I can't think of a team in the Pro Tour that elicits more opinions (for and agin) than Discovery Channel. It seems people either love them or hate them. Is it because Lance himself was such a polarizing figure, and hence his former team is destined to bear the future brunt of this? Or is it because some now suspect Johan Bruyneel of being the Belgian Mr. 60% after hiring Ivan Basso? You tell me cause I sure don't know. What I do know is they've got a powerful yet unpredictable team. Allow me to explain.
When you quickly run down their roster it looks like they're built for everything, vis a vis CSC. They've got their Spring Classics guys (Stijn Devolder, Vlad Gusev, Jurgen Van Goolen, Matt White, George Hincapie)
Mini and Grand Tour guys (Tom Danielson, Levi Leipheimer, Yaroslav Popovych, Ivan Basso)
Flahutes and Stage Hardmen(Vlad Bileka, Uros Murn, Pavel Padernos, Benjamin Novel, Matt White, Sergio Pauhlino)
Climbing reinforcement for the Tour Captains (Chechu Rubiera, Alberto Contador, Jason McCartney Janez Brajkovic).
You can also rearrange a lot of these parts depending on what you're doing, so you've got shorter stage race leaders (Danielson, Levi, Popo) working for Basso in the Giro and Tour, and probably Levi and Danielson co-leading the Vuelta . Looks like a pretty good system right?
Something about it bugs me, and I don't know what it is. Maybe it's the close but no cigar results in the Spring classics, the touting of certain riders who so far haven't quite delivered, the focus on the Grand Tours, or even the way that business is conducted when hiring certain riders. Maybe it's the fact that they are America's only team in the Pro Tour and as such, I want their reputation to be beyond squeaky clean. Let me state here and now, I love Ivan Basso as a rider, he seems like a very nice guy, and he deserves the benefit of the doubt as much as any other rider implicated. But there is still some underlying feeling of distaste in the manner in which Bruyneel scooped him up (but I can't explain what that is). If say Boonen had been riding for Davitamon previously, was implicated and cleared in OP, does anyone doubt for an instant that Patrick Lefevere wouldn't have been waiting on his doorstep with a signed contract within 5 minutes of the decision? Neither do I. So why should the Johan / Basso situation be different? I don't know.
In any event, what does the season hold for Disco? With Hincapie out so is their best chance for Flanders, Gent Wevelgem, and Paris Roubaix. They have no one else even close in overall strength and talent, even though Devolder showed himself to be $1M legs and a .05 head in KBK. If they could get a podium in any of them it would be a coup. I think they go for broke in Tour of Georgia with Levi and Danielson. I think Contador gets a real shot in the Ardennes (Amstel, Fleche, LBL) and they push all their cards into the middle with the Giro and Tour (assuming Basso is allowed to ride). If he is I see him pulling off both because he's a) defending Giro champ, b) pissed about being left out of the Tour, c) approaching his physical peak, and d) clearly the best combination of TTing and climbing for a 3 week tour.
They contest the Vuelta with Danielson, Levi or both, and maybe George keeps riding the late season classics and the World Champs in Germany, since his spring was delayed.
All in all they should win a lot of races because they certainly have the talent, the budget, and the direction (Bruyneel, Demol, and Sean Yates were no slouches as riders and know what it takes to win). But will they? It's such an odd team to me, I love the sum of their parts but not so much the whole.