By Shane Stokes in Lugo
Discovery Channel directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel was in a buoyant mood at the start of stage 8, telling Cyclingnews that he was satisfied with things despite Tom Danielson's loss of time yesterday.
"First of all, it is great for the team to have the leader's jersey, and especially with a young guy like Brajkovic. It is really very promising," he stated about ten minutes before the Slovenian set off in the maillot oro. "Of course, we are very realistic - we know he is young, it is his first big tour and it would be tough for him to stay in the lead. But what he is showing in the two mountain stages is very hopeful for the future."
This is the 22 year-old's second season with the team and he currently has a contract to race with them until the end of 2007. The obvious question is did Bruyneel have any indication that he was going this well before the start of the Vuelta?
"He was very motivated for this race," responded the Belgian. "He had a few personal goals and one of his big targets was the Tour of Switzerland. He finished fifth there. Since then, he has been thinking solely about the Vuelta because he is so excited to do his first big tour. He trained very hard. We didn't think he would be that strong and be able to take the lead, though."
Danielson had expected to go well in the race but lost 3'28 on yesterday's second mountain stage, something that Bruyneel was at a loss to explain. "Tom was the leader going into the race. Yesterday he was not good. We don't have a real explanation. We thought he was going to be good but it didn't work out, so something must be wrong."
With the American now 4'15 down in 18th place, will Discovery now back Brajkovic in the race? Bruyneel is being cautious about his chances, although he hopes a high finish can be achieved. "We are only one week into the Tour of Spain. We have the lead now and will try to keep Janez as high as possible. We will see how the next few days go. Tomorrow is a big day, a lot will depend on tomorrow. If we can maintain our position a little bit, don't lose too much time, there could be a surprise in this Tour of Spain.
"We won't really defend [the lead]... Valverde is only five seconds back and he is the clear favourite. So, basically, we have the jersey but it is like Valverde is the leader of the race."
Bruyneel said he is happy with how Discovery Channel has performed in this year of transition. "It is good to see [a rider in the lead] and also it has been an unusual year for us... after so many years with Lance on the team, it is different now. As of yesterday, we have taken the leader's jersey in the Giro, the leader's jersey in the Tour and now the jersey here in the Vuelta. I think it is a big performance for a team that was taking a new direction."