The American HTC-Columbia will head to the Tour de France next week targeting both the Green Jersey and the General Classification, and the team's management is confident they will be at the Grand Départ next Saturday with a team that can support both goals."We are going into the race focused on our combined strength as a team and will exploit every chance for success - stage wins, jerseys and outstanding performances," explained team owner Bob Stapleton. Despite his excellent season performances amounting to eleven wins, André Greipel was overlooked by the team. The team's sprint efforts will instead be led by Mark Cavendish, who will enter the race with question marks after dental problems derailed his early season build-up. The Manxman has only three wins so far this season, and was beaten handily by Francesco Chicchi during the final sprint stage of the Tour of California, finishing well out of the lead in third place.
His last sprint saw him meet the pavement at the Tour de Suisse, and was the subject of great controversy. Race judges ruled Cavendish caused the massive stage four pile-up by deviating from his line. Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo TestTeam) looked set to win the stage before his contact with the Manx Missile exploded the front end of the peloton.
Riders lodged a protest against Cavendish delaying the stage the following day demanding more respect from the HTC-Columbia star. His rivals will now see a chink in the armor, both mentally and physically, following two years of complete sprint dominance in the Grande Boucle totalling and incredible ten stage wins. Cavendish will look to rise to the occasion, and will captain the best leadout team in the business that includes Mark Renshaw, Bernhard Eisel, Bert Grabsch and Adam Hansen.
"Selecting the team was very hard for us again this year," said Team Manager Rolf Aldag. "It was hard enough selecting a long list of 15, but to bring it down to only nine riders involved some very difficult decisions. In the end we have to leave at home several riders who also deserve a chance to ride the Tour."
HTC-Columbia will look to Michael Rogers for their chance at securing the yellow jersey. In 2007 the Australian crashed out of the race on a day he was all but assured of putting on the maillot juane for the first time. He will again look to put himself in a strong position for the overall in what has been his best season to date. Rogers recently took the overall victory at a hotly contested Tour of California, and will look to co-captain Tony Martin to help relieve the pressure of team leadership. The pair will work for the strongest rider, and will count on Maxime Monfort, Kanstantsin Sivtsov and Adam Hansen to provide support.
"Our decisions were based on two goals," explained Aldag. "First, we wanted a strong team to support Mark Cavendish and winning the Green jersey. To win, we need to concentrate all points with one sprinter. As a result we have not included André Greipel in the roster. Mark won six stages of the Tour de France last year and we have faith that he will be highly successful in the 2010 Tour.
"Renshaw, Eisel, Grabsch and Hansen will be the main support for the sprint stages with of course the other riders also playing a part in the lead out train as well.
"Second, we wanted to field a team who can focus on the overall. Rogers has had the best season of his career to date and is very focused on contending in the general classification. Tony Martin comes off a very successful Tour de Suisse where he held the yellow jersey for the first part of the race and won the closing time trial, making him the only person to beat Fabian Cancellara in a time trial besides [Alberto] Contador in three years.
"They will be supported by Maxime Monfort, who showed excellent form at Tour de Suisse, Adam Hansen, who won the Ster Elektro stage race last weekend and Kanstantsin Sivtsov who is a tireless worker on both flat and mountainous terrain."
Aiming for two jerseys at the Tour de France is a tall order for any team. Iterestingly enough, HTC-Columbia is the successor to the last team that was able to accomplish that feat. In 1997 the then German Telekom team led Jan Ulrich to his only Tour de France crown, while also working to help Erik Zabel secure his second of six green jersey titles. Zabel is working with Cavendish, who is still looking for his first green jersey title.
Team HTC-Columbia roster for the 2010 Tour de France:
Mark Cavendish, Bernhard Eisel, Bert Grabsch, Adam Hansen, Tony Martin, Maxime Monfort, Mark Renshaw, Michael Rogers and Kanstantsin Sivtsov