José 'Ace' Azevedo will leave the Discovery Channel team at the end of this season, the team confirmed. After riding for Disco/USPS since 2004, Azevedo decided to forego the final year of his contract to race domestically in Portugal, allowing him to spend more time at home with his family.
Azevedo, a Portuguese climber, was a part of the 'Spanish Armada' - the name given to the group consisting of Jose Luis Rubiera, Benjamin Noval, and Manuel Beltrán for their efforts in defending team captain Lance Armstrong. During Armstrong's sixth Tour de France victory in 2004, Azevedo finished a career-best fifth place overall while riding as a domestique. This year, as one of the team leaders, Azevedo was 19th overall, the best placed Discovery rider in the Tour. He also finished fourth overall in the Dauphiné Libéré, fifth overall in Castilla y Leon, and sixth overall in Paris-Nice.
"It was a difficult decision," said Azevedo. "The Discovery Team is the best in the world - it is any rider's dream. But I discussed it with my family, and I am content with the choice."
"We are very appreciative of José's hard work and dedication to this team over the past three years," said team manager Johan Bruyneel. "He has been very instrumental in the Team's success and we wish him all the best as he starts a new chapter in his life."
In the coming months, Discovery Channel will look to sign new additions for the 2007 team, which has already contracted Levi Leipheimer, Sergio Paulinho, and Tomas Vaitkus.