Thanks to Lucybears and Tom S for clueing in the rest of us to this stunning development. Read the VN and CN reports for more details. I really didn't think they'd go through with it. Coupla points:
- Last year when the new recast T-Mobile team was announced, it was the best thing that could have happened to the sport. T-Mobile is one of the true flagship sponsors, and their response to one of the sport's darkest years was to challenge the entire Pro Tour to do better. They were standing by Cycling, a decision I couldn't have respected more. One testosterone patch later, they run for the hills, shrieking about protecting their image. WTF? It's like having your beloved spouse of 25 years tell you one day that she's a Russian spy and your entire life was an illusion. Not that that's happened to me.
- OK, a more objective analysis: T-Mobile are undoubtedly making a business decision, and have determined that sponsoring Cycling, which is strictly a marketing tool, no longer pays dividends. Subtract the doping, and you've got a sport of vigorous young men and women, impervious to pain and the elements, streaking along the roads with maximal flash and style. Pretty good for branding, right? But subtracting the doping is an endless knot, and to Germans they're all miserable cheats. Not good branding.
- It's not clear to me why this is about Germany. Surely everyone in the Fatherland has heard of Deutsche Telekom by now. So wasn't the goal of using Cycling as a marketing tool to reach people elsewhere in Europe, the Americas, Australia, maybe even Japan and China and Abu Dhabi? Pat McQuaid's mission, before being hijacked into the dope wars, was to spread the gospel of Cycling around the world... hence the Tour of (every non-Cycling country you can name) being on the calendar. Build a worldwide audience and the multi-nationals will come. I suspect (w/o knowing) that Cycling still does work as branding... but T-Mob are in Germany, where people's lives are so untroubled that the entire country has become obsessed with sports doping... if the media can be believed. In a sense, T-Mob were shouted out of the sport by the German media.
- All that said, it's not like there wasn't a problem. However disproportionate the response has become, Patrik Sinkewitz did dope, even after the team was rebuilt around clean sport. All of this fallout can be traced directly back to his stupid, selfish indiscretion. But he's also a proxy for Jan Ullrich. Der Jan's exploits are what's bothering those newer German Cycling fans who rode into the sport on the Kaiser Express over the last decade. I can only guess how profoundly disappointing Ullrich's demise has been to them... and they're pissed enough to lash out at any German rider still within reach. This was the smoldering atmosphere Sinking Joke ignited with his patch. I'm not sure he's the worst person ever, but he might be the stupidest.
- As for Team High Road, I'm not sure how they can sustain one of the sport's largest budgets without T-Mobile. I'm a little fuzzy on the Pro Tour licensing, but IIRC the license requires a four-year bank guarantee, so maybe THR can live off funds already deposited. Or maybe they're settling with the Mob on a year's worth of expenses. Or maybe they really have new sponsors on the way. Or,... maybe they'll fold next week.