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.
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.
“Tailwind has had an amazing 10 years of success with U.S. Postal and more recently Discovery Channel as its title sponsor. This is arguably the most successful sports franchise in the history of sport,” general manager Bill Stapleton was quoted as saying in a release issued Friday morning.
But Team T-Mobile is sticking around (thankfully), giving at least one rider current U.S. national road champion George Hincapie a new team for 2008.
Hincapie is said to have signed a deal with the T-Mobile team, run by American telecommunications entrepreneur Bob Stapleton (no relation to Bill). In contrast, the T-Mobile team got good news this week, when its title sponsor, Deutsche Telekom, reaffirmed its support through 2010.
A couple of weeks ago, when Cofidis’s Cristian Moreni tested positive for testosterone, I posted an open letter that I had sent to Team T-Mobile, expressing my dismay that they might withdraw from the sport, stating “Dropping sponsorship will not help change things. Dropping sponsorship will hurt the sport at a time when it needs help the most. Things are changing, and cycling needs your support more than ever, with riders like Linus Gerdemann succeeding AND speaking out publicly against doping.”
Apparently the team agrees, since in their press conference Christian Frommert stated:
“After a lot of consideration, we concluded that to leave cycling at a time this sport is in crisis would send the wrong message. We are in an uncompromising fight against doping.”
“We want to prove a point through consistency and stability which this sport is in great need of,” said T-Mobile’s board chairman Hamid Akhavan. “We want to continue our involvement in cycling and support it in its effort to become a cleaner sport.”
Hopefully, 2008 turns out to be cleaner than 2007 … and that the sport continues to move forward towards a cleaner future.