The press conference was opened with the announcement that Discovery Channel would be adopting a green jersey for the Tour de France, to go alongside their environmental programme. Trees would be planted near Levi’s home as they continued to fight to offset carbon emissions. Leipheimer noted later that "he was behind this 100 percent."
Talk turned to the UCI charter and Bjarne Riis's voluntary (?) disclusion from the race. Bruyneel said: “I don’t see the reason why Riis wouldn’t be able to attend the Tour de France – it [his past] has nothing to do with this. He is feeling the consequences of his confession.” Whereas at the CSC press conference it was shown as a voluntary decision, there were rumours flying around here that ASO had barred him from receiving the credentials the previous days. Bruyneel received this all with a small smile and a shrug.
When asked about the departure of eight teams from the AIGCP because of the lack of support for the UCI charter, Bruyneel was defensively coy: “Well, the meeting isn’t finished and I came here instead, to this press conference, saying I’d make no comment. The president of the AIGCP will react after the meeting.” Further asked if he’d sign the document, if it was legally binding, the Belgian directeur sportif said: “If it comes from the UCI and is well argued and acceptable, then I have nothing against it.”
The Discovery Channel press conference: advisor, Leipheimer, Bruyneel, translator (l-r)
The man next to Bruyneel was Levi Leipheimer, the team’s leader. He did deflect some pressure away from himself though: “We do have other riders going after goals – Gusev, Hincapie and Popovych. I think they will win at least one stage between them.” He continued by saying they’d be more Discovery riders in the attacks, However, Leipheimer did concede truthfully that “we’re not set up the way we used to be, I’m not Lance Armstrong.”
Indeed, the days of “Big Tex” are long gone. Bruyneel admitted that “Astana is the strongest team, they have three riders who could win – Vinokourov, Kashechkin and Kloden. Is that the right thing to do? It didn’t use to be, but things have changed. In my opinion, it’s an advantage [now]. I do see Discovery in the top four strongest teams – Astana, Caisse d’Epargne, CSC and us. Maybe not in that order…”
Preparing too early was Leipheimer’s problem last year, but now he feels ready to hit the last week in top form: “Coming into the Tour de France, I feel a little more fresh, a little further off my top form [than last year]. Last year I was too good, too early – a whole month too early.”
One thing hasn’t changed – they still like to play hardball. There was a team advisor sat next to Leipheimer, not putting words in his mouth but not exactly sitting there impassively either. The press conference was done and dusted in 15 minutes, with mainly two or three sentence answers from Leipheimer and sometimes Bruyneel. Discovery Channel will clearly let their cycling do the talking over the next three weeks.