Who will be RadioShack’s leader at the Tour de France?
RadioShack-Leopard's Andy Schleck. AFP PHOTO / Mark Gunter
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In the midst of a sponsor debate at the RadioShack-Leopard team, I imagine there is another conundrum for the directeur-sportifs – who will they protect in this year’s Tour de France?
The men they can count out for the spot of team leader already are Chris Horner – the veteran American is out of this year’s race with a knee injury – and Frank Schleck, who is suspended until midway through the race for a positive test during last year’s Tour.
The first man under consideration has to be Andy Schleck.
Frank’s younger brother has been struggling with form and illness since breaking his pelvis in the 2012 Criterium du Dauphine, but has shown promise with a 25th place finish in the Tour of California this May.
However, this is a far cry from the man who is now declared the 2010 Tour winner.
There has been constant speculation about the future of his cycling career, with his father even suggesting he quit the sport.
A 25th place finish in California would have been a disappointment this time two years ago, but Schleck has been dealing with scraps since his crash.
Schleck will no doubt start this year’s race, but the question as to whether he is set to challenge is yet to be answered.
The next man up for contention is Haimar Zubeldia. Even though the Spaniard is 36, he showed last year that he has many good races left in him, with an impressive sixth place finish.
With the right luck, and if he does not have to wait for teammates, Zubeldia could easily push the top five, and maybe even challenge for a podium.
The third man is Andreas Kloden. The German will be 38 when the Tour de France starts, but as with Zubeldia, has a good case to challenge for the top five.
Kloden has been showing good form this year, most recently with a fourth overall in the Tour of Belgium.
He managed 11th place at the Tour last year in a supporting role, so it is easy to speculate where he would have come had he been team leader when Schleck departed.
The final man up for contention is Maxime Monfort. The 30-year-old has a best finish of sixth place in a Grand Tour – at the 2011 Vuelta a Espana.
He managed 16th at last year’s Tour, and 16th at the 2012 Vuelta, showing he has good consistency over three weeks, and can hold his form well.
He has been quiet this year, with his only noteworthy result a fourth place overall at the Tour Mediterranean, but is younger than both Kloden and Zubeldia, so has a good shout.
Out of the four, I would back Monfort. He has proven his consistency, as well as his ability to lead a team over three weeks, but that’s just one man’s opinion.
I would definitely not like to be Luca Guercilina making the final call on team leadership.