Thursday, August 16, 2007

Contador to ride Discovery's last race in Missouri

The Discovery Channel team will bid adieu to their American supporters by sending a star-studded team to the inaugural Tour of Missouri in September. The Tour de France champion Alberto Contador and third placed finisher Levi Leipheimer will head up a strong team including George Hincapie, Yaroslav Popovych, Tony Cruz, Jason McCartney, John Devine and Fuyu Li.

The Tour of Missouri is seeking to build on the success of the other major US Tours, the Tour de Georgia and Tour of California, and high profile names will help bring in the fans to the 600 mile race which begins in Kansas City on Tuesday, September 11 and finishes in St. Louis the following Sunday.

"To have Johan Bruyneel commit to bringing Discovery Channel's Tour de France 'dream team' to the Tour of Missouri is very special for this first-time race," said race director Jim Birrell. "We will have three riders from the top eight of the Tour de France, two being from the final podium, and I look forward to hosting the entire Discovery Channel team during their swan song on domestic soil."

The race will not only be the team's final event, but will also be its director's swan song. Bruyneel announced he would retire from the sport after the announcement that Tailwind Sports, the owner of the team, was ending its search for sponsorship and dissolving the team.

"I have always enjoyed directing in the U.S. because of our success and an amazing group of fans that come to see us race," Bruyneel said. "It is sad to think that this will be one of the last times I will be directing, but I am glad it will be in front of a such great fans."

Leipheimer will be seeking to bookend a successful year with another win in Missouri. "I have had an amazing 2007 season which started out when I won the Amgen Tour of California," Leipheimer said, "followed by a successful showing at the Tour de Georgia and then finishing on the podium at the Tour de France. It is only fitting to close it out my season with a US homecoming at the Tour of Missouri." Leipheimer continued, "I have always said that there is nothing that compares to racing at home and it will be very special for me to have guys like Alberto, Popo and George riding next to me in my final race as a Discovery Channel Team member."

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