Marco Pinotti, one of the veteran members of the HTC-Highroad team, says he cannot fully understand why cycling’s most successful team is shutting down at the end of this season after a sponsor search came up short.
“It was a big shock when they told us they couldn’t find a new sponsor,” Pinotti said Saturday from his home. “It’s hard to understand how the most successful team in cycling cannot find a sponsor.”
Pinotti, 35, was one of High Road’s core members, joining the squad in 2007.
“It says a lot about cycling right now that the most successful team is left without a sponsor,” he told VeloNews. “In the past, if you won a lot of races, you could be assured of a sponsor. Today, things have changed. It’s harder to find outside sponsors who do not already have passion for the sport.”
The five-time Italian national time trial champion said riders don’t know much more “than what we’ve read in the media,” but wondered whether the team’s future was undermined by a worsening world economy, with big companies unwilling to shell out millions of dollars for sponsorships while facing an uncertain economic climate.
“There are a lot of questions we don’t know the answers to right now,” he said. “There wasn’t much more we could do as riders and as a team to make ourselves attractive to a sponsor. We were hoping that the team would continue, and we only started to hear this past weekend that things were not going well.”
As he looks for a new team, Pinotti is cautiously optimistic that the “High Road DNA” will prove valuable on the job market.
“Every one here was part of something special,” he said. “I know that many teams will be interested in having the riders from High Road. It’s really more important a question of selecting the right team.”
Although he is coming off a serious crash during May’s Giro d’Italia, when he broke his hip in the same accident that saw teammate Craig Lewis also fall hard, Pinotti said he’s not worried about finding a ride.
“I hope to race for two more years,” he said. “I was hoping to finish with High Road. It’s very sad for cycling that we lose this team. The team brought some new ways of thinking to cycling. I hope to carry that knowledge to a new team that I join. The others will do the same, so in that way, the team will not die.”