The prodigal son returns

Levi Leipheimer confirmed that he'll return to ride for the Discovery Channel Team next year. Free subscription required at that site, so here's the relevant portion of the article:

Levi Leipheimer will join fellow North Americans George Hincapie, Tom Danielson, Michael Barry and Jason McCartney as he returns to the Discovery Channel Team. Leipheimer stated, “I’m very excited about returning to the Discovery Channel Team, its family of sponsors and working with Johan Bruyneel once again. This team has a long history of success and I plan to work hard to continue their winning ways in 2007.”

Team Discovery also added Sergio Paulinho and Thomas Vaitkus. Rumor has it that Discovery Channel is also courting Jan Ullrich. If he signs, it will be really interesting to see who acts as team leader in next year's Tour. Perhaps after this Tour the management didn't feel they had a clear team leader who would be ready to step up next year. Yaroslav Popovych is 26 or 27, and I'd think he'd be groomed as team leader in 2008 or 2009, but he had a tough time this year. Ullrich and Leipheimer both have maybe one more Tour in their legs, so they'd serve as a bridge team leader until one of the young guys was ready to step up.

I'm curious to see how Tom Danielson rides in the Vuelta Espana. He finished eighth their last year, and he's a great climber. He's also 28, so it's not as if the team can wait for him for a few more years. On the other hand, he's a former mountain biker, like Floyd Landis, and perhaps they have a longer shelf life than lifelong road racers?

In other, darker news, the sport is awaiting the revelation of which "high-profile" Tour rider tested positive for doping after stage 17, in which Floyd Landis won that miraculous solo breakaway. Will the dark clouds over professional cycling ever part?