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Discovery wraps up training in Austin - 12/12/2006

- By M.T. Elliott / The Daily Texan

Members of the Discovery Channel cycling team departed Monday after a week of spinning wheels and getting to know each other on and off the streets of Austin.

The week-long camp allowed the team's 10 new members to meet a few of the veterans and gave them a glimpse of how Discovery conducts business before the team's January training camp in California. Over the week, the team rode through the city's relatively cold weather, worked out at a local fitness club and dined together.

Brian Vandborg, the Danish national champion, came from the rival CSC team where past training camps resembled boot camp, including wilderness survival and sleep deprivation.

"I'm over that now," Vandborg said, citing the more relaxed team-building at Discovery, which included paintball this year.

New members include Tour de France veterans Ivan Basso and Levi Leipheimer. One of last year's Tour favorites, Basso sat out after being implicated in Operacion Puerto, a Spanish drug investigation that sidelined over a dozen riders days before the start of cycling's most prestigious race. Leipheimer spent two years with the German Gerolsteiner team for whom he won the Dauphine Libere last year.

Some riders still wore the jerseys of their old teams, because their old contracts are valid until the end of the year. The parking lot at the team's hotel hosted the hodge-podge mismatched jerseys and bikes, including an unpainted test model of Trek's new road frame. Mechanics took the time to have riders try out new seats and other gear.

After having no clear leader last year, Discovery will go back to focusing on the Tour as it did for Lance Armstrong, who will now watch his one-time rival, Basso, represent the team he co-owns.

"I think we're back where we were," emerging talent Janez Brajkovic said. "We have a very strong team for the Tour, and obviously that's going to be the first goal of the season, and we'll have a chance to win it."

"My first goal is the Vuelta again," Brajkovic said.

Last season, Brajkovic rode in the Vuelta de Espana to gain experience in a grand tour and build strength. Instead, he surprised his team by holding his own in the mountains and wore the race leader's gold jersey for two stages.

Brajkovic said he also wants to return to the U.S. for the Tour de Georgia, where he finished fifth last year.

Leipheimer is expected to represent Discovery at the Amgen Tour of California, where he took two stages before losing the overall lead to eventual Tour winner Floyd Landis.

Team Director Johan Bruyneel is expected to announce the team's race plans toward the end of January.

10/23/2007 Contador Joins Team Astana
2/26/2007 Johan discusses the Tour of California victory
2/6/2007 Johan interviewed on The Paceline at DC Camp Pt 2
2/5/2007 Johan interviewed on The Paceline at DC Camp Pt 1
1/15/2007 Discovery Channel signs 3 new riders
12/12/2006 Discovery wraps up training in Austin
11/18/2006 Bruyneel comments on Basso signing
9/28/2006 Discovery boss adjusts to not winning the Tour de France