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2002 Vuelta

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58th Vuelta a España - Spain, September 6-28, 2003

Johan Bruyneel, the back-to-back Grand Tour champion

By Hernán Alvarez Macías

Heras and Bruyneel
Photo: © AFP
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He doesn't ride the climbs, he doesn't put out his biggest efforts on a time trial bike any more, but in his role as team director he has the Tour de France and Vuelta a España champions in his files. He is Belgian Johan Bruyneel, the team director of the US Postal Service-Berry Floor team.

Bruyneel was tired, his face said so on the start line of the last stage of the Vuelta. However, he was full of joy after the triumph achieved by his rider Roberto Heras. "We based our victory on determination and on the belief that anything was possible," Bruyneel told Cyclingnews. "I think everybody thought we couldn't win the Vuelta after the time trial in Albacete when we were five minutes behind the leader. We had only the climbs of La Pandera and Sierra Nevada to attack. We tried to break the peloton every time we could: every time the climbs were hard enough, in La Pandera, on the final slopes in Sierra Nevada, in Navacerrada and in Abantos yesterday."

Bruyneel said that he and the team believed in themselves right until the end of stage 20. "It was very difficult, almost impossible to eliminate one minute and 55 seconds in only 11 kilometres yesterday," he said. "We started thinking it was possible...it didn't depend exclusively on us, but also in Nozal's failure. And then it happened like we had expected." Bruyneel said his team needed two things to happen at once: that Roberto rode the time trial of his life and that Nozal suffered a lot.

He also mentioned the good stage ridden by Floyd Landis in the 19th stage. "Floyd got in the right breakaway and he waited for Roberto in Navacerrada to help Heras take as much time as we possibly could," said Bruyneel. "It was a Vuelta where we rode time trials in all the stages from Albacete to the end to reduce the five-minute advantage Nozal had to Heras."

Undoubtedly, this is the best year for the US Postal. "Yes, of course," said Bruyneel "This is the best year of our team. Besides, it was with two different leaders, with two different rosters, with two different strategies. It actually is a great satisfaction."

It will be tough for Roberto Heras not to be the super star in the next Tour de France after winning two Vueltas a España in four years. But Bruyneel knows where the team's priorities lie. "In the Tour, Lance is the leader of the team and the man who won the last five editions. Logically, we had all our team on his disposition. And Roberto knows very well that while Lance keeps going at a better level than him, Heras can not beat Lance. Roberto is a very valuable rider for us. Theoretically, Roberto is the best climber who puts himself at Lance's disposition in the Tour, and the same rider has his own men for the Vuelta."

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