PARIS -- The Discovery Channel team is parting with 11 riders who helped Lance Armstrong win one or more of his seven straight Tour de France titles.
George Hincapie of the United States, long considered
Armstrong's key teammate, is staying with the squad.
Among those leaving are: two-time Giro d'Italia champion Paolo Savoldelli of Italy, climber Jose Azevedo of Portugal, Manuel Beltran of Spain, Viatcheslav Ekimov of Russia and Benoit Joachim of Luxembourg.
"After the retirement of Lance in 2005 it was natural for our team to begin making changes," Discovery Channel manager Johan Bruyneel said Thursday. "The team was built around Lance for seven years and as we move out of the Lance era we are now looking at new objectives in addition to the Tour de France."
The six other riders going are: Michael Barry, Roger Hammond, Leif Hoste, Gennady Mikhaylov, Jurgen Van Den Broeck and Max Van Heeswijk. Uros Murn of Slovenia and Gianni Meersman of Belgium are
joining the squad.
"It is natural that we will make changes and that some riders
will also look to make a change," Bruyneel said. " I am very
confident that we will continue to win big races in 2007 with our
Murn comes from the Swiss team Phonak and finished third in the
eighth stage of the Spanish Vuelta.
"Anytime you get a rider with his experience you have to be
happy. Judging by his performance at the Vuelta I see a bright
future for him," Bruyneel said.
Meersman is making his Pro Tour debut. Bruyneel said the 21-year-old Belgian will "definitely need time to develop as a
rider, but we believe he has what it takes to be successful."
Ekimov announced his retirement from racing during the Tour de France. He will stay at Discovery as a deputy to Bruyneel.