Fresh off a victory in the Tour de France, Team Discovery Channel will disband at season's end (their previous sponsor was the USPS). Even with cycling's troubles, I would have thought someone would want to step in and sponsor such a successful team. I wonder what the operating budget of a cycling team is for a year--$25 to $30 million? You probably can't turn a profit, and with the taint of drugs hanging over the sport, even the soft profits from brand association are gone. Still, if I were extremely wealthy, I'd sink money into it just to be close to the sport, to travel around to races in Europe. The announcement makes it seem as if they could have found sponsorship but have chosen to disband anyhow. If so, it's a blow to a sport already staggering.
Though I'll always think of Lance Armstrong first when I think of the team, the team had survived his departure and continued its success. The next image that leaps to mind is Sports Director Johan Brunyeel barking in several languages into his radio to encourage his riders, and the third would be George Hincapie and his Oakley racing jackets, out front at the bottom of the final climb, trying to launch his team captain for the stage win.
I met a few members of the team staff the last year I went to the Tour. In a sport notable for its turnover, the team seemed to be a tight-knit group. It's a sad day for this cycling fan, capping what has been a dark year for the sport.
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