Johan Bruyneel Profiled in the Washington Post, Saiz Takes Issue

Kudos to TDFblog.com for covering pretty much everything in the English language press that's worth reading about the Tour de France. They pointed out the article in The Washington Post by Sally Jenkins on Friday that profiled Johan Bruyneel, directeur sportif of the U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team. It's a terrific article that gives a good summary of Bruyneel's career and why he is an effective counterbalance to Lance Armstrong in many ways. For those of you who don't know, Jenkins co-wrote Lance Armstrong's two books, It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life and Every Second Counts, so she knows the USPS Cycling Team well.

TDFblog pointed out that not everyone is happy with Bruyneel's success at the helm of USPS. The directeur sportif of the new Liberty Seguros Cycling Team, Manolo Saiz, characterized Bruyneel as "disrespectful", in part because he suggested that Jose Azevedo might be a better lead climbing domestique than Roberto Heras was for Lance Armstrong. An entire episode of The Lance Chronicles was devoted to this issue, including how Heras chose to leave USPS and the effort it took to acquire Azevedo at the last moment this winter.

I think Saiz, known by some as the "Venga, venga, venga" man for the way he shouts at his riders during time trials, is almost as psychologically affected by the outcome of the 2003 Tour as Joseba Beloki:

  • His leading rider suffered a devastating crash;
  • He cracked under the pressure while trying to help Isidro Nosal win the Vuelta a Espana last year, and got himself expelled from the race; and
  • His long-time team sponsors, ONCE and Grupo Eroski, stepped away from cycling, forcing him to search for new sponsors for an otherwise very strong team.

Saiz should lay low at this point and focus on a strong performance in the Vuelta. There is no reason why Heras would not be the favorite to win that race this year, unless he expends too much energy in an attempt to salvage a respectable finish in the Tour de France. If I were Saiz at this point, I would have Heras and the team ride to the finish of the Tour, while conserving as much energy as possible.