Team High Road owner Bob Stapleton on Tuesday admitted that his team may remain sponsor-less for the rest of the 2008 season and perhaps even until 2010, as divisions in pro cycling continue to undermine the sport’s commercial potential.
When Stapleton’s previous backer, T-Mobile, pulled out at the end of 2007, it was rumoured that former telecommunications magnate Stapleton would quickly find a replacement, despite a large severance payment by T-Mobile which secured High Road’s future for the 2008 season.
Speaking to BikeRadar.com at the Tour of California in Santa Rosa this morning, however, Stapleton hinted that a personal fortune thought to run into ten figures might be the team’s main source of income in 2009.
‘I feel like I’m really looking at sponsorship for 2010. I’m looking to the long term. We have some very open-minded and patient investors, and my wife and I are top of the list,’ Stapleton said with a smile. “We also have good support from secondary sponsors, and more and more are coming on board all the time. I’ve already had to turn people away. In terms of a title sponsor, there’s no-one pounding on the door right now, but there are people out there who are interested. I’ve spoken to these people before. I think we just wait for the right time and the right conditions; I’m not going to invite someone into something that I’m not sure is a good thing.”
Stapleton said that he hasn’t abandoned the idea of finding a title backer before the end of the season, but suggested that he would await imminent developments in the way pro cycling is organized before starting his search in earnest. Asked what those developments might be, the High Road boss was cagey, but indicated that Tour organizers Amaury Sport Organisation would be heavily involved.
Speculation is rife that ASO may soon launch a bid to take over the Vuelta a Espana from Spanish promoters Unipublic. ASO boss Patrice Clerc’s visit to the Tour of California earlier this week has also sparked talk of a possible link-up between ToC organizers AEG and ASO.
“I think we could see something happen by June, and by the end of the year we could be looking at a completely different sport,” Stapleton commented.
Words to send a shiver down the spine of UCI president Pat McQuaid.
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