By now the word is out that HTC will be riding Specialized bicycles and wearing Specialized helmets for their 2011 campaign. Last Thursday Bob Stapleton drove up from San Luis Obispo to meet Mike Sinyard, Ben Capron (Specialized's brand chief) and an excited team of Specialized designers and engineers. It was a good vibe. I had the assignment to photograph the event.
This means the big S is sponsoring three major pro teams in 2011 (Astana, HTC and Saxo Bank). There's speculation in the cycling press with the recent Saxo Bank defections and Contador's predicament that Specialized wanted another formidable arrow in the quiver. One could certainly do worse than align with the winningest team in cycling over the past few years, but I got the distinct feeling that this was an idea that Mike and Bob have kicked around before. They are very relaxed and comfortable with each other and genuinely excited. With only 165 miles separating the two headquarters it's a partnership with geography on its side. Three teams are going to put Specialized on a bunch of podiums next year.
Bob was all smiles as Mike presented him with a sweet HTC prototype black/white Tarmac SL3 kitted out with Di2, Dura-Ace wheels and SRM power cranks fresh out the paint booth. It won't take long before we start to hear reactions from the riders, but even at their level it's got to be exciting to look forward to a stable of new bikes. I'm predicting the bike and all the positive Morgan Hill energy will have Cav feeling pretty good about next year. Come December both the full men's and women's teams will pay a visit for the all important BG Fit process. The women's team will be riding the Amira. Fingers crossed I'll be documenting the visit. That will be some week for the lunch ride.