It is not often fact follows fiction, but in the case of cycling team Radioshack-Nissan Trek, fans of the TV series The Office will agree there are certainly more than a few parallels between the two.
Have your boss unable to actually attend ‘work’ and do what he’s paid to do, check.
Pass over more suitable office candidates for a position in favour of ones that leave everyone scratching their heads on the decision process, check.
Have your team leader publicly state he doesn’t actually want the job, check.
A lawsuit meaning the whole office is at risk of being shut down, check.
Even have an employee have an unjustified fear (think Gareth and the jelly/Frank and Andy and descending), check.
Fact is this year, for the majority of the time, has been more like a ‘How not to run a Pro Cycling team’ for Radioshack-Nissan Trek than anything approaching even what you could call a mediocre season.
Certainly losing their star rider in Fabian Cancellara, the only rider showing any sort of form, during the Tour of Flanders did not help. From there though things have just gone from bad to worse for riders and backroom staff alike.
The first big issue to follow is of course the very public spat between the brothers Schleck and Johan Bruyneel. What kicked it off, whether it was an insistence from the brothers to Johan that they must be raced together or Johan making the decision that for him to get the best out of them they needed to be separated is not rightly known.
The fallout, however, saw Andy going to the media and state how unhappy he was with the lack of communication and professionalism shown by the team, Johan in particular. Bruyneel denied this, a claim that would be a lot more believable if not for the events that followed.
Frank Schleck withdrew during stage 15 of the Giro, claiming a shoulder injury from a collision with Alex Rasmussen during stage 11. Johan then publicly states his disappointment with Frank, calling in to question his commitment and chastising him for letting the team down.
For some reason Bruyneel felt the need to air the teams dirty laundry in the press. Which, given Frank’s reaction (primarily one of anger) and his need to “silence his critics” (nudge, nudge Johan) during the recent Tour du Suisse we can again only assume the first Frank knew of this was via the media.
This brings us nicely to Chris Horner and his non-selection (and subsequent re-selection) for the Radioshack Tour de France team. Going from what we the press are told (which given the clear lack of communication within the team, it would be safe to assume is as close to the truth as the riders are probably getting too) because Chris did not participate in either Tour lead up race, he ruled himself ineligible for selection. According at least to Johan’s (again media stated) selection criteria.
That Jens Voigt also failed to race either the Criterium du Daphine or Tour du Suisse, yet still made the squad, was never mentioned.
Yet Horner claims that the first he was told of his missing out was from his wife, who had read it online. He himself had not spoken nor heard from Johan.
Finally there is Jacob Fuglsang. Initially meant to ride the Giro as the team leader, however prevented from starting due to injury. Winner of the Tour of Luxemburg (one third of the teams wins for the season!) and building form nicely, only to be omitted from the final nine man Tour de France squad. With instead riders such as Tony Gallopin making the cut – a selection that looks for all the world to only have nepotism as the only explanation.
Again, nothing from Bruyneel to the rider. Kim Anderson was instead the one who informed Jacob.
Not that Kim is innocent throughout all this, as he too is on record this season for publicly stating that he “can’t explain (Andy) Schleck’s performance problems”. Slating the rider at a time when he most needed the support of his director sportiff and friend.
Of course none of this even touches the mystery disappearance of Bruyneel during May, his barring of Anderson in attending and working as a team director sportiff at the Tour and his subsequent self-omission from the Tour.
Not to mention the Armstrong investigation and its possible implications for the team, riders and staff not being paid and the already very active rumour mill of riders already seeking a new team for next season.
Armstrong conjecture and possible enhanced performances aside, Johan still managed to run a tight ship back in the US Postal/Discovery Channel days. He was in fact, for quite a while, viewed as the ultimate director sportiff. A Vince Lombardi of cycling.
How he could now be looking like a complete rank amateur is staggering. And if so many livelihoods and careers were not caught up in it would almost be funny.
Whatever the case, Radioshack-Nissan Trek is in all kinds of trouble for this year’s Tour de France.