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After a troubled season, highlighted by the positive doping test of Ricardo Riccò, the team once known as Saunier Duval has lost its second title sponsor in as many months.
Scott Bicycles announced Wednesday that it will discontinue its sponsorship of the re-labeled Scott-American Beef cycling team at the end of the 2008 season.
“Scott has been a partner with Mauro Gianetti’s team since the beginning in 2004,” said Scott Sports vice president Pascal Ducrot. “In all the past years the team could celebrate some remarkable victories. We would like to thank the team for the cooperation in the past years and we wish the team and new sponsors all the best for the future.”
Contacted by VeloNews, company spokesman Adrian Montgomery said the decision was a direct result of the scandal surrounding Riccò and the simultaneous withdrawal of the team from the Tour de France.
Saunier Duval, the German appliance manufacturer and title sponsor of the team pulled out of the sport within days of Riccò’s positive for a variant of EPO, known as CERA.
Montgomery said the U.S.-based bicycle manufacturer moved quickly to support the team, moving into the position of title sponsor after the Mexican meat-packer American Beef signed on as a co-sponsor.
“Initially our plan was to support the team,” he said. “We were – and remain – convinced that the actions involved were those of individuals and not reflective of the team as a whole.”
Montgomery said that position had to be reconsidered after organizers of the Vuelta a España announced earlier this month that the team would be barred from participation in that, the third of the season’s grand tours.
“The team wasn’t invited the Vuelta and it’s a Spanish team,” Montgomery said. “That indicates to us that they won’t be riding in any of the three grand tours next year. Our sponsorship depends on working with a professional team that will be riding our bikes through the full UCI/ASO schedule.”
Montgomery said that the Scott bike line “particularly our carbon product, has directly benefited from that sort of working relationship with a professional team and professional riders working with us to improve and refine our designs. Our approach is to cooperate with professionals. At this point, we don’t have any strong belief that we’d get the same benefit from our sponsorship next year.”
Montgomery confirmed that Scott is looking for a new team and said that there would be “a better indication of where we are going in coming weeks.”
“It’s much like a divorce,” he added. “You divorce first and then decide where your next relationship will be.”