Several big news items came out of the team of reigning U.S. National Champion, George Hincapie, this week. The team released photos and interviews from it's annual training camp in Solvang, California with an understandably heavy emphasis on new team member Ivan Basso and returning rider Levi Leipheimer. After finding success on Team CSC and Team Gerolsteiner respectively, the two add an explosive element to a team which sat relatively sterile during last season with a few gleaming moments in the Spring Classics (although those moments seemed over shadowed by Hincapie's shocking and amazing "crash-out" of Paris-Roubaix) and a lack-luster victory by Hincapie at the end of the season in the U.S. National Road Racing Championships. Perhaps the addition of these two riders will be just what the doctor ordered after the departure of Lance Armstrong, now a partial team owner.
During the training camp, much time was spent fitting the two star riders to their new bikes, Madone 6.9 SSL's (of which a custom-painted version for one of my clients can be found on the Custom Bike Gallery at BikePedlar.com) and TTX 9.9 time trial bikes. The most surprising comment from Trek/Discovery Team Liason, Scott Daubert, regards Basso: "He told me he was happy to be off a sloping top tube and also likes the stability of the Madone geometry."
Hmmm, Ivan didn't like the Cervelo that much...huh? Well, I'll have to concur; there is just something about that classic geometry. Ivan must be used to that feel from years of riding Italian bikes. I'm not at all surprised that he likes the Trek.
Levi was also excited to get back on a Trek, which feels like home to him after years of riding for the U.S. Postal Service team.
In other news, the Discovery Channel announced today, through USA Today, that they would be ending their sponsorship of the cycling team at the end of this racing season. This comes on the heels of the firing of Discovery Channel's CEO on Monday, Feb. 5 and a good ol' housecleaning of the upper-level managers of the other Discovery networks. The new CEO, former NBC executive David Zaslav is creating a lean and mean structure at Discovery and apparently that will involve cutting out sponsorship of the highest-profile professional cycling team, probably ending a relationship with multiple Sports Illustrated Athlete of the Year, cancer survivor, and 7-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. Smart move, genius. [sarcasm off] That's like Nike firing Michael Jordan! This is sure to put more pressure on Basso, Leipheimer, Tom Danielson, and the other riders - many of whom could be leaders on other teams but have chosen to contribute to the greater success of the Discovery organization.
Looks like 2007 is shaping up to be another interesting race season. Bring it on!
Thanks for reading.