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Discovery begin sponsorship talks

Online US business website MediaPost has reported that pay-television operator Discovery Channel has begun re-negotiating its sponsorship deal with the US-based ProTour team. "The deal has given us tremendous value," a spokeswoman for Discovery Channel was quoted as saying. "We have an incredible relationship with CSE [Capital Sports & Entertainment, which manages and co-owns the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team.]. We are negotiating now."

The discussions indicate the television giant is keen to extend its original contract, inked in 2004 as a three-year deal, despite the retirement of former Discovery Channel rider Lance Armstrong. The current deal expires at the conclusion of the 2007 ProTour. The article values Discovery's sponsorship at $10-15 million US dollars per year.

The revelation that Discovery is keen to continue its association with the team is positive news for the outfit which is undergoing a major revamp. The team recently announced the departure of 11 riders from its 27-strong line-up ahead of the 2007 ProTour.

Riders Jose Azevedo, Michael Barry, Manuel Beltran, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Roger Hammond, Leif Hoste, Benoit Joachim, Gennady Mikhaylov, Paolo Savoldelli, Jurgen Van Den Broeck and Max Van Heeswijk have all departed the squad. Meanwhile Discovery Channel has announced the first in a new wave of riders that will join the team including Uros Murn, Gianni Meersman, Levi Leipheimer, Sergio Paulinho and Tomas Vaitkus, with more announcements expected in coming weeks.

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