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An Interview with Johan Bruyneel - Part Two
By Cathy Mehl
Date: 1/18/2005
An Interview with Johan Bruyneel - Part Two

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 here.

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?

JB: Yes.

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 victim.

[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 again.

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 Mehl.

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 to go.

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 something.

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, really special.

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, of course.

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 us.

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 soon!

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2005 Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team Presentation
An Interview with Johan Bruyneel

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