Tuesday 27 November 2007

Auf Wiedersehen, Team T-Mobile

Giants no more

T-Mobile bicycles ready for the 2006 Tour
Morzine, France

From today's Cyclingnews.com

Cycling News Flash for November 28, 2007

Edited by Sue George

Deutsche Telekom pulls sponsorship, but the team will continue

By Susan Westemeyer

(Click for larger image)
Team T-mobile as presented at the beginning of the 2007 season Photo ©: Photosport International

Deutsche Telekom AG has stopped its sponsorship of T-Mobile Team, effective immediately, it announced Tuesday afternoon. However, High Road Sports Inc., the team management company, said that "its elite men's and women's cycling teams will continue racing in 2008 after T-Mobile has ended its engagement. The teams will now be known as 'Team High Road'."

Telekom had sponsored the team, under the names Team Telekom and T-Mobile Team, since 1991. "We arrived at this decision to separate our brand from further exposure from doping in sport and cycling specifically. This was a difficult decision given our long history of support for professional cycling and the efforts of Bob Stapleton in managing the team in 2007," said Deutsche Telekom Board member and CEO of T-Mobile International Hamid Akhavan. "We have an obligation to our employees, customers and shareholders to focus our attention and resources on our core businesses."

The team had been rocked over the last two seasons by a series of doping cases. "We have worked very hard with the current team management to promote a clean cycling sport but we reached the decision to continue our efforts to rid all sports of doping by applying our resources in other directions. Deutsche Telekom AG wants to make it clear that this action is not based on any disagreement with or misconduct by team management," Akhavan emphasized.

High Road Sports, owned by Bob Stapleton, holds the team's ProTour license. "T-Mobile's decision to end its involvement in professional cycling is a challenge for the sport and our team. We will review and adapt our operations, and continue to advance our leadership position in athletic success and commitment to clean and fair sport that began during our work with T-Mobile," said Stapleton.

"We have an outstanding international roster of exciting young talent backed by proven veteran leadership for 2008," he added. "We will likely be the youngest team in the ProTour and believe that together, these athletes can shape the future of the sport with their talent and commitment."

High Road Sports will use the next few weeks in intensive preparation for the 2008 racing season. "We have good options, but plenty of work to do to begin racing in less than 60 days," noted Stapleton. The team is focused on beginning its 2008 campaign with the first Race, the Tour Down Under in Australia in January.

The team's sponsorship contract was set to run until December 31, 2010.

(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2007)

Enthusiastic Fans at the 2006 Tour

Well, this is not totally unexpected but is still a disappointment. Much more so than USPS or Discovery was Team America, Telekom/T-Mobile was surely "Germany's Team." From feeble beginnings in 1991, when Erik Zabel was pretty well the entire story for the next few years, the team became a powerhouse of Eurocycling: Tour de France victories in 1996 and 1997, wins at Milan-San Remo, Paris-Nice, Classica San Sebastian, HEW-Cyclassics, the Vuelta, Amstel Gold, Zuri-Metzgete, Tour of Flanders, Tour de Suisse, Liege-Bastogne-Liege--a long list.

Matthias Kessler

But so too is the list of riders who have admitted to doping or have been thrown out of racing because of it: Zabel, Riis, Rolf Aldag, Christian Henn, Matthias Kessler, Alexandre Vinokourov, Oscar Sevilla, Udo Bolts, and, most recently, Patrik Sinkewitz. Serhiy Honchar, who won both time trials at the 2006 Tour de France, was invited to leave the team, as was domestique Eddy Mazzoleni, for unusual blood readings and '97 Tour winner Jan Ullrich was fired before he could even start the 2006 Tour as revelations about blood-doping surfaced in a Spanish inquiry, "Operacion Puerto,"which is still having repercussions. What a list...

Serhiy Honchar

It has been argued that whether pro cyclists dope is immaterial: it is all just entertainment anyway. I don't buy this argument. Road racing is the most beautiful sport in the world and it is diminished by cheaters, who steal from other cyclists as well as the fans, and the facile argument that "they all do it" does not justify it. With all the revelations after the 2006 Tour, things were supposed to be cleaned up. Tour magazine ran an article about the new "clean" generation of Germans who were going to save the sport, riders including Stefan Schumacher, Markus Fothen, and, yes, Patrik Sinkewitz. It turns out that Sinkewitz has been doping since he was 21.

Linus Gerdemann wins Stage 7
Photo ©: Sirotti

It is the fourth rider featured in the article who might give fans hope for the future. Linus Gerdemann surprised everyone with a stage win at the Tour de France on July 14th this year. It was a wonderful effort as he gradually dropped his companions and finished the stage on the Col de la Colombière, winning not only the stage but the yellow jersey as well. It clearly took everything he had as the next day he could not keep up at all. It was the finest win at the Tour this year, in my opinion.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nothing showed better the disgust in Germany than when German national Television actually pulled the 2007 Tour de France off the air due to yet another T-Mobile rider testing positive.

Still - A sad day