Sunday, July 13, 2008

Johan Bruyneel Talks to Triathlete Diva

...and 200+ other people...


(Coachubby, Bruyneel, and me.)

Johan Bruyneel, the mastermind behind Lance's 7 Tour de France wins and Alberto Contador's 2007 Tour win (and a gagillion other wins at every major cycling race in the world), was at the Bicycle Superstore in San Diego yesterday to promote his new book, "We Might as Well Win."

Johan Bruyneel's Book Bicycle Superstore

The book is a very quick read. It's only about 200 pages, and takes you along in the race director's car with Bruyneel at Lance's and Contador's races. He speaks about team dynamics, his ground breaking Tour strategies, and about his life as a pro cyclist in the Tour. (Incredible cliff crash sequence included.) In short, if you love a bike, you'll love this book.

The only quip I had with it was the ending. The way the story is told, Bruyneel had to prove to himself that he could win the Tour without Lance, then he would walk away from it all and retire happy. So when he won with Contador last year, according to the book, he was content and ready to spend time with his family.

Perhaps this is the state of mind he was in when the book was completed, but it seems to be a kind of cop out from speaking against Tour organizers (the ASO) for treating Bruyneel and his team unfairly. It's no secret that Bruyneel was going to return to the Tour this year with Astana and Contador--with a team favored to win. When his team was not invited, he point blank asked organizers if it was because of him that Astana would not be allowed to race, because if that were the case, he'd retire then and there.

August's Bicycling Magazine states that their editors spoke to European insiders who "agreed that ASO excluded Astana mainly as retribution against Bruyneel, but did not want to be publicly identified with such a statement." Thereby confirming Bobke's sentiment that French people are babies. If they can't beat Bruyneel's team, they'll take it out of contention to give themselves a better chance of finally winning their own race.

Marc Peruzzi said the scandal was like "if the NCAA simply couldn't accept John Wooden's domination as the coach of UCLA's basketball team--seven national championships in a row and an astonishing 88-game win streak--and sat him down so someone else could win one." (See the August issue of Bicycling Magazine for a great article on the Tour, Bruyneel, Astana, and the riders kept out of contention for the Tour win this year.)

None of these controversial topics are covered by Bruyneel in any detail.

He did, however, answer a question I found interesting: What does he think of Rock Racing?

Rock Racing logo

For anyone who witnessed the over-the-top, ridiculous spread they had at the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix a few weeks ago, this would be a topic of interest. They're obnoxious, loud, rude, and their owner, Michael Ball, is all of these things and then some. His actions have been described by the Fat Cyclist as "hilariously insane".

So while most people would relish their quick demise, and to write them off as nothing but a freak show, Bruyneel brought a little perspective to the cycling game: Rock Racing is getting people talking about cycling. Period. Not only that, they're getting Americans to talk about cycling, and that's something that's very hard to do! (I added that part.)

Basically, Bruyneel's take on the team was that any press is good press. Even horrifically bad press, like the kind that Michael Ball and his racers have garnered over the entire single year they've been a team.

Ball has made a lot of mistakes, said Bruyneel, but so does everyone when starting out. The key, now, is to learn from them and really step up to the plate in the next few years, stop being an ass-wipe to race organizers (my words, not Bruyneel's), and get it in gear, because his team does have the chance to compete at an international level.

So there you have it. In a very diplomatic way, Bruyneel voiced his opinion on the one team several Americans are now familiar with, because as a country, we like to buy ridiculously expensive jeans more than we like to ride our bikes.

Happy cycling! (And obsessive Tour de France tracking!)


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