by Marianne Werz OBrien
At a press conference today in Silver Springs, Maryland, the new title sponsor for the current US Postal presented by Berry Floor team was announced. It is Discovery Communications, a global media and entertainment company that operates 14 global television brands, reaching 425 million housesholds in 155 countries, and in 33 languages.
Discovery has signed a three year contract to be the title sponsor of the now Postal team, starting in 2005.
Lance Armstrong attended the press conference today at the new Discovery Communications headquarters, and said that he intends to race next year's Tour de France.
More to come on this story.
The press conference
Lance Armstrong, Johann Bruyneel, and Sheryl Crow visited Silver Springs, Maryland today. For the record - Lance was looking quite slim and Sheryl was looking absolutely gorgeous. The purpose for the visit is cause for celebration for Postie fans everywhere. For today Discovery Communications announced that they will be the title sponsors of the five-time Tour de France winning USPS team starting in 2005.
Discovery Channel jersey, photo by Marianne Werz OBrien
Discovery Communications has inked a three-year agreement to be the title sponsor for the squad. The Posties will be known as the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team.
Discovery is thrilled to have Lance Armstrong and the squad representing them on the world stage. The reasons are many – Lance will work with the Discovery team collaborating on programming initiatives across the networks from the science channel, the travel channel, the Discovery channel, and the health channel.
Lance and the team will serve as ambassadors for Discovery in the US and around the world.
Lance, photo by Marianne Werz OBrien
Representatives of both the incoming and outgoing sponsors – Discovery Communications and the United States Postal Service, jointly attended today’s press conference. It is worth noting that the sponsors appeared together, everyone is more concerned that the team be successful in their campaign at the tour than anything else.
According to Lance it was very important to have this deal done now. “The tour is where riders showcase their best form and talk to teams about their futures. So if we did not have the Discovery deal in place, I would have had guys at the tour who were thinking that they quite possibly would not be my teammates any longer, that this would be the final tour. Then you start to wonder if it ever leaks into their minds – about how hard they work for the team, do they need to be looking out for themselves?”
“I have full faith in the team and I don’t think that would be a problem but it’s just not something that you want to have to think about. So for us to be able to take this news back to them, these great guys that I’ve raced years and years and years with, and be able to say “Look, we’re all safe, the program’s going to stay intact.” It’s very good news, and very important for peace of mind for the team.”
The press release states “Under the agreement, Armstrong will serve as an on-air personality across Discovery’s networks in the United States and around the world. In addition, during the remainder of the 2004 season Discovery will sponsor the team with placement of the Discovery Channel logo on the team’s jerseys.”
When asked about his preparation for the tour, and changes in his routine Armstrong replied at length. “The comfortable thing about winning the tour five times is that you can look back and compare notes. One thing I noticed when I looked back was that in the years where I had a good June, I did not have a good July. And the years that I had a bad June, I had a very good July. Even though I won in some of those years, for instance last year I won the Dauphine in June and I suffered in the month of July. We’ve tried to come in a little cooler this year, realizing that the last week of the tour is epic this year. It’s probably the hardest final week we’ve done in the last five or six years. So we’re going to put our emphasis on that.”
Regarding the partnership with Discovery Lance said, “There’s a lot of synergy here between myself and the team and this network. If you look at the science channel, the travel channel, the health network – these are things that are right up our alley. I reiterate my policy that when I race, I focus on racing and don’t think about the future but it’s exciting to know these possibilities exist.”
Lance on the pursuit of the mystical, mythical sixth tour victory.
“I had dinner with Eddie Merckx last night, and the conversation turned to his attempt to win the sixth tour, and that the conversation led to the story of the fan jumping out and punching him in the ribs. I said “Okay Eddie, that’s enough!”
“For me it’s easier to break the tour down to individual stages. When you finally start the tour it’s a big relief. Once the race begins we focus on the next big event, the team time trial three or four days down the road. Then after that I start to focus on the first mountain stages, ten or eleven days down the road.”
“Doing it that way hopefully adds up to a tour victory, and if we get a tour victory then we can add up home many wins that is. I don’t lay awake at night thinking about a grand total. It would be scary to do that, I prefer to look at one tour and at just the individual stages.”
“When I won the first tour, I was completely surprised. I thought A: That’s crazy and B: it will never happen again. But for some reason I’ve been fortunate enough to have it happen four more times. The tour is a monster. It’s a global event that people all around the world watch and pay attention to and I’m proud to be a person who’s won it five times in a row. I love the event as much as the craziest fans out there. I still love what I do; I still want to be out there. If this were to be my final tour I would have to think to myself that I would be retired in five and a half weeks. I just can’t imagine that.”
I asked if having Discovery Communications as sponsor might mean more cycling coverage on television. Discovery Network rep Dawn McCall fielded the question. “Cycling is an international sport, so there’s a great deal of interest. There are a lot of angles we can use – the fitness, getting ready for a race, the science of the equipment. So we won’t actually cover the races, but there will be a lot of opportunities for Discovery to partner with Lance and cover the sport from a different perspective.”
Talking new equipment Lance said
“We’ve worked since last September on the gear and the gear is great! We’ve had a full project on the time trial bike – the wheels, the bars, the helmet, and the clothes. We brought everybody together in one room to talk about it. It came off amazingly well.”
“It motivates me, because it lets me know I’m not the only one out there working hard. There’s a whole room of people who care, who are passionate about what they do. They want to win the Tour de France, and they are part of the team that wins the tour. I’m just the guy that rides the bike.”
“I was just testing out the new climbing bike last week. It’s just under 14 pounds, and it’s safe too. You can go downhill on it too”, Lance laughed! “These people have done a fantastic job. Now it’s just up to the guy who pedals the bike.”
Congratulations to the team and to Discovery Communications on this new partnership!
Update: Statement from OLN Regarding Discovery's Sponsorship of the US Pro
As the leading destination for cycling sports and stories on television, OLN
is pleased the U.S. team will have the support it needs to
continue racing. Having a revered brand like Discovery come on board speaks
volumes to OLN's long-held belief that the Tour de
France - and cycling in general - is compelling and dramatic sports
OLN is the exclusive U.S. rights holder for the Tour de France through a
multi-year contract. In addition to the Tour, OLN televises
some of the greatest cycling events on the planet, including the Vuelta a Espana,
the Giro d'Italia, the Spring Classics and
domestic events like the US Pro Championships and the Tour de Georgia.
The network will continue our sponsorship of the team alongside Discovery. We
look forward to continuing our great relationship
with Lance and the team, and creating innovative programming like we've seen
this year with the success of The Lance