PENA CABARGA, Spain (VN) — Only two HTC-Highroad riders remain without contracts as the team enters the final days of its last grand tour.
HTC-Highroad general manager Rolf Aldag confirmed that Craig Lewis and Caleb Fairly are the final riders still looking to land contracts going into 2012.
“There was big interest in all of our riders and in our of staff, so that says a lot,” Aldag told VeloNews. “That really shows the depth and quality of the Highroad roster.”
Aldag strongly endorsed both Lewis and Fairly and said teams should look at the longterm potential of both riders rather than just look at their points and season results.
Lewis, 26, crashed heavily in the Giro d’Italia in May while Fairly, 23, is racing in his first full season in Europe.
“Craig broke his leg at the Giro and that was very sad. People need to understand that he really stepped up this year in the Giro and he took leadership,” Aldag said on Lewis. “I would recommend him to any world-tour level team.”
Aldag said Fairly also deserves a spot with a team as a promising young talent just finding his way in Europe.
“He’s a young American kid who came to Europe, settled down here and that’s not easy for anyone,” Aldag said. “You’re not seeing the results right now and he needs some time to develop. A rider like him could also go on some of the up-and-coming teams who have ambitions and grow. That would be a perfect place for him.”
Other HTC-Highroad riders have been revealing their new destinations over the past several weeks.
Matt Goss and Michael Albasini confirmed they’re heading to GreenEdge this week while Tony Martin is slated to join Quick Step next year.
There’s growing anticipation that Mark Cavendish‘s new home, expected to be Team Sky, could be revealed ahead of the start of the Tour of Britain this weekend.
Aldag said big riders such as Martin and Cavendish were waiting for the team’s quest for a new title sponsor before committing to new teams.
“Riders were really waiting for us and giving us time to secure the sponsorship,” he said. “People gave us credit for what we did in the past and they were waiting for us a long time.”
Aldag said the team scrambled until the final hour to find a sponsor, but in the end, decided in early August that it was simply too late to keep together their top riders and pulled the plug rather than continue at a reduced budget.
“When you ask the question, who has found a sponsor lately? GreenEdge, there’s no sponsor. BMC is no sponsor, Leopard was no sponsor. There is really nobody who is bringing in sponsorship,” Aldag said, referring to other teams which are supported by well-heeled individual backers.
“Af first it was a shock and sad that the team is folding. But now we are seeing that the people from Highroad are now being spread throughout the sport. They will carry that good behavior and new processes that we introduced to the other teams. At the end of the day, for the overall sport, that will lift the level.”
Aldag said he still has not decided on his future. He said he is considering options both within and outside cycling.
The ex-pro has run the HTC-Highroad for the past five years and said it would not be easy to step into a secondary role in another team.
“One of the big factors for me is my family. For the past five years, I would assume I worked 355 days a year. I never went on vacation when I could switch off my phone,” Aldag said. “My five-year-old daughter’s Christmas wish was that daddy would have one day without the telephone.”