San Luis Obispo-based Team HTC-Columbia has high hopes for Tour

San Luis Obispo-based Team HTC-Columbia will enter the Tour de France with big goals: To capture the overall victory, as well as the top sprinter title.

Toward those ends, the team will field a squad led by Michael Rogers of Australia. He will be HTC’s hope for capturing the overall, or general classification, competition. Rogers won the Tour of California in May, but that race lasts just over a week. The Tour de France, professional cycling’s main event, starts July 3 and continues through July 25.

For the sprint competition within the tour, HTC will feature Mark Cavendish, the young English rider who in the last several years has become one of the top sprinters in the sport.

At last year’s tour, Cavendish won six sprint stages, and got to wear the green jersey each day after his victories.

Joining Rogers and Cavendish on the team are Bernhard Eisel (Austria), Bert Grabsch (Germany), Adam Hansen (Australia), Tony Martin (Germany), Maxime Monfort (Belgium), Mark Renshaw (Australia) and Kanstantsin Sivtsov (Belarus).

In picking the nine riders, HTC’s men’s team manager Rolf Aldag explained the strategy this way in a press release:

“Our decisions were based on two goals. First, we wanted a strong team to support Mark Cavendish and winning the Green jersey. To win, we need to concentrate all points with one sprinter … Mark won six stages of the Tour de France last year and we have faith that he will be highly successful in the 2010 Tour.“Second, we wanted to field a team who can focus on the overall. Rogers has had the best season of his career to date and is very focused on contending in the general classification.”

Among Rogers’ main competitors will be Lance Armstrong, the Texan who is the tour’s seven-time winner and now races for Team Radio Shack. Last year’s champion, Alberto Contador of Spain, will compete again for the Astana squad of Kazakhstan. Leading the German Saxo Bank squad will be Andy Schleck, who finished second in the Tour de France last year.