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Caisse d’Epargne will end sponsorship at close of season

The French bank, Caisse d’Epargne, will end its sponsorship of the Spanish cycling team that bears its name at the end of the 2010 season.

The French bank, Caisse d’Epargne, will end its sponsorship of the Spanish cycling team that bears its name at the end of the 2010 season.

Officials confirmed it would not extend its title sponsorship beyond the 2010 season.

“There will be a Caisse d’Epargne team in the 2010 Tour de France, but the contract will end at the end of 2010,” said bank president Francois Perol. “It will not be renewed.”

The news comes on the heels of two other major ProTour teams that have recently learned their title sponsors are leaving the sport. Saxo Bank and Milram have both announced that their backing will end at the conclusion of the 2010 season.

The bank did not elaborate on why it’s ending its sponsorship with the team, which began in 2005 as a co-sponsor and moving to the position of title sponsor in 2006.

The bank is repositioning its sponsorship push and will line up behind the French Olympic teams in Vancouver next month as well as in London 2012.

Team officials will begin the search for a new title sponsor to continue the squad that dates back to the 1980s under sport director Eusebio Unzue and José Miguel Echávarri.

The team began as Reynolds, winning the 1988 Tour de France with Pedro Delgado. After Reynolds, Banesto stepped up in 1990 to herald the team’s glory years, which included five consecutive Tour de France victories with Miguel Indurain. The name changed to iBanesto.com in 2001-03 before Illes Balears joined as title sponsor in 2004-05.

The decision comes as a serious blow to Spanish cycling, which is struggling without backing from a major Spanish sponsor.

Euskaltel-Euskadi, though a ProTour team, is more like a regional team with Basque-only riders based in Spain’s Basque Country, while Footen-Servetto, formerly Saunier Duval, is operating on a smaller budget.

Despite the rise of Alberto Contador and continued success by Spanish riders, no major Spanish sponsor has stepped forward.

A string of high-profile doping cases, including the ongoing Operación Puerto scandal, has scared away sponsors. Caisse d’Epargne’s star rider, 2009 Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde, is one of the riders caught up in the scandal and is fighting a two-year Italian racing ban at the International Court of Arbitration for Sport.