Bruyneel on the Benelux Tour
The inaugural Eneco Tour of Benelux began well for Discovery Channel, which opened yesterday with a 5.7 kilometre individual time trial in Mechelen, Netherlands. Six riders made the top 20, where Stijn Devolder was the team's best-placed rider in fifth place.
Said team manager Johan Bruyneel to the Paceline.com: "I think we have a good team for the race, as some of the riders - Stijn [Devolder], Leif [Hoste], Benoit [Joachim] and Max [van Heeswijk] - are going to be racing in the Tour of Spain in a few weeks, so it's some solid competition for them after the break of July. I expect a good performance from the team. It's a ProTour race and the level will be pretty high, but I think we can win one or two stages."
Hoste in Hamburg
Bruyneel also said he was very satisfied with Leif Hoste's performance at the HEW-Cyclassics-Cup last weekend. The 28 year-old Belgian went in a day-long break with Domina Vacanze's Jörg Ludewig for almost 200 kilometres, and one stage looked like staying away, before the peloton got the better of them in the final 20 kilometres.
"It was a very good performance and shows he's back in shape," he said. "He has had lots of bad luck this year - the crash at Milan-San Remo and especially the bad crash in Paris-Roubaix that took him a while to come back from. He's ready for the second part of the season. We hope for a good Tour of Spain from him and the other races after that."
Best, worst and biggest moments of the Tour
Enjoying what was essentially a week-long retirement party with Lance Armstrong in the south of France, Bruyneel was asked to reflect on some of the key moments of the 2005 Tour de France.
The worst moments were obvious choices, said Bruyneel. Referring back to the day Armstrong found himself without team-mates on the Col de la Schlucht during Stage 8, he said: "That was a big surprise for me. I wasn't very worried, as Lance was never in any real trouble and nothing really happened, but I was still surprised. But the next day, you could see the team was back and on a good level and I wasn't really worried again."
Then there was the crash of Manuel 'Triki' Beltran four days later on Stage 12: "That was definitely a bummer," said Bruyneel. "He had done a very good ride the day before to Briancon and then crashed out. It was definitely a big loss."
Asked what was the best moment, Bruyneel described George Hincapie's win atop the Pla d'Adet as 'huge', saying that at first he was surprised., but then he remembered how Hincapie was climbing during the training camps leading up the Tour.
"George's win was a huge moment. Everybody knows he deserved a big win," Bruyneel said.
"He's been the leader in the Spring and without any problem in July, puts all of his personal ambitions away and does the job, and nobody can do it better than him. On the flats, in the final part of the stages keeping Lance in the front, in the mountain stages and in the TTT, he was one of the strongest guys. It's always difficult to win and George has had a super year - the win at Kuurne, two stages of the Dauphiné and then the Tour stage. He's always been chasing the big win and here he is winning a few of them in a few months."
And although the public saw a less attacking Armstrong on the climbs this year, Bruyneel said the biggest moment of the entire Tour was a 500 metre effort from the Texan on the hors categorié Port de Pailheres, towards the end of Stage 14. "You could see T-Mobile had a big plan and did a big attack at the bottom and isolated him with some other guys who had the same intentions. Then Vino attacked and Ullrich went with him, Basso went with him and I think maybe Floyd or Kashechkin went as well," Bruyneel began by saying.
"But Lance stayed with the other favourites and you could see him estimating the difference and looking around, and when he saw he didn't have any team-mates that were going to come back, he decided to go. And it was that effort, that attack of 500 metres to bring them back with relative ease; for me, that was the key moment of the Tour de France where he was able to show the others how strong he was. I think after that, the others understood how hard it was going to be to try and beat him."