Posted by Editor on 08/10/07
Discovery Channel Team to Cease Operations
Tailwind Sports, the owner of the Discovery Channel Professional Cycling Team, announced today that the team will cease operations at the end of this season. Tailwind has been struggling to find a new title sponsor for next season, after the expiration of the Discovery Channel agreement at the end of this year. A corporate shakeup at Discovery Channel led to the current title sponsor deciding not to renew its sponsorship. Prior to Discovery, the team was sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service.
General Manager Bill Stapleton said in a statement: "This was a difficult decision, not made any easier by our recent Tour de France success. We were in talks with a number of companies about the opportunity and were confident a new sponsor was imminent. We have chosen, however, to end those discussions."
Tailwind's owners include Stapleton, Lance Armstrong and team director Johan Bruyneel.
Despite winning 8 of the past 9 Tours, the team has been hit by some of the doping controversies plaguing cycling. This year's winner Alberto Contador made a public statement today denying any involvement with the Puerto blood doping scandal, and has offered to provide DNA to authorities to prove his innocence. The team had to release one of its planned Tour leaders, Ivan Basso, after he admitted to being involved with Dr Fuentes in the Puerto situation (Basso still denies actually doping).
This will release a number of top riders into the job market, including Contador (who will need to deal with doping allegations quickly), Levi Leipheimer (3rd at the Tour) and Yaroslav Popovych (8th at the Tour). George Hincapie is already rumoured to be signing with T-Mobile. The team says that it will complete the remaining races on its schedule.
The disbanding of Discovery potentially opens the door for American Jonathan Vaughters' Team Slipstream to move up its schedule for a ProTour licence. Slipstream has already signed ProTour riders David Zabriskie, David Millar, Christian Vande Velde, Julian Dean, Magnus Bakstedt and Christophe Laurent.
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