Johan Bruyneel believes his RadioShack squad has the motivation required to fulfill its goal of a stage victory at the season-opening Tour Down Under this week. The race will mark RadioShack’s ProTour debut, having been built around seven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and the infrastructure – plus many of the riders – of Bruyneel’s old Astana squad.
With RadioShack’s entire executive committee in Australia to see the team debut, a victory could come as early as this evening’s Cancer Council Helpline Classic. While not part of the race’s ProTour component, all riders lining up for Tuesday’s first stage will contest the event and it’s likely going to finish in a bunch kick, perfectly suited for RadioShack sprinter Gert Steegmans.
“It’s a new team so obviously it’s a new start; for me personally after two years with Astana it’s back to an American organisation and American spirit,” said Bruyneel. “Obviously we want to be good from the start, so we brought a team to Tour Down Under that can perform. We have a sprinter in Gert Steegmans who is taking a new start in his career also after a difficult year last year, so we’re very motivated.
“Also for the new sponsor we’d like to show something from the beginning, whether that’s winning or something else, we’re definitely going to try win a stage in the first race for RadioShack,” he added.
Steegmans’ difficult year in 2009 included no racing from July onwards. The rider’s contract with Katusha was dissolved after he refused to sign the team’s new anti-doping charter, leaving the Belgian without a team and little results as he didn’t start the Tour.
Bruyneel believes former winners Andre Greipel and defending champion Allan Davis are favourite heading into the ProTour opener. While he believes they’re in better form than Steegmans, that doesn’t mean he’s counting his compatriot out.
“We don’t have a top sprinter like Andre Greipel, Robbie McEwen or Allan Davis,” said Bruyneel. “Those three, I think, are the big favourites. I know on his day Steegmans can beat all three of them, so whenever we see an opportunity we’ll definitely work for him. At the same time
The second annual Armstrong/Bruyneel press conference at Tour Down Under was considerably more subdued than the circus that arrived in Adelaide 12 months ago for Armstrong’s first race in more than three years. Apart from a few attempts to get the squeaky wheel of 2009 Tour team relations going again, questioning stayed along sensible lines – something that couldn’t be said for the previous year’s press conference.
Armstrong believes Team Sky, also a debutant in the ProTour this week, will live up to the hype created around the British team’s launch throughout its first season. He’s expecting the team to push traditional boundaries which will benefit the sport as a whole.
“I think they’ll be good,” he said. “They bring with them a structure that’s been in place for a while there with the track program. I suspect, I guess my prediction is, that they’ll have a very, very successful year. We know that they have the talent, on paper they have the horsepower.
“They’ll use that plus they’ll also have a good structure and they’ll also use – I think perhaps more than anybody else – is technology,” he added. “I think they’ll really push the envelope when it comes to training technology, aerodynamics and materials. I think we’ll all be looking at them going ‘wow, I’ve never seen that before’ and I think that’s good.”
While Armstrong said he’s unsure of exactly why cycling has globalised to the extent now seen, he believes it’s proving to be beneficial to the sport. “Cycling is also in a position now where is someone can come in and sustain a 20 million dollar budget then that’s good right now with the state of the sport,” he added. “I think it’s a good indication of the time, I’m excited.”