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An interview with Johan Bruyneel, October 31, 2005

"Motivated to win the Tour again"

Discovery Channel's Johan Bruyneel talks about the 2006 Tour de France

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Paris

Discovery's Belgian bike brain trust
Photo ©: Tim Maloney

Johan Bruyneel has posted an unprecedented tally of winning seven straight Tours de France as sports manager and the determined Belgian is not convinced yet that his run is over now that his main man Lance Armstrong has hung up his wheels for good. Cyclingnews spoke to Bruyneel in Paris after the 2006 Tour de France presentation, where he spoke frankly about Le Tour after Lance and his thoughts on a successor.

Regarding the team time trial's non-inclusion in the '06 Tour, Bruyneel commented that "even though we've won (TTT) the last three years, with the new rules in the last two years, for me, it was an event that didn't make sense. It's a stressful day for the team, a very hard stage but with the new rules, at the end of the day, there was basically nothing there. Plus I don't think that the spectators understood how a team could lose two minutes, but then only lose 30 seconds. I've always believed that either you do the team time trial straight-up, or don't do it. A team can lose five minutes, but only lose three minutes on GC. That's not logical."

"The Alpine stages in the 2006 Tour are going to be very hard, especially since they come at the end of the second week. But what you see about the Tour course is not that important. What counts is the riders. It's going to be very, very different in 2006 without Lance. It's an opportunity for other guys to step up and the two logical guys are Basso and Ullrich. They both have the qualities to win and they both have the team behind them to support them, but on the other hand, neither had to do it in the last years because we were the favorites. Now it's going to be Basso and Ullrich riding on the front with the others on their wheel. Both are strong, complete riders with a strong team."

"I realize that I've been contaminated by Lance. "

- Bruyneel speaks about the role he and the Discovery Channel will play in subsequent years in Armstrong's absence

When asked what the role of Discovery Channel Pro Cycling team will be in the 2006 Tour, Bruyneel said: "I knew this moment would come for us. Even in 2004, I had started preparing myself for the time when Lance was going to retire. I've been growing towards it progressively, but I've gotten very used to winning the Tour de France and I have to say that since 1999, I always went to the Tour with the idea to win the race. I never went with the idea that we might lose, but that's changed now."

"How are we going to try to win? It's an interesting challenge and a challenge like. It's my goal to win the Tour de France again; I don't want to stay with 'Lance is gone and we don't win the Tour de France'.

"There were never any guarantees with Lance; we always had to show we were the strongest to win the race. So this situation motivates me a lot and I think I've learned, maybe unconsciously, but today I realize that I've been contaminated by Lance. When I see the show here and sense the atmosphere of the Tour de France presentation, it motivates me already today to come back and win the Tour."

On the obvious anti-Lance vibe at the Tour presentation, Bruyneel said: "You get motivated by different things; sometimes good and sometimes bad. I can tell you that now I'm ready to go."

Asked if Giro d'Italia champ Paolo Savoldelli could be a possible candidate to lead Discovery at the next Tour, Discovery's tactician said: "He has the qualities to be a top Tour rider; physically even more than a Giro rider. He's complete, he's a good time triallist and not a specialist climber. In theory, the climbs in Italy are steeper than those in France.

"But he's Italian and he's won the Giro twice so it's difficult to say he's not a Giro d'Italia rider. He's really motivated to defend his Giro title next year, so we're going to have two big races next year with the Giro and the Tour. There's no guarantees that he's going to win, but we owe Paolo to support him again in the Giro and we're going do that."

"The fact is, we're going to be in a different role in the Tour de France next year. We won't need a team where when there are 50 guys left up front in a stage, you need seven guys there to make the tempo. So that will make things a little easier in making the selection for the Tour and the program for the riders. But the Tour is the race I know the best and I want to get back to where we've been all the time. Maybe with an intermezzo, who knows, but I definitely want to win it again."

As for up and coming Ukrainian rider Yaroslav Popovych's possibilities, Bruyneel is being careful to not too much pressure on the young talent. "I think it's a good Tour for him...he needs to come up to the next level and the idea is that he keeps improving every year.

"Already this year, I've seen certain things, maybe not results, but things you see in the race...plus finishing twelfth in his first Tour, winning the maillot blanc of best young rider while being in a support role all the time, being the key team-mate for Lance in the crucial stage to Courchevel after having crashed pretty bad, showing he had one of the biggest engines during the team time trial... all these things are good ingredients to bring Popovych to where we want him to be. We just don't want to put all the pressure on him and make him run before he can walk."

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