Liberty Seguros Continental have been running since the start of the Liberty Seguros ProTour team with Saíz. It was in fact the Continental team to which I was referring in the post highlighted above, but that was of course long after the disaster from the Saíz-run ProTour team. Liberty Seguros Continental were a separate entity from Liberty Seguros-Würth (one was based in Spain and the other in Portugal), but there were certain agreements, much as Orbea functions as an unofficial feeder team for Euskaltel. It was easy enough to bounce Ribeiro down a level, but Nozal was a top name. While he did come 2nd in the 2003 Vuelta, this was after Heras beat him on the final time trial, after Nozal had held the maillot oro since stage 4. I felt rather sorry for Nozal there.
Anyway, after they left the ProTour the sponsor could plough their money into the Continental team. They ceased to be a co-sponsor (more on that later), and took sole ownership of their Continental team. They were pretty big actually, with a fair few names who were really too big to be on a Continental team without even ProConti status - 2009's lineup including Héctor Guerra, Nuno Ribeiro, Isidro Nozal, Manuel Cardoso, Rubén Plaza, and others. They dominated the Portuguese cycling calendar. Nuno Ribeiro won the Volta a Portugal by escaping with João Cabreira (himself riding after being mind-blowingly exonerated of sample-tampering in order to escape implication in the LA-MSS scandal, despite a mountain of evidence against him) on the Alto da Senhora da Graça, and then again, despite being the yellow jersey, on the fabled Alto da Torre. Of course, three of the nine popped positive in the race, after Guerra and Nozal (two of the positives) were surprisingly quiet given their racing pedigree and Guerra being one of the overwhelming favourites for the race. Liberty Seguros announced they were withdrawing from cycling on the spot. As you would, really, and I don't think anybody could blame them. Then, they take over an amateur team, and the results for races like the Volta a Maia and Volta al Albufeira include young riders coming through racing for Liberty Seguros-Santamaría da Feira. The team apparently have aspirations of climbing to the Continental level, as with the departures of Benfica, Liberty and LA-MSS in the last two years, Portuguese continental cycling is the thinnest it's been in years.
On the previous note, there is another potential dumbest sponsor in cycling - LA Aluminios. LA Aluminios is a Portuguese company who entered cycling back in about 2003-4. They were co-sponsors of a Portuguese continental team, alongside the aforementioned Liberty Seguros. Liberty Seguros were obviously the senior partners, the team kits closely reflected the colours of Liberty, and blah blah blah, even though LA Aluminios were named first in the team name. When Liberty bought out the team in full, LA Aluminios took their money and injected it into another Portuguese team, that being the União Ciclista da Maia, or Milaneza-Maia/Milaneza-MSS Maia as some of you may remember it from their occasional visits to the Vuelta a España. They brought in some Spanish riders, like any other good Portuguese Continental team looking for cheap riders in the aftermath of Puerto, and set about their business. Business was pretty good in 2007, the highlight being Spanish (but non-Puerto) import Xavier Tondó winning the Volta a Portugal by vaulting over Eladio Jiménez and Cândido Barbosa in the final ITT. In 2008, however, things started to unravel. It started when they took part in one of the most preposterous sights in recent years, when Stefano Garzelli and no fewer than four LA-MSS riders broke away from the péloton in the first stage of the Vuelta a Asturias, putting over a minute into the field. At the end of the 5-day race, LA-MSS had five riders in the top 11, including all three podium spots. Later that month, promising young rider Bruno Neves died when he had a heart attack and crashed during a race. Feeling that something might be up, the Portuguese police struck, and hit the jackpot, with the discovery of widespread team doping. Nine riders were suspended, the team doctor banned for ten years, and other sanctions were imposed. Some riders were hit harder than others - João Cabreira, as mentioned above, was somehow able to avoid the hit despite a huge red X on his back. The remaining riders were excluded from the Volta a Portugal and the team, forever linked with scandal, disappeared.
Or so we thought. Fercase-Rota dos Movéis were a somewhat less successful Portuguese team; never really being able to compete with the giants of LA-MSS, Liberty Seguros and Benfica. In 2009, Fercase were about to pull the sponsorship plug, when who should step in to save them but LA Aluminios? LA also brought with them some of their previous riders who'd been able to escape the hit, with Constantino Zaballa being the most recognisable name amongst them. At the end of 2009, however, the team decided that they would like to protect their reputation, with Iberian cycling teams falling left right and centre - some folding entirely, and others dropping to amateur status like Extremadura and, with their takeover of an amateur team, Liberty Seguros. As a result of this, all of the ex-Puerto/LA-MSS names had to go. They found spots, mind - Constantino Zaballa joined his old LA-MSS teammate João Cabreira at Loulé (taking the roster spot vacated by Eladio Jiménez's positive test perhaps?) for example. With all of that roster space left over, what were LA-Paredes Rota dos Movéis to do? Of course, they had to find riders - preferably fairly local and on the cheap with rides not going too easily - to fill them. And with Liberty Seguros Continental having folded, there were some riders who perfectly fit the bill right there!
So yea, Liberty Seguros and LA Aluminios. Hardiest, or foolhardiest, sponsors in cycling?