By Jean-François Quénet in Cannes
Discovery Channel announced earlier this year that they would not continue to sponsor the cycling team after end of the 2007 season, and it was speculated that the somewhat controversial team headed by Belgian Johan Bruyneel would have a difficult time finding a new sponsor because of their signing of Ivan Basso. But Bruyneel told French reporter Gabriel Richalot from Le Parisien-Aujourd'hui en France that "We are very close to getting another title sponsor. Before it's signed, it's not guaranteed, but as far as I know we'll be there again next year."
On the roads of Paris-Nice, Discovery Channel is clearly one of the strongest teams, even with Ivan Basso lining up in Tirreno-Adriatico (and abandoning). Most of their top riders are still far from their peak of form scheduled for the Tour de France. But increasingly, it appears that the team has fewer friends in the peloton than in the past. After making the controversial move to sign Basso, breaking the UCI Pro Teams code of conduct, the team is getting criticism behind the scenes, and less cooperation on the road.
Many voices in Paris-Nice criticized Discovery Channel the day Basso resumed racing in Europe. For instance, Gerolsteiner's Hans Michael Holczer said: "It's not good that riders implicated in that affair take part in races until everything is clarified, not only Basso but all 50 or so riders."
Operación Puerto has initiated a strong anti-doping campaign in Germany as well, but Bruyneel stated, "Who has got something against me? Madiot, Lavenu... well, the Frenchmen." He admitted to Richalot that, "Blood transfusions exist in cycling", but insisted "I have never cheated." Bruyneel, asked what should be done about the problem of doping said, "Cycling is by far the sport who does the most about it. The more hunters have sophisticated weapons, the fastest rabbits run. It's only a comment. I don't have any solution."