An “immensely proud” Mark Cavendish paid tribute to his HTC-Highroad team Friday a day after it was announced it would fold at the end of 2011 having failed to find a new backer. Cavendish, who took his stage win tally on the Tour de France to a remarkable 20 last month, was already heading for fresh pastures with speculation suggesting he will sign for British outfit Team Sky or nascent Australian team GreenEdge. However the Isle of Man sprinter was quick to thank the team and its management for their support in a five-year rollercoaster which has made him one of the sport’s biggest and most bankable stars.
“I am obviously very disappointed that HTC-Highroad will no longer be a team at the end of this season,” Cavendish said on his personal website, www.markcavendish.co.uk. “I am hugely indebted and incredibly grateful to my team-mates and all the staff for their support over the last five years and I am immensely proud of what we have achieved together.”
Cavendish, a former winner of Milan-SanRemo who also secured the Tour de France green jersey in July, has already decided his future destination but remains tight-lipped.
“A number of teams have expressed interest in me riding for them in 2012,” he added. “I have now made a decision I am happy with and will be in a position to discuss my intentions once everything has been finalised.”
On Thursday HTC-Highroad owner Bob Stapleton announced that his trailblazing men’s and women’s teams, which have racked up close to 500 victories in their five-year existence, will expire at the end of the season. Although Cavendish was their biggest Tour de France star in recent years, Stapleton said the Manxman’s impending departure from the team had not been decisive in his failure to find a new naming sponsor.
“Ultimately, I don’t think it was a deciding factor in securing sponsorship,” said Stapleton. “The entire team are deeply supportive of Cavendish and we’re all really proud of the success he has achieved.”