Last week we sat down with Johan Bruyneel of the Discovery Channel Pro
Cycling Team at their team camp in Solvang. Read Part One of the interview
Discovery bikes. Photo by Cathy Mehl.
I know Lance isn't going to decide until May or whatever if he'll be
riding the Tour, but do you have a personal preference on whether he rides the
Tour in 2005?
JB: Well, my preference is to see a Lance in the Tour de France who is
motivated and ready. And right now I cannot foresee if that is going to be
in this year's Tour de France or in next year's Tour de France.
And a break could be a good thing, no?
JB: It could be. But I've been saying the same thing since December, since
the end of the Tour actually, that it's time to change the approach. It has
been six years after each other - from December until July - always Tour, Tour,
Tour, Tour. With everything around it. Everybody on your shoulders, on
you. I mean, I feel it.
And you're not the rider.
JB: Yeah, so I can imagine how he must feel about it. It's possible to get
to the Tour de France another way and that's what we need now. We need to
breathe a little bit.
It will be fun to see Lance in the Classics.
JB: He's been in the Classics before, and he's been in the Classics when he
was focusing on the Tour, also.
At the Austin team camp were there any new riders besides Popovych that
caught your eye? Maybe they came in better prepared than you expected?
JB: Not really. In December it's more getting together on a personal
basis. At that point no one is on a good level yet, so it's difficult to
see who is ready, who is more prepared than the other. We didn't do the
intensities to remark that.
You'll do more at this camp?
A Discovery training ride last week near Solvang, California.
Photo by Cathy Mehl.
Do you know who your Giro, Tour and Vuelta leaders will be, if Lance
doesn't ride the Tour? Is it too soon to tell?
JB: For the Giro our leader will be Savoldelli. He's an ex-winner of the
Giro and he's been second at the Giro. Popovych is not doing the Giro, he's
focusing on the Tour in view of the future. At first we talked about him doing
the Giro 100% and then go to the Tour just to learn. I think he should be able
to learn the real way. He has to focus on the Tour with the whole approach
toward it and not start the Tour when you're tired from the Giro. Because then
he would have a completely different image of it.
It's not only the race, but learning to prepare for the race, and so he has
to learn everything as he has no experience with that race at all. And it hasn't
taken a lot to convince him of that, no matter how much he loved the Giro. And
again, that's something that I like in him. He believes in the way that we do
things. It's a good feeling if you can work with somebody who believes in the
way we work.
You've received a vote of confidence from him.
JB: Yeah, I think so. That's the feeling I have. And that's important.
How about the Tour?
JB: Azevedo is definitely doing the Tour. He was 5th last year so he's
going to be one of our guys. The Tour team is basically going to be the
same like always, no matter if Lance does it or not. And the Vuelta is kind
of a question mark, because focusing on three big tours with the same
objective is very difficult. So definitely Savoldelli goes for the Giro, we'll
have our strongest possible team for the Tour and the Vuelta is kind of the
[Editor's note: Paolo Savoldelli broke his collarbone in three places on
Saturday, 15 January. He had successful surgery this week and is expected to be
fine for the Giro d'Italia. This interview
occurred before the accident.]
But look how many days you were in yellow last year.
JB: Yes, yes, yes, but we didn't do the Giro! It depends. There are a few
guys who will have to do the Giro and the Vuelta, and then some the Tour and
Vuelta. Normally, it's the plan that Azevedo, Triki, Chechu and Noval - they
do the Tour and the Vuelta.
You'll have a team at Tour de Georgia this year, right? Do you know
who will be on that team?
JB: Yes, we'll be there. A big part of that team is going to do the Giro.
Danielson will be there. Michael Barry will be there. Tony Cruz will be
there. Jason McCartney. Creed.
Here in America there is more and more talk about high school students
using performance enhancing drugs and EPO in high school sports. Do you
think there is anything that professional cyclists can do to step up and
give more voice to the negative aspect and dangers of doping? I hate to
think that these kids think this is okay to do, that everyone else is doing
it. Is there a campaign that can be waged?
JB: What can they do? I think if big, big names step up and promote the
campaign it would make the most sense for the organizations and ultimately
the general sports organization; the IOC have a campaign and use the big
stars. So, all talk with the same campaign and not just one guy speaking.
One the other hand, I think no matter how bad of a reputation cycling has, I
think it is the sport that has done and is doing the most against doping.
And I cannot explain why the reputation keeps being so bad. A lot is being
done. I don't know that cycling can do more. But for the image of cycling
it hasn't helped.
It seems to go in waves. After a few years it will seem like cycling
is cleaned up and then something will happen that is devastating to cycling
JB: I think since cycling has that reputation that every single case that
happens puts cycling under a spotlight again. And people say, "There! It's
happened again!" I'm sure when it happens in another sport it doesn't have
so much exposure and doesn't harm the reputation of the sport.
What was it like being in the car going up L'Alp d'Huez last year?
Seeing all the rude gestures? What words were coming out of your mouth as
you watched that?
JB: It was definitely stressful. But you're not really paying attention to
what people are saying. You're in a bubble. All I cared about was that
nothing happened to him. So I tried to be as close as possible on his
wheel. When people see a car coming they open faster than when they see a
rider, a motorbike and then behind, a car. I tried to be right up close. I
got into a fight with the TV cameras. Actually I got disqualified for the
day after. But in the end, it was a very good day. An amazing day.
Discovery Channel team member George Hincapie. Photo by Cathy
Do you ever miss racing?
JB: No! I've never missed racing. I made the decision from one moment to
the other. It's not something I planned. At a certain moment after a race
in August, a race that I abandoned, on the way to the hotel I picked up the
phone and called the director on the phone and said, "That's it! Finished!"
I've never regretted that.
You love being a director.
JB: Yes! At that moment I didn't know that I was going to be a director.
But I don't look behind. When I made the decision I knew that it was time
When you were racing, what was your most memorable victory?
JB: Good question. I mean everybody, or most people remember my victory
against Indurain in the Tour in the stage in Liege and I took the yellow jersey.
But my personal memory is different. I won two stages in the Tour. One in '93
and one in '95. And actually I was thinking about that today, because Lance also
won a stage in '93 and in '95! And very close, kind of the same week or
I have a very special memory to my first stage win in the Tour, which was in
'93. In the first week was a pretty flat stage and I came in solo alone and I
broke the speed record of the history of the Tour at that time. But it's not
because of that that I have the memory of it. It's because of something really,
I had never won a stage in the Tour and for every rider of my possibilities
winning a stage of the Tour was something really almost inaccessible. But why I
say it was so special was on a personal level. Three weeks before the Tour de
France I lost my father. He suddenly died. He was very young. He was 53. And he
was riding his bike. He died on his bike. And I didn't want to go to the Tour,
Ten days before the Tour I decided I'd go and I'd win a stage for my father.
I was 20 kilometers by myself, just maybe 30 seconds in front of the bunch, and
the feeling that I had during those 20 kilometers is something I will never
forget. Something which I cannot explain. Something which I will never forget.
You'll always have that in your heart. Thank you for sharing that with
I'd already gone over my time limit and the next journalist was waiting to
get a crack at Johan's wisdom, so I thanked him for his time, told him it was my
first day of interviews ever, and thanked him for making it comfortable.
Discovery Channel Team has the right man in the driver's seat. Calm, cool,
collected, and always looking out for his guys. Whether you're his six-time Tour
winner or his newest recruit, he's on your side, making the tough decisions and
making your time with Discovery a memorable one.
Hold off on taking those first steps, little Victoria. Daddy will be home