How does Johan Bruyneel feel about having won the Tour de France again? "I'm very happy! We have exceeded all of our best scenario results," he said in an interview on his website, johanbruyneel.com. "Before we went into the Tour we had some realistic goals: Levi on the final podium, a stage win, and the white jersey. And we did a lot more than that. Of course some things happened to our advantage, but at the end of the day we had our best Tour de France ever - and we did it as a team. And for me personally, to win a Tour without Lance, that was definitely a big accomplishment, too."
The various doping problems and the removal of Rasmussen from the race made things "difficult," he said. "I think the event was very tense and there was a lot of bad news. It really made it difficult at times to stay focused."
He was pleased to have riders finish first and third in the race, even if first place finisher Alberto Contador was a surprise, even to him. "I think we all knew that he is one of the best climbers in the world, and I had no doubt that he could win the white jersey because he was the best young rider. But did I think he could win the Tour de France? I expected him to be with the best for the first 10 days. And then I expected him to fade a bit as things progressed, but that didn't happen."
The Belgian praised third place finisher Levi Leipheimer for working to support Contador. "With Levi we knew he was not the race favourite so we had to play it conservatively. Get through the Alps without losing too much time - and he did that perfectly - and then in the last part of the race we have to see him improve and be at the front of the race when critical things happen. Alberto had shown he was the strongest man at the Tour and so we had plans to attack Rasmussen at the Col de Aubisque and Levi was the start of that attack for the team. He simply didn't think about himself anymore."
In fact, all of the riders did outstanding jobs, Bruyneel noted. "Popovych was amazing. He was the best teammate and usually the first guy at the bottom of every critical climb, and yet he still managed to finish eighth overall. But every single guy on the team came together. Gusev rode very well, but you know, Benjamin Noval was probably the unknown hero of the Tour de France. He had a big crash at the beginning and was almost knocked out of the race, he had a big wound on his arm and stitches in his chin, but then he fought through that and became the guardian angel of Contador. He was always with him, on and off the bike, always protecting him. For me he's the Tour de France hero."
The team is losing its sponsor at the end of the year, and there has still been no announcement as to the team's future. But Bruyneel laughingly denied rumours that he would become general manager of the Dutch Rabobank team. "The Dutch journalist who wrote that knew that in 2003 they had contacted me for that position. So I guess they just assumed that since they asked in 2003, I would be the first candidate now."
Discovery is looking to end the season as strongly as possible. " We still have the Tour of Spain and we have some very motivated riders there. Now I am not expecting to win this race, but I definitely expect to see a good performing team there," he said. "But you know this will be kind of difficult. When you win the Tour de France it's tough to stay focused, it's not easy." The team will send three leaders, to the race: Janez Brajkovic, Stijn Devolder and Tom Danielson.
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