Discovery Channel the most successful team in professional cycling over the last 10 years is to disband at the end of the 2007 season, the team's owner and operator Tailwind Sports announced today. This follows strong hints, as reported on BikeRadar, to the US media from within the Discovery set up that the team was likely to fold.
Discovery and its predecessor, the US Postal Service Team, won eight of the last nine Tour de France races - seven consecutively from 1999-2005 with Lance Armstrong - and this year with Alberto Contador of Spain.
Despite all this Tailwind has been unable to sign a title sponsor for the 2008 season. "This was a difficult decision, not made any easier by our recent Tour de France success," team General Manager Bill Stapleton said.
"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." He added: "Tailwind has had an amazing ten years of success with US Postal and more recently Discovery Channel as its title sponsor. This is arguably the most successful sports franchise in the history of sport."
Sports Director Johan Bruyneel has been the driving force behind the Team's success since his arrival to the team in 1999. In nine short years Bruyneel has created a legacy that will live on in cycling history, and his departure from the sport was not an easy choice.
"When I came to direct this team in 1999 I never would have imagined that we could achieve this level of success. It was an amazing time in my life and the lives of all the staff and riders associated with this team," commented Bruyneel.
"I'm going to miss the staff, riders and the excitement of the races, but not all the in fighting between the teams. This Team has become my family and it is very sad to think that we will not be together next season. 2007 has been our most successful season ever and I expect the remainder of the season to continue on that same path."
Team co-owner and seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong has been intimately involved in the team both as a rider and as an owner.
"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," Armstrong said.
The Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team will continue to race its full calendar of Pro Tour races including the final grand tour of the season, the Tour of Spain, as well as the upcoming Tour of Missouri.
Bruyneel to retire; Contador surprised
Team sporting director Johan Bruyneel, meanwhile, confirmed he would be retiring from professional cycling at the end of the season.
"I've achieved everything that I could in the sport. I've always said that I wanted to stop on top and I think it's the right time," added Bruyneel, 43, who directed the team to eight of its nine Tour de France wins.
Contador heard the news after he made a statement in Madrid on Friday denying that he had ever used performance enhancing drugs in his career.
"It was a surprise," sources close to the Spanish cyclist told AFP.
The 24-year-old rider hit out a recent doping suspicions against him after he was told this week he is not welcome to participate at the Pro-Tour's Cyclassics event in Hamburg on August 19 after organisers said he had been named in connection with the Operation Puerto blood-doping scandal.
© BikeRadar and AFP 2007