By Patrick Brady

What's in a sponsorship? Traditionally, athletes seek sponsorship to help defray the cost of competition. When you get good enough, sponsors not only give you equipment, they pay you to ride it. The new sponsorship by Specialized of HTC-Highroad takes this a step further.

Valued at $500 million, Specialized is one of a handful of bike companies with the horsepower necessary to provide a financial shot in the arm to a cycling team, but to Bob Stapleton, High Road Sports CEO, Specialized brings even greater value to his team.

Technically, the sponsorship Is for frames, forks and helmets; financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. However, Stapleton's aspirations are loftier than just to see his riders aboard one of the top American bicycle brands.

Of the union, Stapleton said, "Specialized is an iconic brand in the sport I think we come into this with the intention of trying to do things together. We're both hungry to try to do big things."

"I want to build this into the benchmark franchise for elite cycling teams. I want to establish the structure that every team should aspire to. Specialized is a terrific company to partner with and can help us draw in other great brands."

When asked If he sees Specialized like Macy's, serving as an anchor store in a shopping mall, he replies, "Yes, exactly. We have a vacancy, and I'd like to see it come from a West Coast technology company Cycling is green and relevant, thanks to 160 million enthusiasts in the U.S. and Europe."

Specialized CEO Mike Sinyard was excited when talking about the relationship. Asked why the sponsorship contract was for three years and not the more typical term of two years he responded, "I would hope this goes on forever. When we work with the right teams, we like it to go on.

"And when asked why he would want to take on the massive expense of working with a third ProTour team—the HTC-Highroad sponsorship is in addition to Sungard-Saxo Bank and Astana—Sinyard replies, "Different teams have a different focus. Nobody does it all."

By this, it's safe to presume Sinyard means that he'd like to see Mark Cavendish take a sprint win aboard a Specialized Tarmac. What manufacturer wouldn't?

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