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National Champions for Slipstream-Chipotle, Another Positive for Astana

timv's picture

So apparently the Discovery Pro Cycling Team will be no more after the end of this season. But meanwhile things are looking pretty good for Slipstream, the US's newest international team.

Jonathan Vaughters's team got a lot of attention with their argyle-trimmed kit this season, but it will be an even more colorful squad next year with lots of national flags on display. On August 6, new hire David Millar became the British national road race champion and will be carrying the Union Jack on his jersey.

This week, those who've been following the announcements weren't too surprised to learn that the Paris-Roubaix winner signed to Slipstream was in fact all two meters of Magnus Backstedt, who on July 1 of this year had regain the title of Swedish national road race champion.

Somewhat less expected was the signing of New Zealand national champion Julian Dean, who spent July pulling monster sprint lead-outs for Credit Agricole teammate Thor Hushovd. Add to this group Dave Zabriskie, who will have an opportunity to defend his US time trial national champion's jersey on the 31st of this month in Greenville, SC. It's shaping up to be a good looking team. (Perhaps color-coordination notwithstanding.)

Btw, there's some very good background info on the team in this interview with team director Jonathan Vaughters from last month. It's already been noted today that a Pro Tour license becomes available with the ending of Discovery. But from the sound of it, Vaughters would be happier without one, not being obligated to ride all three Grands Tours in their first European season. He didn't seem too concerned about their chances of getting a wild-card invitation to next year's Tour de France, reporting that:

We have a great relationship with the ASO and they are very interested in increasing the notoriety of the LeTour brand in the US," said Vaughters. "They realise there is an interested affluent fan base in the US that they want to access, so they look to us form some ideas on how to do that. We have had good talks with Patrice Clerc and Christian Prudhomme, but does that mean we will get an invite to the Tour if we stink it up in the early season, no. We have to prove ourselves worthy, but the ASO likes our project and we like their bike race.

He also promised that the team's argyle theme would be even more prominent next season, saying, "This year was argyle, but the colors were subtle. Next year is going to pop! The argyle is going to be in the tradition of great Scottish warriors!"

Meanwhile, cycling was dealt another blow this week with the announcement that Kazakh cyclist Andrey Kashechkin of the Astana team failed a test for homologous blood doping in a surprise test given August 1 in Turkey. This is the same form of doping that his countryman and former teammate Alexandre Vinokourov was found to have done in the Tour de France in July. And of course Astana team director Marc Biver was shocked, shocked (cue Claude Rains in Casablanca) to discover that riders on his team--both associated with his good friend, notorious doping doctor Michele Ferrari--might be cheating. Might perhaps two Pro Tour licenses be available in the very near future?

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