Discovery Channel Team Report
2006 roster announced.
Heading into his first season as sports manager without Lance Armstrong razor-focused on winning the Tour de France, Team Discovery Channel's Johan Bruyneel says he's excited to go after new objectives with a team he feels is one of the best in the world and still has the ability to contend at the Tour as well. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?>
The 2006 Discovery Channel team roster features 27 riders from 16 different nations, continuing on its theme of being the most internationally diverse squad in the sport. While it lost five riders from 2005, including Armstrong to retirement, four new recruits are set to join the team's ranks.
"Without Lance our objectives will change, who will race in what races will change and the plans for the season will change," said Bruyneel. "But we still have a very strong team without him. If you look at our 2005 season and take out what Lance accomplished, basically his Tour victory, this team had an amazing season. It was a season that any team would sign up for before it started."
Bruyneel was pointing to the fact that Armstrong had two of the team's 21 victories in 2005 - the overall and a stage at the Tour de France. Other notable performances included Paolo Savoldelli 's win at the Tour of Italy and stage victory at the Tour de France, George Hincapie's career best season highlighted by stage victories at the Tour de France, Dauphine Libere and in France's biggest one day race, the GP Plouay, and Yaroslav Popovych winning the young rider classification at the Tour de France as well as the overall at the Tour of Catalunya.
"We were up there in the Classics and the Tour of Spain as well," added Bruyneel.
The '06 Discovery Channel team will be a balanced team with several riders vying for the spot of team leader.
"We have plenty of strong riders who are ready to step up and take the opportunity to lead the team at a race like the Tour de France," said Bruyneel. "The Tour was always our one goal and we always had one leader in Lance for that particular race. Now, riders like George, Popovych and Jose ( Azevedo) are all excited to take the opportunity (to lead the team)."
A mixture of experience in Azevedo, Hincapie, Savoldelli, Manuel Beltran , Viatcheslav Ekimov , Jose Luis Rubiera and Max van Heeswijk and up-and-coming youth in Popovych, Janez Brajkovic , Tom Danielson and Stijn Devolder should point to an exciting year for the team.
"I feel like with have a really strong team but without Lance, it's going to take some time and some races to get used to him not being here," said Bruyneel. "It will be big challenge for me. I think in a few years we will have another strong leader at the head of this team and I think we have a few that are here now and are ready to step up into that role."
2006 DISCOVERY CHANNEL PRO CYCLING TEAM ROSTER
Jose AZEVEDO (POR)