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Stapleton - Lance return boosted cycling

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Bob Stapleton on Team Columbia
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Team Columbia chief Bob Stapleton believes Lance Armstrong's return has been good for cycling
  • Columbia won more races than any other team this year, giving them maximum exposure
  • Stapleton also sees many similarities between Armstrong anf his star sprinter Mark Cavendish

(CNN) -- Team Columbia chief Bob Stapleton has praised the return of Lance Armstong to competitive cycling -- and believes his fellow-American's presence in the peloton has boosted the sport's, and his team's, profile for the better.

Stapleton's team won more races than any other last season, a remarkable 86, with top sprinter Mark Cavendish responsible for 23 of those victories, with six coming in a Tour de France that received front page headlines because of seven-times winner Armstrong's return to the race.

"Lance's return has brought lots of publicity back to the sport and taken it back onto the world stage," Stapleton told CNN in an exclusive interview.

"It wasn't just Lance's comeback, but the way he raced that was so amazing. Viewing figures for the Tour de France went up 40 per cent in the States this year and brought cycling to the attention of the world's media, peaking at the Tour.

"That meant it was great for our team, because we were winning races all over the world. We felt if Lance was at a race, we absolutely, positively, had to put on a good show -- and Mark in particular delivered that.

Viewing figures for the Tour de France went up 40 per cent in the States this year and brought cycling to the attention of the world's media".
--Bob Stapleton - Team Columbia

"Mark won multiple stages at both the Giro and the Tour, both races that Lance was riding in. And, because the spotlight was shining on cycling, it gave all the other teams an ideal opportunity to showcase their qualities. Hopefully it will all happen again in 2010!"

Stapleton is fully aware that Cavendish is one of the biggest stars in the sport --and he believes the British sprinter has plenty in common with Armstrong.

"There are many similarities between the two, both in their attitude and the way they look at themselves. Both are very confident and highly capable, but also very very self aware.

"Both Mark and Lance look hard at themselves to see how they can improve, what they did right and what they did wrong, and I think that self awareness and self criticism makes people very good at what they do.

"I think it is very interesting that the biggest name in the sport is embracing, and indeed passing the mantle, to the second biggest name in the sport. From Lance to Mark."