Andy Schleck must move on from safety blanket Frank
Luxembourg's Andy Schleck (C) is out of the 2012 Tour de France AFP PHOTO/PASCAL PAVANI
Earlier this month, Andy Schleck was pronounced the “new” winner of the 2010 Tour de France, after Alberto Contador was stripped of the title for doping. This moment of severely dampened glory seems symbolic of where Schleck’s career currently sits.
Despite unconvincing talk to the contrary, the Luxembourg native appears to lack the drive and confidence that spurred him to second-place finishes in each of the last three Tours de France.
The time has come for Schleck, who turned 27 at the weekend, to seek a fresh start away from Team RadioShack-Nissan-Trek and older brother Frank.
The undercurrent of negative tension between RadioShack-Nissan directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel and Frank Schleck is palpable.
The “package deal” mentality that surrounds the two Schlecks, who insist on riding together, has dragged Andy into the mess.
Chaos reached its zenith at this year’s Giro d’Italia, when a drastically under prepared and seemingly uninterested Frank was told to ride in place of injured teammate Jakob Fuglsang. Emphasis on the “told”.
At no point did he look a likely prospect for the overall victory, barely grinding his way over a number of climbs. Televised shots that showed the elder Schleck looking a hundred shades of miserable captured his Giro campaign perfectly.
For an informed spectator, watching a man who so clearly wanted nothing to do with the race he was riding felt awkward. It came as no surprise when he pulled out an hour into stage 15, reportedly troubled by back pain.
A move back to Team Saxo Bank has been cited as a possibility for the Schlecks, where they would ride under their former head of state Bjarne Riis.
This scenario seems unlikely and would require Riis to have changed his tune from December last year when he stated that Andy lacks the will to win the Tour de France. As mentioned, Andy has since been awarded the yellow jersey for the 2010 Tour, but let’s leave that one alone. Riis would also need to give up on suspended Saxo Bank team leader Contador.
Were the Schlecks to leave RadioShack-Nissan, the substantial funds needed to land them would likely rule out the smaller teams on the professional circuit. My imaginary list of potential Schleck suitors is short. The likes of BMC Racing (Cadel Evans), Garmin-Barracuda (Ryder Hesjedal), Saxo Bank (Alberto Contador) and Sky Pro Cycling (Bradley Wiggins) already have established leadership.
The teams with primary interest in riders from their own country of origin such as Astana (Kazakhstan), Katusha (Russia), Lampre-ISD (Italy), Liquigas-Cannondale (Italy), Movistar (Spain), Orica-GreenEDGE (Australia) and Euskaltel-Euskadi (the Basque region) are first to be scratched from the list.
In saying that, these teams – with the possible exception of Euskaltel (although they now have a number of French riders) – have shown themselves to be far less exclusive in recent years. Italian Vincenzo Nibali, for instance, is widely tipped to ride for Astana next season.
Omega Pharma-Quick-Step would be my tip to gain the services of the Schlecks if they leave RadioShack-Nissan. With the addition of a genuine overall contender like Andy Schleck, the existing rider base – which boasts Martin and Peter Velits, Levi Leipheimer, Sylvain Chavanel, Dario Cataldo and Tony Martin – has the potential to win Grand Tours. Money would still be a key factor here and may require some room to be made on the roster.
But these are just musings, and professional rider transactions are rarely predictable.
Do not by any means rule out the younger Schleck at this year’s Tour de France, although the more than 100km of time-trialling is not going to help him.
It has become clear that Andy Schleck needs a change of scene after this year’s Tour if he is to get back to his mental and physical best in the long term. Maybe even without his brother Frank.
Tim Renowden is on holidays – Kit Harvey is on hand to fill in and give us his thoughts and opinion on cycling