Bruyneel joins Contador in stateside journey
Johan Bruyneel accompanies his star rider Alberto Contador to the USA for the Discovery Channel team's final race this weekend, the Tour of Missouri, bringing the Tour de France champion and a tinge of bitterness along for the end of an era. After eight years directing the organisation which was more successful than any team in modern memory, Bruyneel has eight Tour de France victories to remember but leaves with a bad taste in his mouth.
Bruyneel became familiar with the whispers of doping which follow every modern Tour winner, having stood by Lance Armstrong as he fended off one doping accusation after another through press releases and lawsuits, but this year's Tour was too much."They have not let me enjoy Contador's victory in the Tour," the Belgian told Marca, complaining of the accusations of involvement with Operación Puerto which followed the Spaniard's victory.
"With that atmosphere, it has been the worse Tour of my life," Bruyneel lamented. Not one month after the end of the Tour, the team's owner, Tailwind Sports, announced it would end its bid for a new title sponsor, effectively disbanding the organisation. Bruyneel hastily announced his retirement along with the news. He blamed the atmosphere surrounding Contador's win for his decision. "All of that was the main reasons why I did not desire to continue.
"You see the comments of these so-called experts, see the stupid things they say, and come to the conclusion that it is not worthwhile to continue," said the Belgian. Bruyneel has, however, been courted by the Astana squad, and is still weighing his options about his future. One thing is certain, is that the team which conquered the Tour de France will be scattered to the four winds after the Tour of Missouri, and cycling will be quite different without it.
George Hincapie, who has been on the team since its inception, and who rode all eight Tours which the team won, is heading over to the T-Mobile squad, and hasn't let the changes really sink in yet. "I thought about it at the Tour [this year] a little bit," Hincapie told AP. "I'm sure that next year, when everybody's riding for a different team, it'll be strange."
Stijn Devolder, who took over the lead in the overall classification of the Vuelta a España in Saturday's time trial, will head to the Quick.Step-Innergetic squad - a hometown team for the Belgian champion.
Yaroslav Popovych, who finished eighth in the Tour this year, recently announced he would go to the Predictor-Lotto squad, forming a strong alliance with second placed Australian Cadel Evans. A number of other riders will head to the Slipstream squad, most notably Tom Danielson, along with Trent Lowe and Matt White, who will act as a director sportif there.
As of yet, however, third place Tour finisher Levi Leipheimer has yet to announce his plans for next season, and Contador? He's been rumoured to be going along with Bruyneel to the Astana squad, but no formal declaration has been made as of yet.
As the sun sinks lower on the horizon in the US and autumn approaches, its only ProTour team will bid its farewell in a new race in Missouri. Where one team ends, another may well begin one day but Bruyneel is sure of one thing: "It's going to be very difficult to repeat our track record."