Despite one of the sport’s most impressive win records, the U.S.-based Discovery Channel team has failed in efforts to secure a new title sponsor and will cease operations at the end of the season.Wow! Obviously, success doesn’t necessarily breed success in cycling…at least where sponsorship is concerned. If the team with the top winners at the Tour de France and absolutely no positive drug tests can’t find a sponsor, who can?
Tailwind Sports, the parent company of the team, announced Friday that the program will end with the 2007 cycling season. Tailwind officials were apparently unable to parlay a series of eight Tour de France victories over nine years into a satisfactory sponsorship arrangement.
The team has stated that the decision to cease operation is NOT based on lack of sponsorship but on an antagonistic management change at the Discovery Channel television network, on the current climate of drug controversies within the sport, and on a lack of agreement by various cycling groups/agencies on how to handle drug testing and standards. Even Lance Armstrong alluded to the latter as a reason for closing up shop:
“I do not think you have seen the last of this organization in the sport, but clearly things need to improve on many levels, with a more unified front, before you would see us venture back into cycling.”So what are American cycling fans to do? I don’t know about anyone else, but I plan to watch the progress of Team Slipstream, managed by former U.S. Postal rider Jonathan Vaughters. So far, the team has signed David Millar, David Zabriskie, Christian Vande Velde, Magnus Backstedt, and Julian Dean. Not bad for a new franchise. It would be great if they could sign the likes of Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie, too. The former maybe, but the word on the street has Mr. Hincapie riding for T-Mobile in 2008.
The bigger question for me: who gets Johann Bruyneel?