Talk about irony. In all likelihood, Discovery Channel's Alberto Contador will win the 2007 Tour de France. Not to take anything away from the Spanish rider's efforts, but his victory is due to Michael Rasmussen's departure because of the Rabobank rider's suspicions of doping. Discovery Channel is in the final year of sponsoring Contador's team. For the squad to continue in 2008, they need to find a sponsor to the tune of about $15 million a year. Unfortunately, because of all the doping scandals in the sport, the Discovery Channel team has been unable to find a replacement sponsor.
It is incredibly ironic that the situation which will most likely bring the team the Tour's yellow jersey, may also lead to be the demise of the very same team. It just doesn't get anymore Shakespearean than that. Would the team rather have the yellow jersey or a new title sponsor? What a dilemma.
Given that the Discovery Channel team may not exist next year, several of its American riders have signed letters of intent to ride for ex-U.S. Postal and Credit Agricole rider Jonathan Vaughters' new European pro team. Currently, Vaughters is the director of Team Slipstream, which is registered as a UCI Continental team. Because they are a continental team and not a pro tour squad, Vaughters must fight to get his riders entry into Europe's best bike races. With the addition of some high-profile riders, Vaughters could make a bid to become a Pro Tour team. Hey, Astana's Pro Tour license may be up for grabs.
Jonathan is reported to have a budget of about $5 million, a full two-thirds less than the needs of the Discovery Channel squad. It was reported this week that George Hincapie, David Millar and David Zabriske have signed letters of intent to switch to Vaughters' team for 2008. Rumors have also linked Levi Leipheimer, Tom Danielson and Christian Vandevelde. It seems like as one door closes another one opens. Of course, the best scenario is one that has all doors opening for cycling and the teams having to choose which sponsors they want.
So, as Contador gets one step closer to the top spot on the podium in Paris, the sponsorship woes of Discovery Channel and several other teams are very real, due in large part to the Tour's doping scandals which put Contador in yellow in the first place. Did everyone get that? Do I need to type more slowly? Do I need some descriptive pictures or diagrams?