Bruyneel discovers limits after bad day at the Tour
AFPJuly 8, 2006
RENNES, France (AFP) - American team Discovery Channel failed in their bid to dominate the general classification after the crucial seventh stage time trial of the Tour de France.
In the absence of the now-retired Lance Armstrong, fellow American George Hincapie was expected to step up to the mark ahead of his attempt to succeed the seven-time winner.
Hincapie had shown time trialling promise by finishing fourth in the 43km time trial at the Dauphine Libere last month - a result which left his team manager Johan Bruyneel hoping to place a few of his riders near the top of the general classification.
However, in a longer 52km course that was dogged by a headwind in the afternoon, the big New Yorker could only manage 24th from the 170 riders taking part, finishing at 2min 42sec behind new race leader Serguei Gonchar of T-Mobile.
The 36-year-old caused a minor upset, overpowering the favourites Floyd Landis, David Zabriskie and Australian Michael Rogers to become the first Ukrainian to pull on the race's famous yellow jersey.
T-Mobile now have four riders in the race's top ten - Gonchar, Rogers, Patrik Sinkewitz and Andreas Kloden, who finished runner-up in the Tour in 2004.
It gives the German team, who suspended their 1997 winner Jan Ullrich before the race because he is implicated in an ongoing blood doping scandal in Spain, plenty of options before key stages in the Pyrenees from Wednesday.
Discovery Channel will be forced to attack Gonchar, Rogers and Kloden if they want to take the race lead before the Alps, where three days of climbing over some of the race's legendary peaks is set to decide the destination of the yellow jersey.
Former two-time Tour of Italy winner Paolo Savoldelli is the American team's best placed rider in the general classification in 13th place at 2:10 behind Gonchar.
Hincapie is 17th at 2:30 while another Ukrainian, Yaroslav Popovych is 23rd at 3:27.
Discovery manager Bruyneel, who led the team's successful seven-year reign when Armstrong was in command, admitted that Ullrich's absence had kept their yellow jersey hopes alive.
"It's lucky Jan Ullrich isn't here. Otherwise the Tour would be over," he said.