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July 19, 2005

What next for Discovery Channel?

Independent Online Edition | Cycling: Bruyneel looking beyond glories of Armstrong era

What can Discovery Channel do to compete for another Tour title after Lance Armstrong leaves?

Johan Bruyneel is the man who convinced Armstrong he could be a Tour winner. He's tipped Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich as the most likely caandidates for the 2006 Tour. Discovery is believed to have recruited Basso, who signed an extension with CSC yesterday.

Bruyneel has previously identified Yaroslav Popovych, currently wearing the young rider's jersey, as the team's next great Tour hope. Now 25, Popovych won this year's Vuelta a Catalunya (the Tour of Catalonia), and was 5th in last year's Giro d'Italia; we'll likely see how long it takes him to develop into a grand tour winner.

George Hincapie's stage win on Sunday had a few people suggesting that he could be a Tour leader for Discovery, but, well, he's 32, and I think it was intended more as a nice compliment for a rider who deserves tremendous respect than a serious indication of the team's direction.

There have also been rumors of Alexandre Vinokourov joining the Discos. Certainly the Kazakh's powerful, aggressive style would make him a fan favorite, but could he master his emotions and ride a tactical race for three long weeks? Could be -- that's just the sort of description you would have gotten for Lance Armstrong pre-cancer. If anyone could convert him to a Tour winner, it would be Bruyneel, who's converted a similar rider to a 6- (maybe 7-)timer.

Who will take Discovery Channel's next podium finish, if anyone?

Posted by Frank Steele on July 19, 2005 in Alexandre Vinokourov, George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink

Comments

Bob Roll....could you do a post about how bad this guy is? Honestly, I am so sick of him. What led me to find an outlet for my anger is that on tonight's show he said is is from the bay area (San Francisco), which is where I am from. I'd like to think someone from SF has a little more culture...that is, can pronounce a foreign name or two. Or maybe, just maybe, pronounce Tour de France without saying DAY. I mean, give me a break.

And could he get a little coaching about his on air presence? What's with all the hand action, all the counting on his fingers when in fact he's not counting anything? And how many times is he going to give the audience the A-okay sign?

Thank goodness I can avoid Roll by watching the first show of the day. But my biggest fear is that OLN is going to make him the primary announcer. Maybe you bloggers can start a movement and save us all.

Posted by: Chris at Jul 20, 2005 12:41:35 AM

Chris, you have described each of the reasons I love Bob Roll. But I'm equally upset about the show you speak of, I'd swear he was from Oakland.

Posted by: tony at Jul 20, 2005 12:59:31 AM

I was blown away last year when one of the former French winners (Fignon? Anquetil?) was interviewed on OLN by Bob Roll...IN FRENCH! Roll sounded pretty fluent. So it's clear that his "Tour DAY France" thing is not because he lacks culture but rather it's part of his schtick.

I actually don't mind Roll; he amuses me much of the time. It's Al Trautwig who drives me up the wall.

Posted by: dks at Jul 20, 2005 1:00:30 AM

dks - Couldn't agree with you more about Trautwig. Kirsten "Bubble" Gumm as well. Bob's the best color man in cycling. I watch the evening "extended" coverage just for his commentary.

And so I'm not COMPLETELY off topic, I don't think Vino will ever win the tour. Too emotional for three weeks of discipline and tactics. I don't think Bruyneel could do any more about that than he did for Lance -- cancer calmed (for lack of a better word) Lance, not Bruyneel.

I think Popovych will be the next Disco leader. He won't win the Tour DAY France next year, probably not the year after either, but I think he'll definitely be on the podium.

Posted by: JJ at Jul 20, 2005 7:28:52 AM

Bob Roll is the best!

Posted by: barkdog at Jul 20, 2005 8:05:40 AM

Bob Roll did hard time in the peloton (as did Sherwin) and his commentary is knowledgable insightful. Behind the clown there's a man who knows cycling.

Kirsten Gumm was better as a blond.

Posted by: Bill at Jul 20, 2005 8:13:05 AM

The U.S. Postal Team has a dynasty. And I can't help but think of the 1979-80 Pittsburgh Steelers (American Football). 4 Superbowl rings and years of frustration ahead. Bradshaw was kept long past his prime. Armstrong, on the other hand, is leaving before the 4th Super Bowl season.

The problem is, dynasty's require an Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault, Indurain, or Armstrong. If you look at the history, there's a good chance that the next one of them is somewhere in the list of cyclists in the Tour de France, but he's about 3-5 years away from wearing the malliot jaune on the Champs-Elysees.

At this point, who gets him is more matter of luck. Who keeps him is a matter of funding, image, personalities -- and luck.

In the meantime, I wouldn't mind seeing Vinokurov.

Posted by: Rob at Jul 20, 2005 9:07:50 AM

I wouldn't write Bruyneel off so lightly, he's turning out to be quite the Svengali. I was quite impressed when they listed his teams' event wins over the last few years. The fire he showing in the young Bruyneel in those old race clips is still around. Maybe he could do something with Vino.

Posted by: Devans at Jul 20, 2005 9:09:53 AM

Bob Roll rocks... his quirks are precisely why I like his on-air persona! And yeah, his French is pretty good actually (speaking of which, I haven't seen any clips of Lance giving interviews in French this Tour).

As for Roll, it's refreshing to have someone who's NOT overly polished, with every hair in place, so to speak. Ditto for Paul and Phil, for that matter -- though they're clearly professional announcers in a way Roll is not. Those three guys make OLN's coverage great!

Posted by: noelle at Jul 20, 2005 9:28:16 AM

To the anti-Roll contingent: y'all are taking his carefully cultivated on-air shtick at face value, which I'm sure is not what Bob intends the viewers to do (although he's not going to come out and say that - the key to an effective running gag like this is to stay in-character and let the viewers figure it out). I laugh my ass off when he does his over-the-top ignorant-american parody of "LAY Tour DAY France," or all those exaggerated hand gestures - it's like a hip-hop bump-and-grind video, all he needs is 20 lbs. of gold chain and some oversized laceless sneaks on DAY feets. Underneath it all, he knows his cycling - what's wrong with having (and providing) some goofy fun during the ride?

I see the normally sober Liggett and Sherwen are also not immune to some sophomoric on-screen hijinks - more this year than in previous ones, it seems to me. Remember Sherwen's faux-Teutonic "Der Kaiser" bit on the eve of the opening time trial? It was all the more funny because it was so unexpected.

Posted by: EWM at Jul 20, 2005 2:29:10 PM

OLN's coverage of the Tour DAY France is so good because their on-air personalities actually have ... PERSONALITY!

I watch the live coverage because I can't bear not knowing what's happening. But I also watch the extended coverage because I love to hear Bob's take on the racing. The OLN team reminds me of the early days of Sportscenter. They cover the sport, but they don't take it or themselves too seriously. Which is perfect coverage for the average American.

Posted by: Out4Blood at Jul 20, 2005 2:48:43 PM

Bruyneel says: "We will have to get used to the idea of our team [Discovery Channel] being just one more amongst a lot of Tour teams."

And yet, he is the only Director in the world (in the history of the sport?!) never to have lost a Tour de France.

I think this guy is very interesting and I don't underestimate him. The choice may come down to: Do I want to maintain my *Tour* dynasty -or- Do I want to build a *cycling* dynasty and start winning races across the spectrum of the season?

The legacy of Armstrong and the fact that Discovery is paying the bills may default the choice to a continued focus on the Tour only, but wouldn't it be interesting to see the team widen their focus and begin to strike fear in months other than July?

> Popo
> Hincapie
> Tom Danielson

They've got the serious talent. Bruyneel's real challenge might be keeping every ego happy (and now he's going to have to contend with more than one ego!).

By the way, I thought Vino was scary - the one guy who could unseat Lance - before the Tour started. Now, he makes little sense to me. Careening through the course and blowing up (the race and himself) right and left. I couldn't really understand his rationale. He reminds me of a firecracker more than anything!

Crazy headline #1: Lance to ride 2007 Tour in support of [____]. He just misses it so much and he wants to contribute.

Crazy headline #2: Lance coaches Ullrich to 2007 Tour victory!

As for Jan, I think whether he continues (or not) will be a function of his financial health more than anything else.

Basso will probably rule for a year or two and then we can bring on the young guys: Valverde (the only guy to really ride with Lance this year) and Cunego and... who else?

Posted by: Rex Casteel at Jul 20, 2005 3:09:54 PM

I got excited when they mentioned Armstrong switching to a coaching position during the running commentary. Sounded like he's more interested in young rider development than helping an established guy reach the promised land. Imagine, this may be the dawn of the mini-me Lances as his proteges move through the professional cycling ranks.

Posted by: Devans at Jul 20, 2005 11:17:08 PM

What I can't stand are the Sheryl Crow interviews - ugh! what's up with that? I love her tunes, but really, do i care what she thinks about being in the team car? Can she say anything besides "it was so cool!" Why don't they have interviews from some of the other racers' wives/girlfriends? Could it be because they aren't famous?
if it's going to be all about the eye candy, then more big george hincapie for us ladies! that man is a long, tall drink o'water!

Posted by: sly at Jul 21, 2005 2:24:30 AM

Can you imagine being coached by Lance Armstrong? Yikes!

Posted by: Rex Casteel at Jul 21, 2005 1:52:06 PM

I love the new thing with the OLN yellow jersey predictions, but that schtick with Paul and Phil is not even funny! I think it's great they've been together so long but their humor about it seems so staged and uggh...not funny. Al has to go...OLN needs to post a job opening for next year. I really enjoy Bob Roll he's a hoot although the "DAY France" gets on my nerves.

What I'd love to see is more interaction with some of the other Americans and European cyclists. Levi has a great commercial running...nice to see he's getting exposure.

Posted by: cisca at Jul 22, 2005 5:57:25 PM

Bob Roll ? Defnitely, he is the best ! His valuable information during the tour keep us informed of the in & outs of the tour ! !

More power to you Bob !

Posted by: Pete S. Ellorin at Jul 22, 2005 6:23:11 PM

Gotta say I like Bob Roll as well. His schtick is something he's maintained for a long time (remember his "At the Back" articles in Velonews?). He doesn't take himself or his cycling career too seriously, and I enjoy that. Don't let the "Tour Day France" stuff fool you though--Bob knows cycling, and speaks French fluently (well, at least fluently to my monolingual ears).

Posted by: Adrienne at Jul 22, 2005 7:22:08 PM

Wow. This blog has certainly opened my eyes. I am amazed to find so many people who love Bob Roll. I intentionally AVOID the extended coverage so I don't have to hear OLN fill in an extra hour of coverage with idiotic bable. Anyway, not important. I'm glad to hear someone drop Alejandro Valverde's name as one of the bright future riders... but saying that he's the only one who could keep up with Lance isn't fair... Basso is there day in and day out and it seems like Lance has a mutual respect for Ivan that he does not show for anyone else. I don't see Lance trying to attack Basso the same way as the others; he just does what he's got to do.

Posted by: a-dub at Jul 22, 2005 8:06:14 PM

a-dub: Valverde was the only guy on Stage 10 and that, to me, is all we've got to go by. I was sad he had to abandon (and also that Cunego couldn't race the Tour).

These guys might've challenged Armstrong and no one else can, apparently. Lance took the time he needed on that Stage 10 (and also in the first stage - the TT) and then he's put it on cruise. It's a little scary that the guy is bored (and can hardly wait to get home to the backyard and drink lemonade in his old age) and still untouchable.

I've heard that he and Basso are friends.

Lance just stays with the group (Basso and Ullrich and whoever else manages to hang around) and takes the final pull up the hill and then leads them home to the finish (Stage 18).

It's practically anti-climactic. The killer instinct has left the building, but I guess grinding these guys down would be viewed as "in poor taste."

Posted by: Rex Casteel at Jul 22, 2005 8:51:01 PM

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