Team HTC's owner faces sponsorship search deadline

HTC chase, Tour de France 2011, stage seven

Team HTC-Highroad's Bob Stapleton remains positive despite a looming deadline to find replacement sponsor. He arrived at the Tour de France on Wednesday, the same day as star rider Mark Cavendish won, but without good news.

"We just push hard," Stapleton said this morning in a talk with Cycling Weekly, "and see where we're at the end of the Tour."

Cavendish is likely joining team Sky next year and his team-mates are making plans too. French newspaper L'Equipe reported today that Paris-Nice winner, German Tony Martin is close to signing with Saxo Bank. Promising American, Tejay Van Garderen reportedly already signed with BMC Racing.

Both riders preferred to avoid the subject, as their team-mates have, to prevent the public thinking team HTC is a sinking ship.

"I'd heard this, but I don't know where it's coming from," Martin told Cycling Weekly of the Saxo Bank rumour. "I hope our team will continue."

"I'm waiting for an announcement from Bob," Van Garderen told Cycling Weekly, "and then I'll be able to say more."

Stapleton's contract with title sponsor, telephone company HTC ends this year. HTC joined ahead of the 2009 Tour, replacing out-going sponsor Columbia Sportswear. Stapleton talked to existing team sponsors, such as United Healthcare, about replacing HTC, but said such a deal is unlikely.

"I've been approached by a half-dozen other teams," Stapleton said. However, "what we are looking for is cash! We don't want to hold hands and sing songs! We need money."

Stapleton said that the most likely outcome is for HTC to renew or for a new sponsor to arrive. In the last week, he pitched his team to a potential new sponsor and is waiting for a response.

The response can't come soon enough. Today as a Sky team car passed, HTC's mechanics said half-jokingly, "Hire us, Sky."

Tour de France 2011: Related links

Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly's coverage index

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