By Shane Stokes in Granada
After winning the Giro d'Italia with Paolo Savoldelli in June and then Lance Armstrong's seventh Tour de France 8 weeks later, the big question before the start of the 2005 Vuelta a España is whether Discovery Channel can do the unthinkable and take all three Grand Tours this year. However, when asked by Cyclingnews earlier on Thursday if he thought that riders such as Jose Azevedo and new US hope Tom Danielson will be amongst the main contenders, Directeur Sportif Johan Bruyneel played down the team's chances of doing the treble.
"Perhaps we don't have anyone for the GC," he said. "We have other ambitions here. We have done a great Giro, a great Tour, and so we come with other objectives. We will try to win one or two stages, that is our main goal. But it will be very difficult for Discovery to take the race."
Bruyneel nominated triple champion Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros), 2002 winner Aitor Gonzalez (Euskaltel Euskadi) and Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) as his favourites for the overall victory. But for now, he says, it is premature to talk about Danielson as a GC contender.
"It is his first big Tour," he stated. "Okay, he did the Giro but he had to leave the race due to knee pain. So it is case of seeing how far he can go. I don't want to put pressure on him as being our GC man. I hope he can do well in a few stages, but we are not thinking about the overall for him."
Bruyneel has arrived at the race at a time when the world's attention is focussed on the team for all the wrong reasons. Accusations this week that Armstrong used EPO to win the 1999 Tour have met with firm denials from the team, and while Discovery insist that the allegations are false, Tuesday's L'Equipe report will have brought them a considerable degree of stress.
For his part, Bruyneel appeared to be at ease today, talking to reporters at length at the Hotel Nazaríes race headquarters. The Belgian already gave his reaction to Cyclingnews, but when asked this afternoon if Armstrong was considering legal action as a response to the allegations, he said simply, "I don't know." Time will tell how the rider, and the team, will respond. But for now, the focus is on chasing stages in this year's Vuelta.