A pretty comprehensive press release and rider descriptions from the Disco Team HQ…
The Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team (DCPCT) announced today its roster of exceptional riders who will compete in the 2006 Tour de France, July 1-23. DCPCT sports director Johan Bruyneel made the announcement today and listed the nine-rider team as follows: George Hincapie, Yaroslav Popovych, Paolo Savoldelli, Jose Azevedo, Egoi Martinez, Pavel Padrnos, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Benjamin Noval, and Jose Luis Rubiera. Additionally, Vladimir Gusev and Michael Barry have been listed as reserves. The nine DCPCT riders will compete in the 93rd Tour de France made up of a prologue time trial and 20 stages that will cover a total distance of 3,600 kilometers. The 20 stages will cover nine flat stages, four medium mountain stages, five mountain stages and two individual time-trial stages.
Looking lean and mean – But is George ready to take on Jan and Ivan?
“Although 2006 will be my first Tour de France as a director without Lance on the team, I am extremely motivated to have our team continue to be a major factor in this race,” remarked Johan Bruyneel. “I had a similar feeling in 1999, when we came in as an underdog even though we had strong riders. I am confident that with the team we are bringing that we can have at least one of our riders finish in a top placing in Paris. The road to the Champs Elysees is difficult and many things can happen. Our guys are ready for the challenge.”
“While Lance won’t be leading the team on his bike, his presence will be felt along with the leadership of Johan Bruyneel, the finest cycling coach in the world,” said Billy Campbell, President Discovery Networks, U.S. “We’re extremely confident that the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team will compete at the highest level, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of our riders on the podium on the final day in Paris. The entire Discovery family is gearing up for cycling’s biggest event.”
Members of the press and the public can view a special Webisode of sports director Johan Bruyneel’s announcement of the DCPCT Tour de France riders at www.race2replace.com.
Following is a synopsis of each rider’s performance in the 2006 season, along with his strengths and accomplishments going in to the Tour de France:
George Hincapie- If ever there has been a consistent stand-by for the Discovery Channel team it has been George Hincapie. The only athlete to ride along Lance in all seven Tour victories, George knows what it takes to excel in this race. In the past two years George has gone from being a one-day racer and sprinter to a true tour contender. Having won the biggest mountain stage of the 2005 Tour he has focused his 2006 campaign on preparing specifically for the Tour de France in hope of being the team leader. George showed tremendous early season form by winning two stages at the Tour of California, placing second in the individual Time Trial and fifth overall at the Three Days of DePanne, as well as third at the Tour of Flanders and fifth at Gent-Wevelgem. Unfortunately he suffered a setback crashing out at Paris-Roubaix while riding in a lead group. George returned home to rehab a shoulder separation and begin his Tour de France preparation. George then showed that he made a fully recovery in his first race back, the Dauphine Libere, finishing second in the prologue, fourth in the Individual Time Trial, fourth in stage 7 and tenth overall.
Yaroslav Popovych- At 26 years old, “Popo” has followed a steady path of success culminating at the 2005 Tour as he captured the best young rider jersey while helping Lance win his seventh and final Tour de France. Popo, a smart and crafty racer, has shown his talent and good form in 2006 with a stage win in the Individual Time Trial at the Vuelta Castilla y Leon, as well as a stage win, two third place stage finishes and third place overall at the Tour de Georgia
Paolo Savoldelli- “Il Falco” has had another great season with the Discovery Channel Team. Heading into the Giro d’Italia as the defending champion, Paolo had high hopes and ambition to defend his title, or at the least, finish on the podium. Unfortunately severe allergies due to a late spring in Italy hampered his hopes of a podium placing. However, Paolo still walked away with a stage victory, a second place stage finish, as well as fifth place overall. Savoldelli is focused on recovering from his Giro efforts and hopes to ride well for his teammates at the 2006 Tour de France.
Jose Azevedo- In 2004 Jose “the Ace” Azevedo finished a career best fifth overall at the Tour de France riding in defense of Lance’s sixth yellow jersey, clearly proving himself to be a man to watch in both the time trials and the mountains. To date in 2006, Jose has focused his training to peak for the Tour de France. Season highlights include sixth overall at Paris-Nice, fifth overall at Castilla y Leon and fourth on stage 4 and fourth overall at the Dauphine Libere.
Egoi Martinez – In his first season with the Discovery Channel Team, Egoi has impressed his teammates and directors with solid results and a professional work ethic. Egoi performed strongly in the Vuelta Castilla y Leon with third and sixth place stage results and a fourth place overall finish. He also rode extremely hard at the Tour de Georgia with two eighth place stage results while helping teammate Tom Danielson finish second overall and the team win the Team Classification prize.
Pavel Padrnos- For the second straight year Padrnos will ride both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France back to back as he starts his seventh Tour de France. Pavel consistently plays the role of super domestique for his Discovery Channel teammates showing tremendous strength and endurance on the flats and low mountain stages. In 2006 he finished third in the Team Time Trial event at the Giro d’Italia.
Benjamin Noval- The 2006 Tour de France will be Noval’s third with the Discovery Channel team. Benjamin has shown strong form throughout his spring campaign as he worked tirelessly for his team leaders at races such as Paris-Roubaix, Tour de Georgia and Dauphine Libere.
Viatcheslav Ekimov- With 14 Tour de France’s under his belt and 40 years of cycling wisdom, Eki is a true professional. Having missed out on Lance’s seventh Tour win in 2005 due to a back injury, Eki is motivated as ever to return to the roads of France and prove to the world that he has not lost a step. This season, Eki has focused on working for team leaders like George Hincapie, Tom Danielson and Paolo Savoldelli during the Tours of California, Georgia and Italy, respectively. While providing key support for Paolo Savoldelli, he was still able to finish tenth in the Individual Time Trial and help the team finish fifth in the Team Trial event.
Jose Luis Rubiera- Nicknamed “Chechu”; this Spanish rider is another true professional of the Discovery Channel Team. Chechu has quietly ridden his 2006 season in preparation for two races, the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. In the Giro, Chechu rode selflessly for Paolo Savoldelli and while doing that nearly missed out on a stage victory, finishing second. His strong riding in the Giro helped the team place third in the Team Trial Event and a personal thirteenth overall place in one of the toughest grand tour races ever ridden.