By Tim Maloney, European Editor
After last week's tumultuous Tour de France presentation in Paris, Cyclingnews asked Discovery Channel sports director Johan Bruyneel how would Lance do in the 2006 Tour de France if he decided to ride?
"It would all depend on his focus and motivation, and at this point, the Tour de France can't give Lance Armstrong anything anymore," said Bruyneel. "We've also seen that in the Tour de France presentation. It was sad to see [at the Tour de France presentation] that a rider like Lance is not respected by [the Tour de France organisation]. There was very little about him in the film, for example. And what nobody seems to appreciate or doesn't want to see is that the Tour de France would never be at the level internationally, where it was now, without the Armstrong era, from 1999 to 2005. I'm convinced of that and so are a lot of people. Lance's presence and performances has given the Tour a boost [after 1998] and that's sad to see."
Bruyneel continued, "If you look at the fifteen minute speech before the Tour presentation, it's at least ten minutes about something else [doping]. There are four Americans in the top 10 in the ProTour, because they are good riders, while there are only four French riders in the top hundred. And the first French rider is thirtieth. What does that mean?"
But Bruyneel remains focused on the prize he's already won seven times with Armstrong. "The Tour is the race that has given us a lot and we have given a lot back to the Tour," he said. "We've prepared for it 365 days a year; we've gone to bed with the Tour and we've woken up with the Tour. So I see what the Tour can do for a rider and for a team and we want to keep doing that, no matter what's been said or what's been written. In July, we'll ride the Tour as hard as we can."
Click here for a longer interview with Johan Bruyneel in which he discusses the 2006 Tour including the removal of the team time trial, the 2006 parcours and Discovery's contenders for the overall victory.