With a new co-sponsor lined up for the Tour de France and beyond, Columbia-HTC team owner Bob Stapleton has emphasised that Mark Cavendish’s goal in the 2009 Tour will be to win stages. If the green jersey arrives as a result, that will be an added bonus.



“There’s a lot of expectation about Mark and the green jersey, but the real focus will be on him winning stages,” Stapleton said on Monday afternoon.



“If the green jersey comes along as a result of that – then great.



“But we shouldn’t forget our GC options, with Kim Kirchen, Michael Rogers and Maxime Monfort. We’re not going into the Tour with one goal or one leader, we’ll take all the success we can in any way we can grab it.”



Stapleton emphasised that the team had also selected “a real Swiss army knife of core riders for the Tour, chosen for their versatility.”



“George [Hincapie], Bert [Grabsch], Bernie [Eisel] are all guys who can provide strong team support and later in the race perhaps go for possible stage wins,” Stapleton continued.



“Last year we had a total of 20 podium appearances in the Tour de France, and hopefully this year’s will be as successful, if not more.”



Team manager, Rolf Aldag, described the process of whittling down the chosen nine riders as the “toughest decision of the year, as we had 15 guys who deserved to be on our Tour de France team. It was difficult to personally disappoint these fine athletes”. 



Prodigious German talent, Tony Martin, who won a stage and the mountains classification at the Tour of Switzerland will make his Tour de France debut with the team this year. Up-and-coming general classification rider, Maxime Monfort, is likely to lend support to Kirchen and Rogers in the mountains whilst Mark Renshaw and world time trial champion, Bert Grabsch, will form part of Cavendish’s formidable lead-out train.



New sponsor in challenging times

Team morale could hardly be higher, Stapleton added, given Columbia-HTC hit the Tour de France with a total of 33 wins for the mens’ and women’s teams in June.



But he recognised that the world economic crisis had made for a “challenging enviroment” to find a new co-sponsor like HTC, a mobile phone company.



“However, we pulled the rabbit out of the hat, and it’s a very good rabbit.”



Stapleton revealed the team will have specially designed race gear for the Tour, incorporating a new colour from the HTC brand, and that they had already signed five amateurs for 2010.



Tour de France line-up:

Mark Cavendish

George Hincapie

Maxime Monfort

Kim Kirchen

Bert Grabsch

Tony Martin

Mark Renshaw

Michael Rogers

Bernhard Eisel