The Discovery Channel Team will feature a top-notch squad of eight riders to compete in the Tour of California, which starts on Sunday, February 19. Led by Tour de Georgia winner Tom Danielson and Tour de France stage winner George Hincapie, the team also includes two-time Giro d'Itlia winner Paolo Savoldelli, Russian dual Olympic gold medalist Viatcheslav Ekimov, Russian time trial champion Vladimir Gusev, Slovenian 2004 U23 world time trial champion Janez Brajkovic, Tour of Austria stage winner Michael Barry and Olympian Jason McCartney. It's a powerful squad, and several of these riders are expected to race the Tour de France in July.
Tom Danielson, racing in his second season with the team, looks to be one of the favourites for this race, along with teammate George Hincapie. "I had a great camp in Solvang last month and followed that up with 10 days of solid training in Santa Cruz with my teammate Michael Barry," said Danielson. "I am feeling good and am very motivated to have a great performance. I don't get to race in the US very often and I think it's important to put on a good show in the first Tour of California - in front of the home crowd."
The team enters the Tour of California as a favourite for the overall win, and although early in the season, this race has been targeted as a 2006 objective. With a number of high profile European teams down to start, it promises to be a very challenging and competitive event.
"We are coming into the race with a few guys who have the fitness and capability to have a great race," said directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel. "The guys are feeling good after the Solvang camp but we know that some of the other teams like CSC, Gerolsteiner and Phonak have also had good training and want to win the race. The time trial and some specific climbs will likely decide the winner."
As the team heads into its first season in eight years without Lance Armstrong, motivation is high to prove that Discovery Channel can still be a dominant force in the peloton.