positive image, for a healthy, active lifestyle. I think cycling is a cost effective tool to market their brand and to make people aware of Columbia as a product. They?re a very innovative company with a lot of new products they want to market in the next few years.?

CAVENDISH CONFIRMED FOR TOUR DE FRANCE

Stapleton confirmed that Mark Cavendish will ride this year?s Tour de France and reminded everyone that the young British sprinter is already under contract for 2009.

?Some of the UK media gave me a hard time last year but everybody wants him to ride this year,” Stapleton said.

?Our intention is to put him in the Tour team. His ability in the Giro showed there is no question about his ability. He?s having a great year already and we?re trying to find a way to balance that and not do him any harm. He?ll be with the team next year, he?s under contract for next year.?

RELATED LINKS

Columbia Sportswear to sponsor High Road team

Cavendish set for Tour ‘barring accidents’