Ivan Basso joins Discovery Channel pro cycling team

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(See update below)

Italian cyclist Ivan Basso, winner of the 2006 Giro d'Italia, is joining the Discovery Channel pro cycling team.

Team director Johan Bruyneel announced Wednesday that Basso had signed a two-season contract with Tailwind Sports, which owns the team sponsored by Discovery.

Consider this with the earlier signing of American Levi Leipheimer and you can see that Discovery is building quite a formidable team for next season.

Basso, 28, who has been riding with Team CSC since 2003, had hoped to win both the Giro and the Tour de France in 2006. But media reports that linked him to a Spanish doping probe dubbed Operacion Puerto prompted officials to ban him, Jan Ullrich, and about two dozen other cyclists from the Tour.

Investigations shelved

In the past month, however, the Spanish judge handling the investigation has disallowed the use of the investigation's documents by national cycling federations until he can determine exactly what happened. Without those documents, the federations have no cases against the cyclists and have shelved their investigations. That has allowed Basso and Ullrich, among others, to look for work.

In previous Tours de France, Basso had been a rival to retired cyclist Lance Armstrong, who is a part owner of the team. Basso finished second to Armstrong in 2005. Said team general manager Bill Stapleton:

“During Lance's final Tour's Ivan pushed Lance to a new level and we expect great things from him in 2007.”

Basso's arrival gives Discovery something it lacked since Armstrong left — a team leader. Although they showed flashes of brilliance, neither American George Hincapie nor Yaroslav Popovych rose to the leader and star status of Armstrong.

Other big names

Discovery earlier had signed a contract with another strong American cyclist, Levi Leipheimer. It will be interesting to see how Bruyneel and Stapleton handle so many top notch cyclists — Basso, Leipheimer, Hincapie, Popovych and Tom Danielson — on the roster.

One thing is for certain, Discovery should expect to have a very good year in  2007.

The full press release is available at the Discovery team fansite Paceline.com.

Discovery had made overtures to the Italian after Armstrong's retirement in 2005, but Basso chose to stick with CSC and team manager Bjarne Riis.

(Update — Nov. 10: The Basso signing looks like it has sparked a controversy over DNA testing. Although the International Association of Professional Cycling teams last month agreed to collect DNA samples from cyclists in an effort to enforce anti-blood-doping rules, Basso has said through his attorney that taking any such samples is an “illegal and inadmissible intrusion” on his private life.

(The DNA samples from cyclists could help investigators match athletes to the blood bags that were found in the offices of Eufemiano Fuentes, the target of Operaction Puerto. See CyclingNews for more.)

Update — Nov. 20: Basso agrees to DNA test, ABC Sports

Permanent link to this article: https://www.bikingbis.com/2006/11/08/ivan-basso-joins-discovery-channel-pro-cycling-team/

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