Growing up in cycling-mad Belgium, Johan Bruyneel dreamt of winning the most prestigious cycling race, the Tour de France. Of course, like every other Belgian kid, Johan pictured himself on the podium as a rider, not the champion sports director he later became.
Though Johan may not have captured the Tour de France title as a professional cyclist, his 10 year riding career was highlighted by two Tour de France stage wins (1993 & 1995), as well as a day in the Tour’s coveted yellow jersey in 1995. That same year, he also placed 3rd overall in another Grand Tour, the Vuelta a Espana. Johan’s ability to observe, prepare and tactically implement strategies, coupled with his heart and determination, led him to be a respected bike rider in the pro-peloton, but more importantly paved the way for his future career as sports director.
After connecting on the roads of Europe with the young Texan Lance Armstrong, Johan was offered the Sports Director position of Lance’s American team in 1998. It was then that the 34 year-old, newly retired, first year Director of the United States Postal Service Pro Cycling Team (2005-2007 named Discovery Channel) instilled his master plan. Johan convinced the cancer survivor that he could win more than stages at the Tour de France; he could become the champion!
Since then, Lance and Johan have become professionally inseparable. With his record-setting seventh title, Lance is regarded as the greatest cyclist in history. But Lance would be the first to tell you cycling is a team sport, and that without Johan he would never have won a single tour.
Johan made Lance something he had never been, a prepared and efficient rider. He convinced him to spend winters training 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. Together they redefined the approach to cycling.
Their differences proved to be the perfect complement to each other: Johan’s tactical intelligence and Lance’s extraordinary will; Johan’s gift for preparation and Lance’s physical capacity to execute any plan. For all of their differences in personality, they had an effortless understanding. What they shared was a tireless work ethic, mutually inexhaustible ambition, and a vision. Together they've created cycling lore.
Though Lance will always be Johan’s most popular success story, his ability to create champions did not stop with the seven-time Tour winner. After a brief rebuilding year in 2006, Johan took his latest phenom, Spaniard Alberto Contador and guided him to his first Tour de France title; Johan’s eighth. Johan’s Discovery Channel Team dominated the 2007 Tour, with 2 stage wins, 1st and 3rd place (Levi Leipheimer) overall finishes, as well as the Best Young Rider (Alberto Contador) and Team classifications. Johan’s mastermind winning formula worked yet again!
With success came the opportunity to take on new challenges. In 2008, Johan embarked on a new journey as General Manager of the Astana Cycling Team. Though Johan was no longer directing from the driver’s seat, his leadership and philosophy were strongly rooted with his new team. Like the USPS and Discovery Channel Teams, Team Astana reaped the benefits of Johan’s wisdom and experienced a rebirth, becoming the world's most popular and victorious cycling team. In Johan's first year at the helm, Alberto Contador captured both the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana, and in the process became the fifth cyclist in history to win all three Grand Tours! While 2008 was a historic year, 2009 was even more memorable! Lance Armstrong made his famed pro-cycling comeback and joined Team Astana to reunite with his long-time mentor. While having a multi-leader approach to the Tour is often times the downfall for most teams, Johan turned the internal competition into the most successful Tour de France squad. Team Astana dominated - Alberto Contador won his second Tour de France title, Lance Armstrong's impressive comeback was topped off with a 3rd place overall finish, the Team won the Best Team Classification, the Team won the TTT and Alberto added two stage wins!
A new chapter began in 2010 with Johan leading Lance Armstrong and Team RadioShack. 8 out of 9 members of the 2009 Tour de France squad followed Johan to the new team, which produced a stage win at the Tour de France courtesy of Sergio Paulinho and a third straight Team Classification victory in Paris. The 2010 team mounted an impressive 16 wins from 9 different riders, and 8 team classification victories.
In total, Johan’s teams have won an unprecedented 13 Grand Tours (9 Tours de France, 2 Giros d’Italia, 2 Vueltas a Espana), dominated the major US races, and stood on the top step throughout Europe and Asia. He will always be remembered for not only what he has achieved, but how – with hard work, class and professionalism. He has created a dynasty and produced cycling legends, leaving enthusiasts to only believe that Johan Bruyneel is in fact a legend himself.
Birthday: August 23, 1964
Hometown: Izegem, Belgium
Current Residence: London,England
Family: Wife – Eva Maria, Daughter – Victoria, Son - Christian
Education: BA, Marketing
Best Cycling Experience: Winning a stage in the 1993 Tour de France in memory of his father
Scariest Cycling Experience: Crashing and falling off a mountain in the 1996 Tour de France
Interesting Fact: Fluent in 6 languages (Dutch, English, Spanish, French, Italian, German)