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93rd Tour de France - ProT
France, July 1-23, 2006
Reporting by Tim Maloney in Paris and Susan Westemeyer
Bruyneel disappointed at ASO treatment
Following today's grand unveiling of the 2006 Tour de France route in Paris, the Discovery Channel team manager Johan Bruyneel left the Palais de Congres still smarting from what was widely perceived as a slap to Armstrong's legacy by Tour organizers during its route presentation. However, Bruyneel quickly decided to focus his energy the only way he knows how.
"I walked away a bit angry but at the same time, and I have to thank the Tour for this, more driven than ever before," Bruyneel said. "One of the things Lance passed on to me was to find motivation out of unpleasant things. I walked away thinking about how we are going to try to win the Tour de France next year."
Bruyneel had trouble just focusing on the route ("it looks to be very, very difficult," he said) following the presentation. "What I can say is that it seems some have quickly forgotten what Lance and our team have done for the Tour over the past seven years," he said. "I left the presentation today more motivated than ever for the new challenge ahead for me. We've lived for the Tour 365 days a year and I plan to keep doing that."
The day's activities began with a video recap of the '05 Tour and Bruyneel, along with many of his peers, was surprised to see Armstrong largely ignored in the 10 minute video.
"My general feeling was disappointment," Bruyneel said. "It almost felt like it was raining in the room. But it wasn't a big surprise to me. The organization was quoted as saying they would have preferred Lance not come back to try and win a seventh Tour. And looking back, I remember when we went to them first, before we made it public, that Lance would indeed race the Tour this year. I can tell you, ASO wasn't jumping up and down when they got the news."
Bruyneel said the video's "main protagonists" were Francaise des Jeux team sports manager Marc Madiot yelling into his race radio, the Cofidis' team's sports manager's voice yelling into his race radio and a "two or three year old boy wearing a Cofidis cap." Bruyneel said they did show some winning images but that was not the main takeaway at all.
"I could tell certain people in the crowd, other directors, almost got up and left.
"When I think back on all that, it's been the same scenario for them for years. A French rider hasn't won the Tour in 20 years. Why? Simple, they haven't been good enough. And then you see the final ProTour standings and notice there were four Americans in the top 10 (Armstrong, 5th; Levi Leipheimer, 7th; Bobby Julich, 9th; George Hincapie, 10th) and for the French, they had four riders in the top 100 (David Moncoutié, 30th; Anthony Geslin, 62nd; Christophe Moreau, 79th; Laurent Brochard, 84th). That's the facts. It's nothing more than that. I realize it's frustrating for them."
On the '06 route itself, Bruyneel said the biggest change was the exclusion of the team time trial event, won the last three years by an Armstrong led team. "We will probably be the most affected by it since we've won it the last three years," Bruyneel said. "But I've always said that since they applied the new rule to the stage, which I never approved of, it made the stage less interesting when the time losses were capped. It was a very stressful day and almost had no major change to the race. Plus, we've heard that most of the spectators didn't really understand what was going on as well. You either need to have it full on, or not."
Bruyneel added that while the 100+ kilometres of time trials favoured a rider like Jan Ullrich, his favourite is still Ivan Basso. Pinpointing the route's most difficult stretch, Bruyneel said the stages in the Alps, stage 15, 16 and 17, will be extremely hard, especially coming after two plus weeks of racing.
"No other team has sacrificed more for the Tour than us over the last seven years,' Bruyneel said. "We have always put it ahead every other race and have planned our entire season around it. Even without Lance, that won't change."
Ivan Basso (Team CSC)
"Well with the course for the 2006 Tour De France, it's clear I'll have to improve in my time trialing and go faster on the climbs to win it. The main rival will certainly be Ullrich, but I can't underestimate Vinokourov, Klöden, Valverde, there's Cunego if he rides, then there's another group of riders to watch out for like Leipheimer, Landis, like Popovych, like Savoldelli...these are the players to watch out for, and for right now, there are probably ten dangerous riders for next year's Tour. But if I have to put one rider in pole position, it's clearly Jan Ullrich."
Tom Boonen (Quick.Step)
"It will be a "classic" Tour," said World Champion Tom Boonen after seeing the parcours of the 2006 race. "A tour that is very much suited to my style of racing. There will be nine flat stages - ideal for riders with my characteristics."
"The prologue time trial won't be as long as last year's. In normal conditions, I believe I'll be able to finish amongst the first 25 and above all I don't think I'll lose many seconds. At that point I could even fight for the yellow jersey during the first stages that are suited to my style of racing."
Boonen also has a few thoughts on the points classifications. "The green jersey is one of my objectives. After this year's fall and subsequent pulling out of the race, I wasn't able to battle right up to Paris. I'll certainly be trying again next year, hoping to have a bit more luck than last year. Stage wins remain and are always a priority.
"I'm also happy that there won't be a team time trial. My teammates will have to work hard, just as they did this year, in preparation for the sprints. The fact that there won't be a TTT means one less physical exertion giving us that extra possibility of winning another stage."
With regard to a possible winner of the Tour, Boonen said, "Lance Armstrong's absence from the race means there is a vacancy for a new title holder. We'll just have to wait and see who has the strength and capability of gaining this title, title that for years has belonged to the American champion."
Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
"I could certainly do with a few more mountains in it! It seems to be relatively easy; of course, nothing at the Tour is easy, but as far as the mountains go, the 2006 Tour isn't too demanding. Obviously the three days in the Alps are going to be very important for stage wins and getting the Mountains jersey."
Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne)
"Next year will be a very open Tour, and very different from the previous Tours when Armstrong was clearly the best. I'll be looking for some stage wins and maybe even a podium place. With so many time trials, it's more bad than good for me; I do OK against riders like Basso, but Ullrich and time trial specialists can still take a lot of time on me. But now it's time for a new generation of riders to come up, riders like Cunego, Basso and maybe even me..."
Floyd Landis (Phonak)
"I like the Tour route. It pleases me that I can show my time trialing skills twice and I'm looking forward to the difficult last week in the Alps. I am particularly looking forward to he 15th stage from Gap to Alpe d'Huez. This classic mountaintop finish is always a special experience.
"I will ride the Giro d'Italia for the first time this year and hope to use it as an optimal preparation for the Tour."
"The last part of the Tour is very hard and demanding. You will need to have the maximum amount of freshness at the end. The two time trials will be really important. So now the reconnaissances of the stages will be very important with all the new elements of the race course. However, the beginning of the Tour seems less complex, with no pavé."
Jerome Pineau (Bouygues Télécom)
"The Alpine stages at the end are quite hard and so it will be pretty tough in the second half. The first half of the Tour has a lot of stages for the sprinters and it's too bad that the team time trial has been eliminated; our Bouygues Télécom team has worked hard on this discipline. As for my ambitions, I'm hoping to get the chance to win a stage, like a transitional stage...but it's never easy to get in the right break at the Tour.
Alain Gallopin (Team CSC Sports Director)
"For me, the 2006 Tour is quite a classic parcours...for our CSC team, it's too bad that the team time trial has been eliminated. I think that it's interesting that the Alps are concentrated in three very hard stages. So for a rider like Ivan Basso, that's good."
Théo De Rooy (Rabobank team manager)
"I'm surprised to see the team time trial go away. For the rest, I think that 2006 will be a classic Tour with some advantage for time trial specialists. Rasmussen will certainly attack in the mountains, but the course isn't as favourable to him as in 2005. And Menchov will be our rider for the classement général".
Rudi Pevenage (directeur sportif T-Mobile)
"This Tour isn't designed especially for or against Jan Ullrich, but we're not unhappy about the profile. We'll have to be vigilant and watch the situation carefully on stages like the one that finishes in Valkenburg." As for the retirement of Lance Armstrong, Pevenage declared, "That won't change anything. It's not a special Tour, just different. So now we'll look at three possible pre-Tour programs for Jan; the Dauphiné, the Tour de Suisse or the Giro d'Italia."
Hans Michael-Holczer (Gerolsteiner team manager)
"This is certainly not a Tour for pure climbers. With two long time trials, I think it is an advantage for a time trialist who comes well over the mountains."
"A start near the border, then a lap through Germany, where surely lots and lots of people will be on the side of the road to watch: That is excellent for us as a German team."
"It surprised me that there is no team time trial. But for us and the other teams it makes it easier to organize."