American Levi Leipheimer, a third place finisher in the 2007 Tour de France, has followed in the footsteps of his former team manager Johan Bruyneel by signing for the Kazakh-backed cycling team Astana.
Astana were thrown out of this year's race after their star rider, Alexandre Vinokourov, tested positive for homologous blood doping. He was among several riders from the team to have tested positive this season.
Bruyneel, who helped orchestrate Lance Armstrong's seven consecutive yellow jersey triumphs and was celebrating again this year when Spaniard Alberto Contador won the race, signed on as Astana's team manager in recent days. Contador has also signed for the Swiss-registered outfit, joining Leipheimer, who signed a two-year deal.
Both will be joined by Portuguese rider Sergio Paulinho, Spaniard Benjamin Noval, Lithuanian Tomas Vaitkus and Slovenian Janez Brajkovic, all of whom were part of Discovery Channel.
Discovery Channel will pull out of cycling sponsorship at the end of the year.
Leipheimer, who will turn 34 on Wednesday, has finished five times in the Tour's top 15. After a mediocre Tour campaign he won the race's penultimate stage time trial at Angoulême in July to secure a place on the podium.
© AFP 2007