Johan Bruyneel Interview
Johan Bruyneel talks about preparing Team Astana for 2009.
While the Astana riders are finishing their last races of a very successful 2008 season, the Astana Team management group is starting to focus on 2009. Johan Bruyneel took the time to answer some questions about the 2009 season and the arrival of seven-time Tour de France Champion Lance Armstrong.
The World Championships do not involve the pro cycling teams, but instead the national cycling teams, yet you were in Varese. What was the purpose of your visit there?
It was a good time to have a meeting with all ProTour Teams and the UCI. Almost everybody agreed to continue with the ProTour project. We are still working on some of the details with the UCI, but I’m happy to report that the war between the UCI and various race organizers seems to be over. The teams have united and the state of cycling is in a better position now compared to a few months ago. Hopefully, it will continue to improve and the sport will move forward and not be brought down by these political battles. I also had the chance to take in some of the racing and of course answered questions about Lance’s arrival.
Yes, speaking of Lance – The team has many clearly established leaders and a lot of people now fear that Armstrong's arrival will divide the team. You must obviously feel differently?
Yes, if I felt this way he wouldn’t be riding for Team Astana in 2009. Actually I feel that the riders and staff will benefit more from his presence. He is much more than just a physically talented rider. His race preparation and understanding of his surroundings are second to none. It’s the little things that separate him from other riders, and a lot of those things I refer to happen off the bike – talking with the media and motivating teammates. He has a charisma that makes people want to go to war with him; sacrifice themselves for the benefit of the team. It’s not a common characteristic and I think a lot of riders, especially the young ones, can learn from him. Now having said all this, 2009 is not 2005. Lance must prove that he has the physical ability to win big races. Some people question his age, but look at David Rebellin and Juan Lllaneras. Lllaneras just won an Olympic Gold Medal in Beijing at 40 years old. I’m more concerned with the lack of racing for the past few years. This may be tough to overcome, but then again knowing Lance, he’s conquered bigger hurdles.
Alberto Contador has been your main leader the past couple of years and Levi Leipheimer is worthy of being called a leader as well. Now with Lance’s arrival, Alberto’s leader role may be in jeopardy. Many people feel that Alberto deserves to be the leader of the team in 2009.
Alberto has had a great year and I’ve read some reports that he is extremely frustrated with the situation. First, I am always careful of what I read in the press as often times words