Levi Leiphmeimer

Following a poor performance in the Tour de France, the Discovery Channel acted quickly to sign Levi Leipheimer to lead the US team in the 2007 Tour de France.

The team announced on Tuesday that the 32 year-old American would spearhead their attempts to win the Tour de France after George Hincapie, Paolo Savoldelli, Yaroslav Popovych and Jose Azevedo struggled this year.

"There was definitely interest in him returning to our team from both sides,? Discovery Channel team manager Johan Bruyneel said.

?His palmares are excellent - he won the Dauphine Libere this year and probably should have won it last year, too. He'll definitely be a Tour de France rider for us in 2007."

Leipheimer was expected to begin talks on renewing his contract with Gerolsteiner after the Tour but told the team he would be leaving before the finish in Paris, saying ?Discovery made me an offer I couldn?t refuse.'

Bruyneel revealed that the team have also signed Portugal?s Sergio Paulinho and Lithuanian Tomas Vaitkus to boost their classics team for 2007. Vaitkus won a stage at the Giro d?Italia in May beating and was 2002 Junior world time trial champion. 26 year-old Paulinho was a surprise winner of the silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics behind Paolo Bettini.

The team confirmed that Viatcheslav Ekimov will become a directeur sportif in 2007 along with Sean Yates, Dirk Demol and Lorenzo Lapage. 40 year-old Eki finished his fifteenth Tour de France on Sunday and will ride the last race of his 16-year professional career in late August or early September.

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