Bob Stapleton was at the stage 4 start in Aspen for the US Pro Cycling Challenge. The former head of the HTC-Highroad squad, the number one ranked team before its demise two years ago, was just there as a fan.
What if he was back in the big show? Stapleton took a few questions about the sport of pro cycling and what would have to happen for him to be more than a spectator.
TS: Bob, what would it take to get you back running a ProTeam?
Stapleton: The right people, enough resources to be competitive and a special environment. And then ambition — people who really want to be the best. That’s hard to find.
TS: In your opinion, has the sport gotten better with doping and being more sponsor-friendly since you left?
Stapleton: I think you still have a stormy sea around Armstrong. For North American interests, that’s an issue. I do think the fundamental value of the sport is still there and clear to people. But it takes a special partner to look past some of the problems in the sport and grab a hold of the upside.
TS: The financial model for teams in the sport is so shaky. What’s your take?
Stapleton: Well, the other piece is, what it takes to compete has gone up dramatically. There’s a concentration of wealth in five or six teams and that has changed the game. So now you need deep relationships and resources and a longer term view — and that’s not easy to accomplish.
TS: George Hincapie is retiring. He spent several years with you at HTC-Highroad. What’s your signature memory of Hincapie?
Stapleton: There are so many. The first thing is him riding the last few stages of the 2009 Tour de France with a broken collarbone. And his stunning performance to set up Cavendish on the Champs Elysees He personally shut down the Garmin attack, closed them off in the final corner. Then he and Renshaw ran away with the race. One of the biggest wins on the Champs Elysees ever. That was all on the back of the team and particularly Hincapie.
TS: Last question, from your perspective, what’s the best possible outcome for cycling in the USADA – Lance Armstrong battle.
Stapleton: An end. (LAUGHS) That’s my best answer and I’m sticking to it.