By Andrew Hood
Just like most of the T-Mobile riders this week, Michael Rogers wasn’t sure what lay in store when he heard news that the German telecommunications giant was pulling the plug on its title sponsorship of the team.
Despite some uncertainty, the Aussie GC rider believes the team’s future is safe as team manager Bob Stapleton scrambles to reorganize the squad in time for the start of the new season.
“I did think [the team was dead]. T-Mobile chips in several million dollars a year and to find a sponsor of that caliber, in these conditions, is no easy thing,” Rogers said in an interview with the Canberra Times. “But Bob has given us his word. I’ve known him for some time now and when he gives his word that’s what he does. I’m sure he’s working hard to get the ball moving and look for new sponsors and people to take the team into a new light next year.”
Deutsch Telekom announced Tuesday it was ending its 16-year sponsorship deal following a seemingly endless series of negative headlines surrounding the team’s history.
Details of the deal were not announced, but Stapleton assured riders and staff that there’s enough money in place to continue operating the team under the name of Team High Road even if a new title sponsor isn’t brought on board.
Rogers expressed confidence in Stapleton’s management team and said he would like to stay with the team after his contract expires at the end of 2008.
“We just hope there’s no loss of valuable time. We’ve got the professionals around us and they’re still very capable of doing their job under any conditions, so I’m quite confident and optimistic that we won’t lose any of our advantage,” said Rogers, who is the only team member still on the squad from 2005.
“It’d have to be quite a good offer for me to move on. I really like the way Bob and his team works. If they were to offer me a new contract tomorrow I’d take it very seriously and probably make the decision to stay. It’s maybe a bit premature, though. We’ve got a year to go and the current situation of cycling isn’t good, so we just have to see how things pan out during the year and I’m sure around about the Tour de France time I’d have made a decision.”
Rogers is scheduled to attend a team training camp next week.
Ag2r sets winter camp
Scores of teams are scheduling winter training camps to get a head start on the 2008 season.
Team CSC, for example, is bashing through the woods of Norway as part of its annual team-building camp while new-look Astana is set to get together next month in sunny Spain as it moves forward under the leadership of new manager Johan Bruyneel.
French teams can’t be so exotic. As part of French rules aimed at minimizing doping cheats, teams are not allowed to have training camps anywhere except in France.
Ag2r-La Mondiale has picked Temple-sur-Lot along the Lot River valley southeast of Bordeaux as the site of a pre-season training camp from December 12-21 to get the ball rolling toward 2008. The team reports typical activities for this time of year, with training rides from 60 to 180km, team meetings and photos.
The team welcomes eight new riders as part of its 30-man roster for 2008. The new faces include Christophe Edaleine, Vladimir Efimkin, Stijn Vandenbergh, Tadej Valjavec and young riders Tanel Kangert, Cédric Pineau, Alexandr Pliuschin and Jean-Charles Senac.
Ag2r-Le Mondiale for 2008: Sylvain Calzati, Cyril Dessel, Renaud Dion, Hubert Dupont, Christophe Edaleine, John Gadret, Stéphane Goubert, Julien Loubet, Laurent Mangel, Lloyd Mondory, Jean-Patrick Nazon, Cédric Pineau, Stéphane Poulhiès, Christophe Riblon, Nicolas Rousseau, Jean-Charles Senac, Blaise Sonnery, Ludovic Turpin (all French); Tanel Kangert, René Mandri (Est); Rinaldo Nocentini (I); José Luis Arrieta (Spa); Philip Deignan (Ire); Martin Elmiger (Swi); Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukr); Alexandre Usov (Blr); Alexandr Pliuschin (Mol); Stijn Vandenbergh (B); Tadej Valjavec (Slo); Vladimir Efimkin (Rus)