HTC-Highroad owner Bob Stapleton has a self-imposed deadline of this Monday to keep his American registered ProTour team alive. However, several riders have been rumored to be jumping ship regardless. Most notably, and most obvious, is sprinter Mark Cavendish. He’s been quite vocal about how he feels his paycheck doesn’t reflect his value. And as time ticks down I foresee the team racking their Specialized bikes for good.
There’s no doubt that most of the riders from the talent rich Highroad squad will bounce somewhere else. But I want to put my focus on one rider in particular – Tejay Van Garderen. I’ve been impressed with this young rider since last year and have kept an eye on him. With the potential demise of HTC, I know he won’t have a problem finding another squad. But if I was team manager Brian Nygaard of Leopard-Trek, I’d slip Van Garderen the Leopard-Trek business card into his rear jersey pocket as he crosses the line and ask him to have his people call me. Follow that up by casually wrapping him with a complimentary scarf to show the serious nature of the proposal.
Yes, I’m well aware of the Schleck brothers and their role on the Luxembourg squad as general classification leaders. But they can’t be everywhere. Tejay could be the guy for the Tour of California (yes I left off Amgen as I have doubts it will be sponsoring the race next year). Also, as we’ve seen lately, it’s not a bad idea to go into the Tour with a few leadership options. Something happens to a Schleck? Boom – Tejay is there. But lets look past the who can do what on the team in the Tour of “Where ever.” Let’s talk money.
Trek bicycles is fortunate to have two horses in this year’s Tour – RadioShack and Leopard-Trek. Let’s face it, Armstrong got a lot of people on Treks, but he’s gone and the way things are going his name won’t hold the value it once did. The American electronic store is a known name to the American general public. Leopard-Trek? Yeah – not so much. Let’s also take another reality check – RadioShack hasn’t exactly been lighting it up this year. Yeah, they killed it in California, but the big show is in July. If Andy Schleck wins the Tour that will be great for the squad and for Trek, but the Wisconsin company needs an American to really get us behind the Euro-heavy Leopard-Trekers as it looks that they’ll be Tour contenders for quite a few years. Have you seen the Trek commercials with Schleck? He looks like a POW and with that German sounding accent it’s just difficult to watch. I want to call Luxembourg Social Services and demand a welfare check made on Andy to ensure he’s not being neglected.
Leopard-Trek needs an American face. Someone that the average American racing fan can get behind. But they also need an American who can win – Van Garderen is that guy. The team management also needs an American to sell that pronunciation of “Leopard” for them. To me, it sounds like the management team is just a bunch of pretentious Europeans with their odd pronunciation of “Leopard” with the added nerve of trying to enforce it. An added bonus – I suspect Van Garderen looks dashing in a scarf or similar type of neck-ware.
So Mr. Nygaard if I was you, I’d make this happen and put a big “O” straight in the middle of his ass for next year. You’ll be glad you did. Then maybe, and I mean maybe, I’ll start pronouncing the team “LAY-oh-pard Trek.”
I wrote this piece last night thinking I’d publish it today. However, according to Velonews.com, Tejay is signing a three year deal with BMC. Not a bad move for Van Garderen as it will give him some job stability. Regardless, I thought I’d hit “post” on this blog anyways. If the other rumor of Thor Hushovd and Philippe Gilbert also slipping on a BMC jersey are correct, that will be the team in the spring Classics. But my “Spidey” senses aren’t tingling about Hushovd riding for BMC. But stranger things have happened…