Rise of the Cycling SuperTeams

The ProTour landscape is undergoing seismic shifts for 2012. Following a week of speculation, RadioShack and Leopard Trek made it official yesterday that they will merge for next season to form the RadioShack Nissan Trek Professional Cycling Team. The news comes just weeks after confirmation that Quick Step and Omega Pharma-Lotto will join forces to create a Belgian superteam called Omega Pharma-Quick Step. Adding to the upheaval, HTC Highroad, one of the peloton's most successful teams and home to dominant sprinter Mark Cavendish and a host of other talent, announced a few weeks ago that it would be closing its doors at the end of the season after the team was unable to secure a title sponsor.

All the jostling and maneuvering is good for some: the mergers are creating extremely powerful alliances and have also bolstered existing teams' rosters with free agents. But with fewer ProTour teams (the changes could mean as few as 16 ProTour teams next year, down from 18 in 2011) and the market flooded with talented riders, it will probably also mean lower salaries and many accomplished riders left without teams since rosters are capped at 30. Here's a quick look at the shifting landscape:

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