By Tim Maloney, European Editor
Although Discovery Channel planned to go on the attack in last weeks tough Stage 11 through the Pyrenees to Pla d'Adet, it was more like the Pyrenees attacked them and the Discovery squad discovered the hard way what it's like to be on the ropes in the Tour De France. But Johan Bruyneel didn't guide his team to seven consecutive wins for nothing, and the Discovery Channel team bounced right back with Yaroslav Popovych's Stage 12 win in Carcassonne and now looks poised to try and get back into contention in the Alps.
We spoke to Johan Bruyneel before Stage 15 from Gap to l'Alpe d'Huez and asked him the strategy for the Discovery Channel team going forward.
Bruyneel told Cyclingnews, "Well, our GC ambitions are certainly lower now; they are no longer our main goal anymore. After our disappointing performance on the stage to Pla de Beret, we wanted to get the team back on track quickly and they came back strong with Popovych's win in Carcassonne. They were in the race all day, in the breaks and in a position to win and it was the same on the stages after. Our guys are able to respond after a bad two days; we're a big team and even after we were down, we can ride like a big team. That's important."
We then asked if Popovych could do something in the Alps. Johan Bruyneel's experience showed in his answer, as he explained, "We have to be realistic, and just see how it goes...one can't expect someone who was not good in the Pyrenees to be good in the Alps. Popovych got back in contention because of breakaway. We hope he can come back into the top 10 and maybe higher, but it's not something we're going to fight for every day. We are looking for stage wins now, to get in breaks, but with three tough mountain stages, it's going to be quite difficult to have those opportunities."
Another question to Bruyneel was about strategic alliances, specifically about the rumours that Discovery Channel may have made a deal with Rabobank. Bruyneel chuckled and said "well, I've been reading that also. Look, in Carcassonne, where Popovych won, the reason why everybody was thinking that was probably that with four guys away and one was a sprinter...Freire knew he was fastest and could wait for the others to attack. With Popovych and Ballan, there were three guys, both of whom are pretty fast. You never know what's going to happen; with three guys, it's difficult, more than a bunch sprint. That was what happened there. As for (strategic alliances), well we can't win (the Tour) so I don't care who wins. I want the Discovery Channel team to leave this Tour De France with the best possible feeling, the best possible results."