Friday, August 10, 2007

A Sad Day for American Cycling

The only US-based international cycling team is disbanding. When the Discover Channel opted out of sponsoring the Tailwind team after this season (largely due to the doping scandals surrounding the sport), the team was unable to find another major sponsor.

This is a team that won seven consecutive Tour de France titles under Lance Armstrong, a Giro d' Italia, and a Vuelta Espania (all three of the major stage races) and this year finished first and third in the Tour de France. It's a sad day for American cycling, which will be without a major international team for the first time in many years.

Here's some of the story via The New York Times:

The cycling team of Lance Armstrong and this year's Tour de France winner Alberto Contador said Friday that it will disband after failing to replace the Discovery Channel as its sponsor.

The announcement came at roughly the same that Contador held a news conference in Spain to deny the doping allegations that plagued him even before his victory last month.

In normal circumstances, a Tour de France win should have assured the continuation of the Discovery Channel squad which is owned by Tailwind Sports, a company based in Austin, Texas, partly owned by Armstrong.

But this has been far from a normal year for cycling or the Tour which had three riders test positive for doping practices, a race leader ejected for lying to doping officials and an announcement that another rider tested positive in an out of competition positive test before the race.

With Contador, Discovery had a winner clouded by suspicion stemming from the investigation by Spanish police in an anti-doping probe known as Operation Puerto.

But the 24-year-old Contador was not the only controversial rider on the team. Discovery hired Ivan Basso to be its leader last December only to fire him in the spring after he became the target of an Italian investigation.

"This is arguably the most successful sports franchise in the history of sport," Bill Stapleton, Tailwind's general manager, 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."

Armstrong, who won the Tour seven times for the team, said in the statement said that Tailwind will continue to operate but shift its attention to other sports.

"Clearly things need to improve on many levels, with a more unified front, before you would see us venture back into cycling," he said.

Read the rest.

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