Johan Bruyneel is without question one of the major names in the history of Belgian cycling. Born in 1964 in Izegem, Belgium he went on to become a professional cyclist with a career lasting some 12 years, then became the Director Sportif of the United States Postal Service cycling team in 1999. 

He is credited with guiding Lance Armstrong to all 7 of his amazing Tour de France victories, as well as a number of other major victories for Team USPS - and now the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team - along the way. 

Who, exactly, is Johan Bruyneel?

“Johan Bruyneel is the first person who put Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France in the same sentence," Armstrong said.

It was 1999, and Armstrong was a fragile athlete who was not sure he had a future in cycling after almost dying of cancer. None of the major teams would give him a job, so Armstrong accepted an offer from the US Postal team. Bruyneel was U.S. Postal's new Director Sportif, cycling's equivalent of a head coach.

In a moment that now has historical significance, during their first meeting, Bruyneel said to Lance Armstrong, "I think we should talk about the Tour de France."

“Okay," Armstrong said. "Maybe I could win some stages."

“No," Bruyneel said, "I mean the whole thing."

Since then, Armstrong and Bruyneel have become professionally inseparable, as Armstrong has won seven consecutive Tour de France titles. With his record-breaking sixth title, he is now regarded as the greatest cyclist in history. But Armstrong would be the first to tell you cycling is a team sport, and that without Bruyneel he might never have won a single tour.

Bruyneel made Armstrong something he had never been, a prepared and efficient rider. He convinced him to spend winters in training camps in the Alps and Pyrenees. He altered his pedaling cadence. They went into wind tunnels, seeking better positioning to save fractions of seconds. They experimented with new bike technologies.

Their differences proved to be the perfect complement to each other: Bruyneel's tactical intelligence and Armstrong's extraordinary will; Bruyneel's gift for preparation and Armstrong's physical capacity to execute any plan. For all of their differences in personality, they have an effortless understanding.

What they share is a tireless work ethic, mutually inexhaustible ambition, and a vision: Bruyneel saw more in Armstrong than Armstrong saw in himself. In a way, what Bruyneel has given to Armstrong is the greatest gift, himself. Together they've created cycling lore.

Armstrong would later go on say at his retirement announcement, “In my view Johan Bruyneel is the premier sports director of all time. He's directed 7 Tours and won 7, and I don't know anyone else that can claim that record. He is the guy that came along and believed in me in 1998, and not only said that I could do it, but then told me how to do it.”

Johan is a true global sports manager, winning and setting milestones on all continents. In Europe he is not only the sole director to win the Tour de France seven times, but has also won the other two Grand Tours: the Tour of Spain in 2003 and the Tour of Italy in 2005. Through his leadership he has also won major races in the USA such as the Tour de Georgia, the San Francisco Grand Prix, and several times the US Pro Championship. In Asia he is one of the driving forces behind the partnership between the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team and the China-based Marco Polo Cycling Team. As a direct result, Johan signed the first Chinese Pro Tour rider in history, Fuyu Li, and the Japanese champion Fumy Beppu is also member of his great Discovery Channel team.

A true citizen of the world, Bruyneel is fluent in 6 languages. While he makes his home in Madrid, Spain with his wife Eva Maria and their daughter Victoria Andrea, he travels throughout Europe and the United States overseeing what most consider the premier team in professional cycling.  Bruyneel not only guides the tactical decisions from behind the wheel of the team car during races, but also makes all of the critical staffing and rider selection decisions as well as overseeing the team’s logistical Cycling Services division based in Belgium.

During Bruyneel’s cycling career he won a number of big races like the Tour de L’Avenir in 1990, the Rund um den Henninger Turm (Frankfurt GP) in 1991 and the GP des Nations in 1992.  But he is most famous for his exploits in the Tour de France throughout the 90’s. His most successful year was 1995, in which he not only won one stage in the Tour de France, but also wore the coveted yellow jersey for a day. During Stage 7 from Charleroi to Liège, eventual Tour winner Miguel Indurain launched a ferocious attack at the 178 km mark and only Bruyneel was able to stay on his wheel.  He would go on to beat the 5-time Tour champ in a 2-up sprint to the line to lay claim to the “maillot jaune” for Team ONCE.

- No minor accomplishment, later on that same year he was third overall in the Vuelta Espana - the 3-week Grand Tour of Spain.

In 1993 Bruyneel set a single stage speed record 49.4 kph / 30.7 mph by winning the 158-kilometer stage from Evreux to Amiens.  This record would stand for years until finally broken by Italy’s Mario Cipollini. 

Regarded as one of the toughest Belgian riders in the pro peloton, Bruyneel is also remembered for a spectacular crash in the 1996 Tour de France while riding for Team Rabobank.  During Stage 7 on the serpentine descent, Bruyneel hit a concrete barrier and flew off course into a deep ravine. While many expected a very serious injury – or death – had occurred, Bruyneel was soon seen clambering out of the ravine, getting a new bike, and soon on his way. 

Professional cyclist, Director Sportif, father and husband, Johan Bruyneel has accomplished what most men would not dream, and done it with true distinction.  As he looks ahead to guiding the Discovery Channel team in the post-Lance Armstrong era, one can only expect great things still to come from a man who has not only achieved significant things on a personal level, but given back to the sport he loves as well.