Originally created 04/24/04

Post office ends deal with team



WASHINGTON - The Postal Service is ending its sponsorship of celebrated cyclist Lance Armstrong, winner of five consecutive Tour de France races.

The agency has sponsored Armstrong's team for eight years and will continue to do so through the end of 2004.

Spokesman Gerry McKiernan said the agency has decided to go "in another direction" with its advertising. Asked if that meant some other sport relationship, he said "it's possible."

Armstrong, who will go for a record sixth Tour de France win later this year, is currently competing in the Tour de Georgia.

Cycling is popular in Europe, and postal officials had sponsored Armstrong's team in an effort to increase their international business.

Anita Bizzotto, chief marketing officer for the post office, said the excitement generated by five consecutive Tour de France victories "has been inspiring and exhilarating to the Postal Service, its employees, and the entire country."

The team is owned and managed by Tailwind Sports.

Bill Stapleton, chief executive of Tailwind, said the team has enjoyed its relationship with the post office.

"Further, we appreciate their continued support as we seek a new title sponsor for the best cycling team in the world. We are committed to keeping our riders and staff in place for years to come and furthering our goals of winning important events like the Tour de France," he said.

Armstrong drew widespread attention for returning to dominate his sport after overcoming testicular cancer. Armstrong and his wife recently separated and are planning to divorce, a spokesman for his cycling team said.