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By Andrew Hood
The inevitable question of what the future holds for Discovery Channel following the retirement of Lance Armstrong won’t include a post-Tour shopping spree.
Discovery Channel team boss Johan Bruyneel said the team is unlikely to be on the market looking for another big-time name to take over the reins following Armstrong’s departure.
“Every year you take some new guys, but for the moment it’s very quiet for us,” Bruyneel told VeloNews. “I think we have a great team, even without Lance we’ve been doing great. I won’t go desperately after another guy.”
Bruyneel guided Armstrong to an unprecedented six consecutive Tour wins and the Belgian ex-pro said his attention so far this season has been centered on preparing Armstrong for a run at a seventh Tour crown.
Waiting in the wings is Yaroslav Poppvych, a former U-23 world champion that Bruyneel believes can contend for the Tour crown within two seasons.
“Popovych is one of the guys who can do it in the future,” Bruyneel says. “First of all, he has the physical qualities to be a stage-racer. He has the right mentality, he’s a hard-worker, he’s a racer, and he likes to compete. He’s different than Lance, but there are some little things you can see. He has the heart, he’s always motivated.”
That much was evident in the final stage at the Dauphiné Libéré, when Popovych and George Hincapie went on the attack on the grueling finishing circuit into Sallanches that hit the tough Cat. 3 Côte de Domancy seven times.
In the meantime, Bruyneel said he’s satisfied with the core riders on the team. Popovych, two-time Giro champion Paolo Savoldelli and all-rounder José Azevedo will have more freedom once Armstrong rides off into the sunset.
One name often linked to Discovery Channel is Ivan Basso, the Italian rider who finished third overall and won a stage in last year’s Tour. The team has already tried to lure Basso, but for the time being, the Italian is committed on finishing his contract through the 2006 season with Bjarne Riis at Team CSC.
Bruyneel added he would certainly listen to any offers, but insisted the team is not actively on the market for now.
“It’s something that just has to happen,” Bruyneel said. “There has to be a big interest from another guy who wants to come to the team.”
Hincapie stoked with win
George Hincapie ended the Dauphiné Libéré just like he started, by winning.
The New Yorker won the prologue by less than one second over compatriot Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner) and then took Sunday’s closing stage with an exciting breakaway with teammate Yaroslav Popovych.
The wins come in what’s been a fruitful season for the 31-year-old, the only rider who’s been on all six of Lance Armstrong’s winning teams at the Tour de France. Hincapie also won at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne this spring and took second for his first podium at Paris-Roubaix.
A very happy Hincapie answered journalists’ questions following his victory. Here are excerpts from the press conference:
Question:Tell us about the stage today.George Hincapie: The group split at the beginning of the downhill and there were like 25 of us away. Phonak was doing all the work and we arrived on the Cat. 4 climb and Moreau pulled very hard. He attacked three or four times and Landis went with him, you could tell they were going very hard and the field was catching us at the same time.
At that moment, Popovych went and I saw that our group was very tired, so I took a chance. We got 10 seconds and on the descent we went as hard as we could. I think I’m a very good descender, but I’m pretty impressed with Popovych and he was right there with me. Once we got onto the circuit, it was extremely hard for us. We went hard as we could and we worked well together. We were able to hang on and a great day for the team. To win two stages in the Dauphiné is a big deal to me.
Q: Did you and Popovych discuss who would win the stage?GH: We didn’t have to time to discuss this. We were going as hard as we could. We wanted to get to the top of the hill with at least 20 seconds. The main thing was to stay together. In the end, Popovych knows that next year I’ll be working for him at the Tour de France and maybe it was better than I won the stage today.
Q: Armstrong is approaching his final Tour, have you had the chance to reflect on this? GH: I’m sure I’m going to think about it a lot more during the Tour. We’re all going to miss him greatly, especially myself because we’re such great friends. Having him on the team would be hard to mimic with another rider. There’s not going to be the same team next year and we’re going to do our best and hopefully continue to be successful.
Q: How do you see Armstrong going into the Tour? GH: I think he’s pleased with his condition at the moment. There were a lot of questions of where Lance was. At the Tour de Georgia, he wasn’t where he wanted to be. Here, he’s been riding great. He had a great time trial and two good days in the mountains, so he’s right on track.
Q: Was the attack today planned? GH: No, but I thought the last day was a good day to try. When I got on the circuit, I was like, “whoa, I don’t know about this.”
When I did well in the prologue, I told Johan I want to take advantage of my form and go for some stages. I don’t consider July racing for me. My job is just to stay with Lance and there are no real personal ambitions. It’s a team ambition. I wanted to take advantage of my form. I couldn’t have gone any better. To win two stages at the Dauphiné has been awesome for me and I’m very happy.
British cycling chief wants return of ‘kilo’
Brian Cookson, president of the British Cycling Federation, has backed the campaign to have the men’s and women’s time-trial reinstated to the Olympic program, Reuters reported Wednesday.
There was astonishment across the sport when the International Cycling Union decided to eliminate the events in order to accommodate BMX racing, under the instruction of the International Olympic Committee.
The move has cost Chris Hoy, who won the kilometer at the Athens Games, the chance to defend his title and prompted an online petition which can be accessed via the Edinburgh rider’s website, www.chrishoy.com.
Cookson has added the voice of the BCF to an international chorus calling for the ruling to be reversed.
“Like many others, I am dismayed by this decision by the UCI, which does not, in my view, stand up to any rational analysis of the situation. Great Britain has provided the gold-medalists for the men’s kilometer time-trial for the last two Olympic Games and we were optimistic of achieving high levels of success at both the men’s and women’s events at Beijing,” he said. “However, I am not just thinking about Great Britain, many other nations are competitive at this very straightforward and accessible event, and medals have been spread very widely across the Olympic family of nations over the years.”
While the 500m time-trial for women is a recent addition to the Olympics, the kilometer has been contested since the inaugural Games in 1896 and is accepted as one of the blue riband events of track cycling.
Simon Clegg, chief executive of the British Olympic Association, has said he accepts the decision but Cookson has called on both the UCI and the International Olympic Committee to re-examine the move.
“No-one who witnessed the incredible atmosphere in the Athens velodrome could ever have believed that these events were somehow unworthy of inclusion in the Olympic program,” he said. “I understand the needs of the IOC to keep the Games to a manageable size, but I do not feel that this decision assists in that objective at all. Rather, I feel that it causes a major loss to the heritage of the Olympic Games and major problems for the Olympic family of nations, for no significant benefit to anyone.”
– By The Press Association
Liberty fires team doctor
Lberty Seguros team officials announced on Wednesday that the team was rescinding the contract of team doctor Alberto Garai amid the fallout of recent blood doping cases leading to race expulsions for riders Nuno Ribeiro and Isidro Nozal.
Ribeiro was prevented from starting the Giro de Italia in May and Nozal the auphine Libere earlier this month after their hematocritic levels were found to be two points above the permitted norm of 50 percent.
The team, whose administrative council announced the sacking of Garai after a Wednesday afternoon meeting, said it was awaiting the results of voluntary tests by both riders before deciding on their futures but Spanish media reports said Ribeiro might move to a Portuguese outfit.