An interview with Johan Bruyneel

Johan Bruyneel during the Discovery Channel days

Johan Bruyneel during the Discovery Channel days (Image credit: Sirotti)

The new Astana general manager Johan Bruyneel could very well have been off taking a tropical vacation on this cold January day, rather than following riders on a frigid training ride in Albuquerque, New Mexico up into the snow-capped mountains. After all, he had retired last year. Despite twice retiring from the sport: first as a rider, then as a director, Bruyneel never left cycling for more than a few weeks. Cyclingnews' Laura Weislo found out what keeps driving the Belgian back to the sometimes crazy world of cycling.

To Johan Bruyneel, getting into cycling could scarcely have been avoided. After all, his father was president of one of Belgium's most hard-core cycling clubs. His cousin, Georges Van den Berghe was a team-mate of Eddy Merckx, and had ten days in the yellow jersey in the 1968 Tour de France. However, Bruyneel hardly planned to become a professional, never sought out a position as director, and thought he was through with cycling before he accepted the position of general manager with Astana.

For the man known as the tactical genius behind Lance Armstrong's seven Tour de France victories, Bruyneel seems to have let the winds of fate decide his career rather than actively seeking out his path.

"In Belgium it's natural to become a soccer player or a bike rider. Those are the two big sports. I was successful without really trying - at the same time I was racing I got a degree in marketing, and when I was in my last year as an amateur, I got two good results and was asked to become a professional," he said, clearly understating his early results.

After a career which spanned ten seasons, included a stage win in the Tour de France in 1995 and a podium finish in the Vuelta a España, Bruyneel suddenly decided it was time to quit. In his final year, he admitted that he mulled over the idea for most of the year before stopping short of the season's end and hanging up the bike. "I decided to retire from one day to the next. I knew I wanted to retire. All of a sudden, I just felt I had to get to the end of the year, but I didn't really like it anymore."

To read the full interview with Johan Bruyneel, click here.

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