RadioShack sponsorship to be decided before the Tour de France
RadioShack team manager Johan Bruyneel dismissed the accusations against Lance Armstrong published in Sports Illustrated last week, saying they were old news and didn't cause him to lose any sleep at night.
Speaking to Belgian newspaper La Derniere Heure, Bruyneel also revealed that he is currently looking to secure the RadioShack team's sponsorship for 2012 and claims that Armstrong could have finished on the podium in his last ever Tour de France in 2010.
"It's frustrating to see that these things keep coming back. There is nothing new in what Sports Illustrated revealed this week regarding Stephen Swart," Bruyneel said, focusing on the accusations from Armstrong's former US Postal Service teammate.
"It has already been already written by other people. It is 15 years old! But it's Lance, so it makes a buzz. We've become immune to it, and it doesn't stop me (from) sleeping."
Bruyneel also denied accusations in Sports Illustrated regarding the search of Yaroslav Popovych's home in Tuscany last November.
"I don't know who requested this search. I immediately called Popovych, who assured me that the police hadn't seized any product, nothing suspicious, and he told me not to worry. I believe him and for the moment, I don't know anything more. "
Tour de France memories
Bruyneel was in Australia to see Armstrong compete at the Tour Down Under. Bruyneel confirmed it would be the Texan's last ever race outside of the United States.
"The Tour Down Under is his last race outside the US. He's still got to take part in Tour of California in May, and then he'll take a long vacation." Bruyneel said.
The Belgian admits that he is especially close to Armstrong. The two began working together when Armstrong made his comeback from cancer in 1998 and Bruyneel was in the team car when Armstrong won all of his seven Tour de France victories.
"I'll never have the same kind of relationship with another rider," Bruyneel said.
"I don't have the same enthusiasm than I had in 1999, at the beginning of our adventure, but I still love to manage a team, rebuilding it after working many years with the same guys. I feel responsible for the 60 people who work for the team."
Armstrong's last ever Tour de France was dogged by crashes and he reached Paris 29:30 behind Alberto Contador. Yet Bruyneel is convinced that Armstrong could have finished on the podium and disagreed with Armstrong's own suggestion that his comeback was some how a failure.
"It'd obviously be easy to agree but without his flat on the pave, without the crashes on the stage to Morzine, I think Lance would have finished in third place behind the two youngsters, Contador and Schleck, like in 2009," Bruyneel said.
"Given what he showed at the Tour de Suisse in June, (where he finished second to Frank Schleck), I really thought he would finish on the podium again. Finishing third twice at the Tour de France at nearly 40 would have been a success."
"His game plan was to gain some time before the mountains and especially on the pave stages. It was a blow to his moral that day and the stage to Morzine was a difficult day for both of us. It was sad following him on a big climb at 5km/hr slower than his usual speed. But he was dignified at the finish and told all the team that he would not abandon the race; that he'd get to Paris."
"But we still managed to win the 2009 Tour de France (as a team with Alberto Contador), and we found a new sponsor, RadioShack. That would have been impossible without Lance. We're speaking at the moment to extend that contract and it will be sorted out before the Tour de France."
Bruyneel is hoping that in the absence of Armstrong, other riders at RadioShack will step up and in some way fill his shoes.
"I hope that his victory in the Criterium du Dauphiné has been a turning point for Janez Brajkovic. "He's still the only rider to beat Contador in a race the Spaniard wanted to win in 2010," Bruyneel said.
"Tiago Machado has a great future but he must learn to race. And there is still Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden, and excellent young riders like Ben Hermans and Jesse Sergent."
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