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Lance, with or without you

An open letter from Johan Bruyneel
Sports Manager, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team

Thursday, June 22, 2006 Madrid, Spain

Greetings to Cyclingnews readers... We all know that recently there have been some unpleasant happenings in the sport of cycling. But as the 2006 Tour de France gets ready to start, I want to take a moment of your time to talk about the sport that I love, a sport where there are lot of very positive things, and where I see the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team headed.

But before we look to the future, I want to look a little at the past.

When we started in 1999 as the United States Postal Service Team with Lance we had a dream, a vision - a crazy one by some people's thoughts: to win the biggest bike race in the world, the Tour de France, and to focus our efforts on a rider who was just coming back from a very difficult fight against cancer! But we were very dedicated and committed to this goal, in fact we were thrilled to commit ourselves to something as extremely ambitious as this. We had the desire to not leave anything undone and we were extremely passionate.

And just like many new ventures we were inexperienced in the specifics of the task but we were so highly motivated we didn't really care about our lack of experience; we simply had the conviction to succeed! We had no fear of failure, in fact we liked the challenge, and yes we knew that it was a bit of a crazy challenge but we decided to go for it, and we went for it 100% - the only way really that Lance and I know how to do something.

As I looked back on 1999 I realized we had created an experimental formula, and it worked... we won! And over the years we've fine-tuned and repeated this same formula with some amazing results: seven consecutive Tours de France victories as well as championships in the Vuelta España and the Giro d'Italia.

We created a blueprint, a system, that was focused around building an elite team to support Lance, and even though people came and went, the team always became stronger and stronger as we replaced them and moved forward.

We based this program on the "chemistry" inside the team. In this day of professional sports where so much is often focused on the individual, we instead instilled core values such as the importance of team spirit, a strong work ethic, being passionate about what we do, trusting each other, being proud of being part of the team, the will to suffer for the greater good - and much more...

We learned how to work together for one goal, and we became very good at that. We had a never-ending commitment to act until we succeeded. You'll recall key moments such as Lance in the mist atop Sestrière in 1999, Chechu's selfless assistance for Lance on Luz Ardiden in 2003, the dominance of the team over the years in the Team Time Trial, and George's stunning victory in Stage 15 to St-Lary Soulan last year - all moments defined by selfless sacrifice for the team's one goal: victory on the Champs Elysées!

We learned how to overcome obstacles (and we have had to overcome a lot, 2003 in particular...). We saw that others tried to copy us - but to me that means that you're doing things right - and so we always tried to stay ahead of our competitors and we did this through better training, better technology, and better tactics. But truthfully a lot of times, we turned off our brain and listened to our heart...

It is no surprise to anyone that we have an obsessive attention to details as I believe this is where the difference is made between victory and second place. We know how to deal with pressure, and yes, we learned how to play "cycling poker" as you saw when Lance bluffed everyone in the 2001 Tour before launching his devastating attack on Alpe d'Huez! - and I can go on and on and on...

And so now we're facing the same race we have won seven years in a row. It's clear that we're in a transition period and every change takes time, but we're looking forward to the new challenge and we're extremely motivated! Yes, Lance is gone as a rider for our team, but his spirit and guidance as a leader is definitely still here. And when I look at the list of values that I noted above, they are still there as well. We still have the dream, the vision, and definitely the passion! - and all the other things on my list...

It takes the same amount of effort and time to lose as it does to succeed, so we might as well win! Is it going to be this year, or next year, or the year after? That I don't know... all I can say is that we're going to keep doing what we've been doing all along, and ultimately, we are going to win again.. and that's why I'm so excited and feeling good about the future, even without you, Lance...

And so I thank you, our team fans for your time and more importantly for your support in the past and the years to come, and I want you to know that the team and I truly appreciate it.

Courtesy of

(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)