Lance Armstrong's Discovery pro cycling team decided to take down the transfusions bags and pull the plug on cycling sponsorship. Forbes here with the story. New York Times link here (reg required). Story on Contador, and a post on who won and who doped.
With their latest Tour de France champion fending off doping accusations and new sponsors wary of signing on, Armstrong and the owners of the Discovery Channel team said Friday the squad will disband after this season.
The team's premier rider, Alberto Contador won the Tour de France this year, amid more doping accusations:
The decision closes the Armstrong era in cycling and shuts down the sport's only elite professional team based in the United States. Armstrong retired from riding in 2005 but remained a visible co-owner of the team operated by Tailwind Sports.
Discovery won this year's Tour de France behind Spaniard Alberto Contador but has struggled to find a new sponsor for 2008. Discovery announced in February it would not sponsor the team beyond this year
The team cites 10 years of achievement (described as 'the most successful sports franchise in history):
He (Armstrong) won the first of his record seven consecutive Tour de France titles in 1999 racing under the U.S. Postal Service banner. The team had the sport's top lineup as Armstrong and his lieutenants powered their way through the French countryside and up the mountains. It maintained that dominance this year when Contador won the Tour and American teammate Levi Leipheimer finished third.
Discovery will still ride in this year's Tour of Spain and the Tour of Missouri, but the shutdown means Contador, Leipheimer and the 25 other riders must find new teams for 2008.
Ahhhh, how many victories were clean?
(from the New York Times after the jump)
From the Times:
The Discovery team was owned by Tailwind Sports, a company based in Austin, Tex., that is co-owned by Armstrong. The team had no shortage of success on the bike: Armstrong won a record seven consecutive Tour de France titles with the team, and this year’s winner, Alberto Contador of Spain, and third-place finisher, Levi Leipheimer of the United States, wore Discovery jerseys.
“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.”
The Discovery team was not able to avoid the suspicions of doping that have beset the sport. Contador held a news conference in Spain yesterday to deny the doping allegations that plagued him even before his victory last month. Armstrong was dogged by doping allegations for much of his career, though he has never tested positive and has denied ever doping. Discovery hired Ivan Basso to be its leader in December only to fire him in the spring after he became the target of an Italian investigation.