Like Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel finds himself back in the spotlight after spending some time off the radar of many cycling fans. Massive media attention at Team Astana's recent training camp in Tenerife is evidence of this, and the Belgian is now at the epicentre of a 'perfect cycling storm' – an incredibly talented team bearing the name of Kazakhstan's capital city. Cyclingnews' Bruce Hildenbrand spoke with the successful directeur sportif during that camp. Below is an excerpt from the feature, only on Cyclingnews.
When he took over the beleaguered squad at the end of 2007, nobody wanted to join his team. Then, after he was able to hire some of the best stage racers in the world, the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) did not want his team to participate in the Tour. Throughout all the drama, Bruyneel and his riders persevered and in the process won the Tour of California, the Vuelta al País Vasco, the Vuelta a Castilla y León, the Tour de Romandie and the two Grand Tours to which they were invited, the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España.
Bruyneel reflected on a very successful season and noted the two things of which he is most proud of. "Number one, taking all these victories, the fact that Team Astana stands for a reference in cycling right now that was not the case last year at all. Number two, after all the difficulties we had starting up this team again which wasn't easy at all, getting kicked out of races and stuff like that that we have been able to prove that this is the best team."
Trying to prove you are the best team without competing in big races like the Tour, Paris-Roubaix and Liège-Bastogne-Liège was difficult. "I just kept believing that we had a strong group of riders and a strong group of staff. The mental strength of the team was very, very strong. I have said it before, if you can be successful in the most difficult circumstances the satisfaction afterwards is so much bigger," he said.