There are big changes at Team Columbia-HTC in time for the 2010 season, with ten new faces arriving to replace the eight riders who are leaving.
Mark Cavendish will continue to lead the team, which has notched more wins than any other this season. But he loses one key member of his lead-out train, George Hincapie, who is joining the BMC team run by Jim Ochowicz and former Phonak team owner Andy Rihs.
Although Team Sky has yet to confirm the line-up for its debut season, Columbia’s boss Bob Stapleton confirmed a batch of riders leaving his squad were likely to join the British outfit.
Michael Barry, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Greg Henderson, Thomas Lovkvist and Morris Possoni are all leaving Columbia and it is thought they are all joining Team Sky.
Marcus Burghardt joins Hincapie at BMC and the Luxembourg rider Kim Kirchen is leaving for Team Katusha.
In their place, Columbia has opted for some of the best young talent around. Eight of the 10 newcomers are aged under 25, joining an already youthful squad.
Stapleton told Cycling Weekly: “A certain amount of turnover is good. We’re looking for people who want to be here who’ll take advantage of the environment. We’re trying to do what we do best, and that’s create this environment and structure where riders can come in and improve.
“These new teams should be looking hard at our riders. They’ve got reputations and they are good. I am not offended by that or hurt at all.
“What we’re trying to do is grow young GC [general classification] talent. You saw the good job Tony [Martin] did and with a more focused plan next year I think he can be a top five rider. I think you can put a GC contender in and support a sprinter quite well.
“Can we win the Tour? Well, I don’t see anyone beating [Alberto] Contador any time soon, regardless of his team-mates. I think we’ve got an almost optimal formula where we can continue our sprint dominance, be it with Mark [Cavendish] or André [Greipel] and challenge overall.”
Cavendish stands out as the clear leader for the sprints, and there is enough talent in the ranks to ensure the damage to his lead-out train is minimised by the departures.
And although Kirchen and Lovkvist have moved on, the effect may be to allow the likes of Monfort and Siutsou to take on more responsibility in the stage races.
In Tejay Van Garderen and Leigh Howard, Columbia have hired two of the best young riders in the world, and the Velits twins join from Milram after a promising year.
As Rolf Aldag, the team’s directeur sportif, pointed out, Columbia have kept hold of most of the riders who earned them victories this season. The riders choosing to remain with Columbia account for more than 80 per cent of the team’s wins so far this season.
The biggest loss is likely to be Boasson Hagen, the hugely talented young Norwegian who won Ghent-Wevelgem in fine style in the spring and added a Giro d’Italia stage in May.
The line-up for the women’s team has also been confirmed.
TEAM COLUMBIA-HTC 2010
Michael Albasini (Switzerland) age 28
Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) 24
Gert Dockx (Belgium) 21
Bernhard Eisel (Austria) 28
Bert Grabsch (Germany) 34
André Greipel (Germany) 27
Adam Hansen (Australia) 28
Craig Lewis (USA) 24
Tony Martin (Germany) 24
Maxime Monfort (Belgium) 26
Marco Pinotti (Italy) 33
Frantisek Rabon (Czech Republic) 25
Mark Renshaw (Australia) 26
Vicente Reynes (Spain) 28
Michael Rogers (Australia) 29
Marcel Sieberg (Germany) 27
Kanstantsin Siutsou (Belarus) 27
Lars Bak (Denmark) 29 from Saxo Bank
Jan Ghyselinck (Belgium) 20 new pro
Matt Goss (Australia) 23 from Saxo Bank
Rasmus Guldhammer (Denmark) 20 new pro from Team Capinordic
Patrick Gretsch (Germany) 22 new pro from Thüringer Energie
Leigh Howard (Australia) 20 new pro from Team Jayco
Hayden Roulston (New Zealand) 27 from Cervélo Test Team
Tejay Van Garderen (USA) 21 new pro from Rabobank Continental
Martin Velits (Slovakia) 24 from Milram
Peter Velits (Slovakia) 24 from Milram
Michael Barry (Canada) 33 to Sky (to be confirmed)
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway) 22 to Sky (to be confirmed)
Marcus Burghardt (Germany) 26 to BMC
Greg Henderson (New Zealand) 29 to Sky (to be confirmed)
George Hincapie (USA) 33 to BMC
Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) 28 to Katusha
Thomas Lovkvist (Sweden) 25 to Sky (to be confirmed)
Morris Possoni (Italy) 25 to Sky (to be confirmed)
COLUMBIA WOMEN’S TEAM 2010
Kim Anderson (USA) 41
Judith Ardnt (Germany) 34
Noeme Cantele (Italy) 28
Emilia Fahlin (Sweden) 20
Luise Keller (Germany) 25
Evelyn Stevens (USA) 25
Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Germany) 34
Ellen Van Dijk (Netherlands) 22
Linda Melanie Villumsen (Denmark) 24