Can the Leopards change their spots?

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

What is going on inside Radioshack-Nissan? There’s been some bizarre debate in public between riders and management over who gets to be the directeur sportif during the Tour de France. But this seems to be about more than just picking a manager for one month.

Let’s go back to 2010 when the Schleck brothers were riding for Team Saxo Bank under Bjarne Riis. During the course of the season there were rumours the brothers were working on a project for a new team. These were denied but in time Leopard-Trek was created. Fränk Schleck in particular was one of the driving forces behind this.

A variety of reasons encouraged Fränk Schleck to get more involved in team management, whether tactical choices or the ready funding from fellow Luxembourger Flavio Becca. The genesis of the Leopard venture is a whole story in itself, but for now take away the idea that the Schlecks wanted a team in their image and things fell into place to make this happen.

Leopard-Trek didn’t work out. The owner Flavio Becca seems to have grown impatient, as early as March 2011 he was trying to get riders pulled from races because he didn’t like the way they were riding. Just six months later the team announced it would “merge” with Radioshack but this wasn’t your average merger where 1+1=2, it was more two squads coming together in order to shore themselves up. The Schlecks started the year with their own team and ended the year with something quite different.

There was plenty of talk about new management styles from Johan Bruyneel designed to split the brothers up, toughen the up and improve their time trialling skills. One minute you’ve got your own team, the next you’re reading about plans to change everything you’d gotten used to.

The Bruyneel strategy sounds obvious. At times the Schleck brothers seem to worry more about helping each other rather than asphyxiating their rivals. There were “threats” to send Fränk Schleck to the Giro d’Italia, a clear attempt to prise the brothers apart. They also have obvious weaknesses like time trialling and descending.

But if it these gains appear obvious, we’ve not seen them yet. As of today Andy Schleck’s highest finish in a race this year is 22nd; Fränk has been stronger. Both still sit as upright as Peter Fonda in Easy Rider suggesting future time trial gains will be elusive.

The pair get flak from many on the internet. The causes of the mockery are obvious but I’m more sympathetic. They’re so good in the mountains that we tend to view them as grand tour contenders but surely they are not all round stage racers but mountain specialists instead? When Andy Schleck lost time in the stage to Gap last July many criticised him. Yet the sport is littered with excellent climbers who were dire downhill. Today we venerate Federico Bahamontes, the “Eagle of Toledo” but legend says he once stopped at the top of a mountain to wait for others, licking an ice cream to pass the time until he could descend with others because he was scared to go first. Luxembourg’s best ever rider was Charly Gaul, a man who cared little for one day races but excelled in the high mountains.

That said if their physiology is not suited to descending or riding against the clock, I can see psychological gains. Even if they have a relatively high centre of gravity which can’t be fixed, descending skills can be improved with practice and coaching. They might not be fast against the watch but all the more reason to visit and memorise the time trial course so the time losses are reduced; it turned out they’d never visited the Grenoble time trial course last year prior to the race whilst Cadel Evans had ridden the route four times in advance. And what if the fraternal alliance was seen as an advantage rather than a burden? When Andy Schleck took off on the Col d’Izoard last July, the plan was that he’d be chased down and Fränk Schleck could counter. There are not many teams able to deliver this kind of one-two, it is an advantage.

All the questions have collided with a new team manager seeking to refine their performances. The Schleck brothers seem to have pushed back against this, the public bickering over who is the team manager in July suggests things aren’t well. But is this focus on the failings fair? If Fabian Cancellara hadn’t crashed perhaps many would hailing the team’s successful classics campaign? And besides the classics didn’t work out for others either, take Alejandro Valverde or whole teams like Rabobank and Sky.

I’m still left with questions. Can the Schlecks be moulded into stage race automatons able to grind out every second of advantage by new management or do we celebrate them as quirky climbers able to stand on the podium of the Tour de France?

Conclusion
The Schlecks have frustrated fans and now it seems they’ve managed to provoke Johan Bruyneel as well, resulting in a strange public spat. There was pressure from team owner Becca last year, he’s probably more stressed given Cancellara’s accident.

Keep this in perspective, it looks like a small matter. But but let’s remember the Schlecks were almost in charge of their team a year ago; now the are being told what to do. If they’re not feeling happy then they won’t ride as well come July. Beyond this they might look for a new team too.

There are improvements to make and errors to correct and I can see why the brothers frustrate many, perhaps even their own team. But whether change is achieved by the carrot or the stick remains to be seen. And if this doesn’t happen, instead of seeing them as grand tour contenders should we just celebrate their climbing ability and accept the weaknesses elsewhere? Or can the Leopards change their spots?

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{ 119 comments }

El Gato de La Cala April 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Not being the biggest fan of the Schleck Sisters off-bike-performances: naive social medias activity, pre race interviews “I´m not here for the buffet”, the sneaking away from the € 50 K Fuentes billing, the throughout over estimating of their own intelligence and management skills, especially elder sister Frank, and their constant believing that we believe what they say, compared to what they actually do and achieve, I honestly have to admit that I do like their way of racing – in July that is – and without the Sisters attending the TDF it would end up being a show of between the best climber of the TT guys. And remember that no drug can replace proper anger, so at the moment Johan Bruyneel is doing a pretty good job! :-)

dexvaldo April 25, 2012 at 8:52 pm

referring to the shlecks as ‘the sisters’ – as if only a revelation of femaleness could account for their shortcomings – is the kind of comment i’d expect to find posted under a ‘blazing saddles’ blog rather than in this normally civilised salon. Anyhoo, schlecks suck

sillyoldbugger April 30, 2012 at 5:46 am

I have twin sons, 17 years old, both elite amateur racers. Their club leaders Pres & Vice Pres, have called them the sisters for years and neither the boys nor I have taken the tag as anything but a term of humour and affection.

Jens April 25, 2012 at 1:45 pm

As for looking for a new team, the Schlecks have 2 more years on their contracts don’t they and it’s hard to see them being allowed to buy out unless RSNT can find another GC rider with a very good chance of winning the TdF to take their place. Contador obviously isn’t an option and I can’t really see another candidate.

Alex April 25, 2012 at 2:04 pm

@ El Gato de La Cala – you should check your numbers before putting them into the internet.

As for the Schlecks in the media: They come across a lot nicer, more thoughtfull and humble when interviewed in German. English is not even their second language and they seem to rely on what they think is a cool or juvenile idiom which doesn’t really help.
It’s been some years, but I’ve met both brothers in person and they were expectionally nice and patient with their fans.

Already last year I thought that Andy really needs a total shit season to straighten his racing out a bit. A year he can’t justify for himself might change his attitude – as long you’re close you can believe you could as well have won. When you’re rather pack fill there’s not much to be proud of.
I still believe Andy has the potential for being a great GC racer, mainly due to his good recuperation. He just needs to take the risk to attack and not look back more. If he fails that way, he has tried at least.

El Gato de La Cala April 25, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Point taken. Should have been $ 9.850

Rob April 26, 2012 at 3:45 am

@Alex: Agreed, until Andy realises that his GC preparation and style of racing are so broken that he probably won’t win the Tour, he won’t be motivated to fix it properly. Perhaps this years Tour could be the wake up call? Though perhaps it will break his will to win a grand tour and he will emulate Euskatel and only target the high mountains.

Zosim April 30, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Slightly odd comment considering how close he’s been 2nd (on the road) 3 years running in the TdF. If you asked almost any other rider if they would be happy with finishing on a Grand Tour podium they would be ecstatic. Yes, perhaps his talent means he could go one step higher but lets not pretend that he’s one of those riders we’re told can win and then finishes way down the field.

And as someone else said, English isn’t even his second language, it’s his FOURTH (although he may have learned more since leaving school I suppose so it could be more). You might want to forgive the occasional slip.

Ken April 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Bruyneel has lots of experience working with talented headstrong riders. I’m still hoping the Schleck brothers will see the light.

Roadie61 April 25, 2012 at 6:50 pm

@Ken: I don’t think this is about the Schlecks seeing “the light.” Bruyneel + Schlecks = bad combo.

The Schlecks aren’t happy and they don’t respect Bruyneel. Frank butts heads because he wants more control of any team he’s on. Frustration for Andy lies in the fact that no team manager or DS has been able to get the results out of him that they thought they could get (part of his frustration).

No manager or DS has ever admitted (because they don’t have the knowledge) that they simply cannot change certain aspects of “Andy.” Those being:

1. Andy’s disproportionate skeletal makeup makes it physically impossible to get him into a really low, aerodynamic TT position. As I posted before, combine his extremely long torso with his very long upper arms (humeral bones) and short forearms and you’re left with a TT position where the chest rides too high, creating drag. Study TT photos of Andy over the years, take a goniometer and measure the angle between torso and hips/thighs (femur bones) and you’re left with a large angle that’s much larger than any good TT. This creates a “pocket” where air is caught (drag), which slows him down. Andy could be made out of rubber, but with his skeletal makeup, no one will ever achieve an ideal, low aerodynamic TT position for him.

You can’t change his anatomy. If the bike fitters (all of whom have been the best in the business) drop him any lower on his Tri bars he’ll be in pain (esp cervical and thoracic spines). At this point his efficiency would also be greatly minimized.

2. How does the best manager/coach/mentor/DS break a rider of fear, which is instinctual?
Andy has fear of fast, technical descents, and for someone with his awkward riding position (esp for descents), it’s hard to break that fear. He’s also descending with a high center-of-gravity that’s not his fault. Of course, many others have a high COG and descend well, but not Andy.

3. The Schlecks have been dealt some “bad hands” for awhile now with rotating team management.
This really messes with the psyche (for some) and therefore detracts from self-confidence. Never gonna perform at max potential when frustrated, unhappy and invalidated by team management.

4. Pressure has been building for years for Andy to outright win a TDF. Criticism in the Press and by the public has got to be taking its toll. A stressed athlete cannot perform at the top of his game, I don’t care who you are (look up how stress negatively affects physical performance). Without PEDs, which I DO NOT condone, don’t think Andy will be on the top step.

It also doesn’t help (now) that the European Press, esp in Belgium and Luxembourg, have made oodles of flags with the Schlecks faces on them. They’re “poster boys” under tremendous pressure to turn out big results, esp Andy.

An afterthought: look at TT photos of Tony Martin, Cancellara, Wiggo, Contador, Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer. Now, these guys are super aero. Super low, no drag combined with tremendous power in the hips/legs > these guys win TTs.

mindtron April 25, 2012 at 7:47 pm

In my mind the think the biggest detriment to andy’s career was the focus on The Tour after his breakout Giro ride.

I think if Riis had focused on Andy winning the Giro and/or the Vuelta, it would go a long way to putting him in the right mindset to know how to win

Ken April 25, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Maybe Andy can’t get aero, but he can at least look at the time trial course in advance. That would be a start.

Roadie61 April 26, 2012 at 5:39 am

@Ken: Agree that Andy should be riding recon before all of his TTs; that he’s not is a mystery to me, unless he truly believes he’ll win a Tour without needing a solid TT. He’s had a couple of decent TTs here and there, but no consistency. When he does lay down a decent time, I know he’s really suffered through it. By and large, Andy’s problems indeed lie with the anatomy he was born with (no fault of his), but recon before this TDF is essential!!

The absence of ideal aero positioning and lacking raw power like T Martin or Spartacus really hurts him. And when it’s wet, he doesn’t take big risks like many others, it’s just not who Andy is.

Contador, who’s also a “featherweight” is superb with maintaining good aero position throughout TTs, so though he lacks raw power like the big guys, he maximizes what he’s got.

The most fascinating TTist to me is Cadel Evans — the guy is so compact with his mesomorphic body, and he’s an awesome TT. His compactness and ability to remain in low aero position ensures that he has no (or very minimal) drag. Watching him TT is remarkable because he has great position combined with raw power from those beefy hips and thighs. Cadel has a special ability (IMO) to mentally block out pain and suffering — Aussies are tough guys!

They all try to make the best with what they are born with.

Robert Merkel April 26, 2012 at 12:46 am

Yay. Finally somebody provides a plausible explanation of why Andy (and Frank) can’t TT as well as their raw stats and climbing prowess would indicate. It doesn’t make sense otherwise because the wattage they put out on climbs must be similar to Contador, Evans etc. It’s not like either of them is a 50kg jockey.

sillyoldbugger April 30, 2012 at 5:54 am

Andy has already won his only TdF (2010).

Ronan April 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm

You should also mention the fact that Bruyneel is actually not registered in any way with the team and cannot act as a DS in any race for them. I know there with be a registered in the car and Bruyneel will be the de facto manager of the team, but it’s another odd angle to the story.

For what it’s worth, I fail to see why the Schlecks are so opposed to a new approach when having Andersen in the car has not yielded them the Grand Boucle they crave. Hate him or now, but it would be hard to argue against having Bruyneel direct your team if you want to win the Tour.

The Inner Ring April 25, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Good point but if he is legally a “consultant”, he’s the one trusted and paid by Becca to run things.

Ian April 25, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Personally I’ve never understood where the vitriol comes from when it comes to the brothers, and I admit that I know very little about the off the bike stuff. However when it comes to riding they, to me show a fallability which makes them very human in my eyes. So they may not be the best going downhill or at time trialing but that makes them mortal and combined with their one two’s in the mountains for me they make watching the riding interesting. I don’t want to watch machines but humans with all the complexities and strengths and weaknesses that come with that.

Larry T. April 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm

I agree with El Gato until about halfway through his post. I’ve never seen anything to like in these guys and their racing style seems to be way too much about not losing vs winning or trying to win….then whining when things don’t go their way. While far from a fan of Mr. 60% I sort of felt sorry for him as these guys skulked around and made denials prior to starting their own squad. I’m sure he was an autocratic control freak but perhaps Frank had illusions that he was somehow as smart and cunning as Mr. 60% and without him they could not fail? Add in the fan-boy hype lavished upon the bros by TV’s Heckel and Jeckel and I started taking perverted joy in watching them fail. This year their worst nightmares have come true – new direction by a guy who is likely as much of an autocratic control freak as their previous DS, plus a HUGE ego as the so-called mastermind of the BigTex TdF victory string. The soap opera has been mildly entertaining and (so far anyway) more interesting then anything they’ve done on their bicycles. It will be entertaining to see how it plays out come July in France. If I were Kim Andersen I’d be looking for a new job. I would not be at all surprised if a few of the current RNT riders are actively seeking new teams for next year – if they can get out of their current contracts. This team is badly in need of some new, positive chemistry – can The Belgian create this out of the current mess? I wonder.

ToTheBillyoh April 25, 2012 at 2:46 pm

I find the widespread negative attitude to the Schlecks to be puzzling. Their achievements at the TDF are what many other so called champions would envy. (Including Andy as winner in 2010.)

Ben April 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm

“When Andy Schleck lost time in the stage to Gap last July many criticised him.” If you remember, this criticism was directed at his moaning afterwards, with quotes such as “the tour should not be decided downhill”. Why not? was the response of the fans. On the one hand you’re right, the Schlecks should be celebrated as excellent climbers who can podium GTs but have limitations. On the other hand, the Schleck’s (especially Andy) reaction to these limitations is laughable. If you lose time on a descent, don’t moan. What did Gilbert do when he was out of form this season, he said I don’t want to make excuses, the form will come. What did Frank Schleck say after Amstel and Fleche “I was one of the strongest”. Not true, and low and behold he was nowhere in Leige. Last season was the same, Andy won the mountains competition in Suisse and proclaimed I was the strongest in the mountains, fantasy!

Lostincosmos April 25, 2012 at 4:41 pm

So very much agree.
I don’t give the Schlecks trouble because I don’t like them. I do because they just plain don’t understand what they are doing out there, and they complain when it doesn’t go their way and the rest of the time they’re delusional.
All through the tour last year they kept saying they were in good shape and felt confident. They just never even conceptualized the thought that they’d need to have 2minutes minimum in hand before the final TT. But even up until that TT they just kept talking like they had a real shot. Nonsense! Cadel needed only to not fall down the whole last week.
They are wasted talent, the Schlecks. They need to grow up, learn from people for once and realize they are only GC contenders if they attack attack attack and pad time before Nibali descends to take time, Cadel diesels his way back up, Wiggo TTs them to death, Menchov attacks first and holds it, Samu has a good day on either mountain or TT or Contador comes back determined to bury them hard.
Cuz right now I’d root for any of those people I just listed, even including Contador here, because they all at least understand what they’re doing on a bike. Shut up and pedal dammit!

Adam April 25, 2012 at 8:17 pm

I don’t know if that’s a fair or accurate view of the last week of the race. First of all, I think that in discussions of Schleck ‘losing’ the 2011 race we all have to concede that it was one of the best editions of the race in recent years that was closely fought right up to the very end.
However, you say that “Cadel needed only to not fall down the whole last week,” which couldn’t be further from the truth. First of all Cadel was pushed to the limit on the Galibier trying to limit his losses that day. His pursuit was the single greatest/ballsiest/toughest ride of the race by any rider. You know when Contador, Cunego and Basso can’t even hold your wheel you’re doing something amazing.
Finally, yes, Andy could have performed better on the final TT, but Evans (again) rode out of his skin that day. Looking at the time gaps, Schleck could have ridden that TT at the pace of Contador or Cancellara and he still would have lost the tour. Evans only lost 7 seconds to a Martin who put 1:15 into Wiggens at the Worlds TT later that year.
I’m sure there are things Schleck wishes he’d done differently, but Evans was on the form of his life last year and simply beat him fair and square.

Anonymous April 26, 2012 at 3:49 am

Exactly.

Dave April 28, 2012 at 1:14 am

Well said – the Schlecks are not faultless, but Andy (and Frank, for that matter) both rode solid time trials in the penultimate stage. People seem to overlook that Evans just utterly blew the doors off, which is actually a disservice to both the Schlecks AND Evans.

Guadzilla April 25, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Had Andy listened to Riis, he’s have won the 2010 TdF on the road. Riis had asked Andy to attack on one of the climbing stages cos he felt that Contador was on the rivet. However, Andy refused to do so b/c he felt Contador would have matched up. As it turns out, when Andy did attack, Contador wasn’t able to even counter but he left it too late and only gained 10-12 seconds or something. Had Andy attached when told to do so, he’d have gained almost a minute.

Andy lacks the competitive edge and killer instinct that separates the “very good” from the “great”. He, imo, falls in the same league as Pozzato: oodles of talent, but lacking the mental edge.

Tom from Raleigh April 26, 2012 at 3:27 pm

I agree that Andy needs a strong DS to win, whether it’s Riis or Johan. Look at the results in 2011 when Cancellera was stymied in the Classics. I attribute those losses to inept management. Perhaps Johan needs to take a new approach with Andy and Frank to get them on board. Good Lord! With this many km of time trials, the Schlecks will need a lot of luck to podium! Other than the fact that it’s the biggest race of the year, why not go after the Giro or Vuelta? Andy needs an outright GT win or he’ll be known as the one of the Tour winners who didn’t win it on the road.

Roadie61 April 26, 2012 at 7:37 pm

@Tom from Raleigh: You and Guadzilla make some really good points. I’m starting to think more and more that Andy truly lacks self-confidence, until he gets really pissed off; then he attacks, like he did up the Galibier. That’s what he needs to do every time he attacks. Don’t look back, don’t look for Frank, just go!!

Andy’s emotional and psychological attachment to Frank is much like we see with twins. Maybe splitting Andy and Frank onto separate teams would force Andy to look only within himself?
Of course, the brothers would probably never go for this.

Maybe Andy’s late to mature (?) + too dependent on Frank = lack of “killer instinct.” Mentally, he’s not as tough as he needs to be if he’s ever gonna win the TDF, and we know he’ll have to put a lot of time into the other GC favs with all the TT kms. For Andy’s sake, I hope he surprises us all this year and finally gets the monkey off his back…but he must attack, attack, attack!

natalie April 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm

I shall state upfront that I’m in the frustrated fan camp. I’ve only encountered them once at races (Andy lovely, Frank…not so much but that’s not necessarily representative) but I believe they are nice and reasonably down-to-earth people. They’re not bad, they’re not villains and some of the vitriol crosses a line (like, say, calling them the Schleck Sisters just as a random example).

What I do think is there is an arrogance and a need for control that does not always serve them well. An expectation that talent will yield the results they’d like for the races they like rather than going out and fighting for them all year round. I don’t think it’s a lost cause but they show a great unwillingness to change.
That Bruyneel has succeed in splitting them up for a lot of the year thus far and in changing Andy’s race schedule (Oman and now doing Dauphine despite the preference for Tour de Suisse) is a small victory but there is more stubbornness to be overcome. It’s possible but the Schlecks have to go with it, I think it’s a correct assessment that if they aren’t happy then the Tour won’t be a good one for them.
I do have to wonder though at the post-Liege comments (ignoring the bolshy pre-Liege press conference), that they had to learn to adapt to the race situation more. Here’s the quote:
“We have to start dealing with the situations better that develop during the race”.
That’s a bit peculiar to me because it was an experienced squad. Monfort said they were focussing more on the weather rather than the race. You can’t help but question what is going on there, that they lost all motivation and thought for the race, a race that the Schlecks love.

In terms of just accepting their abilities as climbers and accepting weaknesses, I think we – generally fannish we – could if they showed us more spark during the races they are at.
I said on twitter a while ago about Joaquin Rodriguez being a rider that can climb wonderfully in the right situation yet is pretty shocking in a time trial. He doesn’t receive the volley of abuse that the Schlecks do. There are differences of course: Rodriguez does not engage the media the same way or build himself up and he’s also known for riding and attacking with heart. We appreciate his performances immensely even though we know that come TT day, it’ll be painful.
For what it’s worth no one replied my remark on twitter about Rodriguez but I did get an unfollow for being anti-Schleck. Quite telling.

Bundle April 26, 2012 at 11:00 am

Another difference: Rodríguez races (and races to win) almost all year long, except usually (and very tellingly) the Tour de France. Why Andy Schleck (forget about his much less talented brother) simply dismisses the Italian and Spanish calendars, that suit him much better and would probably make him happier, is beyond my grasp.

InTheGC April 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm

I generally agree with everything, as usual, except perhaps this:

”instead of seeing them as grand tour contenders should we just celebrate their climbing ability and accept the weaknesses elsewhere? Or can the Leopards change their spots?”

That’s fine, I will celebrate Andy and Franks strength on a climb, but Andy more so has labelled himself a GT contender because he doesn’t bother with/isn’t interested in much beyond 3 weeks in July, if he’s going to turn up for 3 weeks of the year and not be a contender then whats the point?

The Inner Ring April 25, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Yes. I wanted to keep the piece above shorter but thought about a paragraph saying “if he wants to be a climber then he probably has to deliver more results”. Whether it’s the duty to the team with points or just his own satisfaction and salary, giving up on the overall in July means winning elsewhere. Especially since this year’s Tour de France is going to be hard for them… although I think it could offer more surprises than people think

JimW April 25, 2012 at 3:10 pm

I can’t help but wonder how difficult Bruyneel is to deal with behind the scenes.
He and lance did a real number on Contador and he was winning. To me that seemed like two bullies thinking they could get the better of the quiet nice guy. That leads me to believe that these two quiet nice guys that aren’t living up to expectation, and have a reputation of it, are in big trouble with the Belgian.
Johan’s ego is banged up. 9 tour victories and now he’s babysitting the kitty cat brothers instead of taming lions. Embarrassing. Add in the media scrutiny and relentless twitter heckling and dood is feeling the heat. No answers in sight.
Roast johan, roast. : )
I think the Schlecks can throw away this season and it would do more damage to Bruyneel than them.
Let’s hope they don’t mess it up.

BeckyD April 25, 2012 at 3:28 pm

I wouldn’t have thought you’d see a rider attack from 60km out on the Col d’Izoard if he’s racing not to lose rather than to win. I’ve never quite understood where all the vitriol comes from either, I’m pretty sure most of us wouldn’t come across so well when interviewed in our non-native tongue immediately after riding flat out up and down mountains for 200km.

In the all the discussion about how the Schlecks need Bruyneel to win the Tour, I haven’t seen anyone mention the disastrous race Radioshack had last year – without a clear leader to protect half the team crashed and went home. If Bruyneel is genuinely such a Tour svengali, shouldn’t he have been able to rustle up at least a top 10 from the squad he had last year?

Meanwhile Anderson directed both brothers onto the podium without losing a single rider. Seems to me Bruyneel needs the Schlecks for his next Tour win more than they need him…

Roadie61 April 25, 2012 at 5:54 pm

@BeckyD: Excellent points you make. Is Johan’s bad karma finally catching up with him? Is he still deserving of the title ‘best of the best’ DS to direct TDF wins (with every rider he pegs to win)?
I think not. Unless doped, he may not get the rider results he’s accustomed to, same as Riis with Contador (refer to CN article about his alleged insulin use in the 2005 TDF).

Bruyneel and Lance had a system that worked, it’s called cheating. Why didn’t Lance try for wins in other big-name races, why mainly the TDF?

Adam April 25, 2012 at 3:29 pm

I’m a Schleck fan. I consider him the legit winner of the 2010 Tour and two 2nd are also nothing to sneeze at. I may be wrong, but I also believe he’s the first Tour winner since Hinault to have also won a Monument. A little historical revisionism applied to the 2007 Giro which DiLuca won and Andy was second and he’s looking pretty impressive.
To those who say he never races boldly, or attacks decisively, YouTube the 2009 L-B-L where he bridges to and then drops Gilbert before soloing 20K for the win.
As much as he’s armchair quarterbacked, the truth is that if he were a free agent, there’s hardly a team in the world who wouldn’t be interested in his services. And while I understand that expectations of results are higher for riders of his stature, with one GT win, three other podiums, four white jerseys, three Tour stages and one Monument, he has delivered more than some entire teams in recent years (Garmin, Milarm, Cofidis, AG2R, Rabobank, Euskatel and FDJ come to mind).

natalie April 25, 2012 at 4:34 pm

We have 2009 LBL and the Galibier at last year’s Tour. Is it expecting too much as a fan to like a few more additions to the highlights reel? Considering his talent, he should absolutely have achieved more than he has. But maybe my fannish expectation is greater than his personal ambitions.

Zac April 26, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Look at all of the classics from 2011, Andy and Frank where the 2 riders who animated the race by attacking even though they didn’t win. Look at 2010′s and 2011′s TDF and look to see who attacks every time the road tilted upward… the answer is Andy, Frank, and Contador… The brothers would attack all the time and when they want to win they attack, they don’t follow wheels like say Cadel Evans or Bradley Wiggins. There are plenty of instances of Andy or Frank attacking and animating a race when no one else would. Just cuz they don’t win every time they do doesn’t mean they don’t have a highlight reel of attacks

Roadie61 April 25, 2012 at 6:00 pm

@Adam: Bravo! And Andy’s still young. He’s still got some years to get out of these team disasters and find a synchronicity with ethical management and long-term (hopefully) sponsorship.

Bundle April 26, 2012 at 4:29 pm

“The 1st Tour winner since Hinault to won a Monument”. Granting Andy is a “normal” Tour winner that can be compared to Hinault as well as to Pereiro, let me remind you that Fignon won MSR (twice, 4 and 5 years after Hinault’s last victory in Lombardia). You could add to your statistics the 10 other GT winners who have won Monuments in the meantime, but I guess you’d rather not. :)

Adam April 26, 2012 at 4:40 pm

I know that Fignon won MSR, but I guess I was looking at it as Hinault’s last Tour victory came after Fignons, while Fignons last Monument came after Hinaults.
Either way, if you start the clock at MSR in 1989, 23 years between records is an impressive dry spell to break. And as you do point out others have won the Giro or Vuelta plus a Monument (Cunego, Valverde, Vino, Kelly, DiLuca, Berzin, Bugno) that seems to have happened with greater frequency, making the Tour/Moument combo all the more impressive.

Bundle April 26, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Could be read that way (good counter-attack :) ) But the recent lack of Tour/Monument doubles can be attributed to two reasons: one, that Tour winners seem to care less for classics than Giro and Vuelta winners (in that sense, Andy has cared for L-B-L, big deal) and perhaps more for one week stage races (a type or race in which you also fail to mention Andy’s record, but he might well be the only Tour winner who has never won one). The other reason is that the Tour is less similar to the classics than the Giro and Vuelta, in the sense that there are less tactics and surprise developments, which can make Andy’s Tour specialization look even worse that it already does.

Adam April 26, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Bundle, I think you could make a good arguement for the Giro and Vuelta being more like classics. Equally you could also make an argument that the Tour is just flat out harder, faster and attracts the very best – afterall, its not as though winners of the Giro and Vuelta haven’t tried to win the Tour.
As far as having never won any other stage races, neither Pereiro or Sastre once won a single stage race not named the Tour de France. There’s also been 6 other podium finishers in the last 50 years to have not won a stage race, Virenque being the most recent.

slim jim April 25, 2012 at 4:03 pm

The schlecks remind me a little of Jan Ullrich. I always felt that Ullrich was racing in a manner that would get him second (and first if he was very very lucky) and because their way of racing leaves them with an “almost” feeling they’re convinced that maybe next time things will pan out.

NB I should also admit that up until last year I had a simlar opinion of Evans but I also thought that he was very unlucky in the Vuelta in ’09 and the Giro in ’10.

Rob April 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Ullrich in the 2003 Tour was awesome, gutsy ride. What did that have in common with Andy? He had lost his T-mobile security blanket.

slim jim April 25, 2012 at 7:25 pm

I loved Ullrich’s efforts in 2003 but it was still close but no cigar. Ullrich’s method was always, “Smash the TT and limit the losses in the hills” and it never succeeded against Armstrong. Similarly the Schleck tactic has been “smash the hills and limit the losses in the TT” but that hasn’t worked against Contador and Evans (2010 edition notwithstanding)

Rob April 25, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Andy’s best tour (2010, belated champion) was without Frank who’d broken his collarbone on the pave stage. If he’s ever going to win the thing he need to learn the singlemindedness he showed in the 2010 Tour and also in the 2007 Giro (maybe should’ve been crowned belated champion there as well?).

Leopard’s failure to take the race by the scruff of the neck in the Pyrenees last year was CRIMINAL. They let Pierre Rolland ride tempo the whole time while they looked around constantly. If they would’ve started the old 1-2 they could’ve broken that thing wide open. I put that failure on Andersen.

Say what you will about Bruyneel (and he’s got enormous baggage, but so does every DS in cycling at this point) but I think he could instill a bit more toughness into Andy if he didn’t have his big brother there to lean on and confide in. He won’t become a champion till he’s been stripped to his bare essentials and the rebuilt.

TDog April 25, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Once it was clear that L-B-L was going to be wet and cold I knew the Schlecks wouldn’t contend. I love to watch them climb. However, to quote Velominati, they need to HTFU.

Q April 25, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Maybe it’s true the Schleck brothers are destined to just be great climbers, but I really think the Tour is within reach for Andy. Pure climbers can and do win it at times, and he has occasionally produced a respectable TT. It’s hard to judge people accurately based solely on what you see in the media, but to me and a lot of others, the anecdotal stories I hear suggest the level of preparation is not as meticulous as what someone like Lance Armstrong was known for (and no, I’m not talking about needles), and therefore they are not realizing their full potential.

cd April 25, 2012 at 4:20 pm

If the Schlecks had been strong enough to win the TDF, they would have won the TDF. All the Bruyneel BS as a master strategizer is just that. He had LA and AC, that’s why he won. Couldn’t do much with Levi or Kloden or Jani could he? The Schlecks have attacked and they have waited and it makes no difference. But they are the reason Sastre won, so there’s that.

leif April 27, 2012 at 4:36 am

Word!
Cancellara, Stuey and Jen’s blowing the race apart and Frank sacrificing the jersey.

Brian carless April 25, 2012 at 4:31 pm

It will be very difficult for andy to win a TDF. He and his brother have a lot of things going against them like TT and going down hill fast. If they are to win any Grand Tour they must learn to limit their losses and strike more where their strength lies. Good as the brothers how come none of them ever won a KOM jersey. With the amount of TT in this year TDF they will be swimming against the tide. I think they should give Brunyel a chance.

Adam April 25, 2012 at 4:43 pm

I don’t see how failure to win a KOM is relevant to Tour success. In fact, the last tour winner to wear Polka Dots was Hinault in 86, but he didn’t win the race that year. Van Impe won six polka dot jerseys, but his only GC win came in a year he failed to win the mountains classification. To find a rider who held both the Yellow and Polka dots into Paris you’d have to go all the way back to 1970 for – you guessed it – Merckx. Even he only did it once, 42 years ago.
Most people also thought that Evans would win. He reacts rather than acts, he follows wheels, he’s not a good enough climber, people said, yet in spite of that his 2011 victory was one of the best wins I’ve seen in 25 years.

Bundle April 26, 2012 at 10:51 am

True. But it belittles not the polka-dot jersey but those who have refused to go for it when they could have won it, and this includes Pantani, Armstrong and, yes, Andy Schleck, and it makes Merckx and Hinault look even bigger in comparison.

Christian April 25, 2012 at 4:48 pm

The Schlecks were unhappy with Riis’ authoritarian rule so they set up their own team with a bunch of friends and put laid-back guys like Andersen and Nygaard in charge. LEOPARD TREK didn’t win many races but they always raced like a team, it always seemed like there was a very good ambiance between the riders. Of course not everything was perfect but that is to be expected with a new set-up. By the end of the season things really started to come together with their very good Vuelta and the Lombardia win.

Unfortunately no one had thought about Becca. They had expected him to be stay in the background and not interfere with the management of the team, and the exact opposite was the case. He only cared about wins, even a second place by Bennati at Ghent-Wevelgem was reason for outrage. So he switched out half of the team and management, and instead of letting LEOPARD TREK grow, he now has yet another completely new setup. Except this time there is no coherence in the team: a lot of the riders and staff are pissed because they got screwed over, the Schlecks can’t function under Bruyneel’s rule, the riders are spread out all over the world. In LEOPARD TREK, many were selected not only for their strength but also their personality, like Mortensen and Denifl for example. Many riders and staff were based in Luxembourg, very close to one another and the team base.

Radioshack-Nissan is a group of big names but no team, a random assortiment of riders who happened to get screwed over by the same people. LEOPARD TREK on the other hand had a lot of no-names, unexperienced riders who didn’t win much, but who formed a real unit and raced like one. Becca thought by getting Bruyneel he could buy succes and thus proved his profound lack of understanding of how cycling (and sports in general) work, and effectively destroyed a functioning team. The new “team” he created is even less successful as the former, and it has the additional problem of not being a real team.

Roadie61 April 25, 2012 at 6:10 pm

@Christian: Excellent points. You see the whole picture, whereas many are hyper-focused on the fine details of bike racing. Like a successful military unit, camaraderie is as important as everything else.

El Gato de La Cala April 25, 2012 at 7:33 pm

“He only cared about wins”
Flavio Becca did n´t care about wins, he is an investor and has no real love for cycling, he only cared about somebody “buying” his investment out (making profit) and taking over sponsor responsibilities, a task that was not on the Agenda for the team principal when he signed his contract in the spring 2010, but which in the end cost him his life. Period. Merry Christmas Mr. Scrooge.

Christian April 26, 2012 at 12:53 am

Yes he only cared about his money, and the best way to get his money back and hopefully make more was with wins

Dave April 28, 2012 at 3:46 am

Ask HTC-HighRoad about “wins = money”; unfortunately it doesn’t work that way in cycling.

Frank April 28, 2012 at 2:07 pm

The general classification of the Tour determines the money each rider earns.

Dave April 28, 2012 at 5:42 pm

That is correct, but we’re talking more about team owners making money than riders making money. HTC liked to bill itself as the most successful team in racing, and they couldn’t attract funding despite winning more races than any other team (maybe not necessarily more BIG wins, but still…)

Cycling currently proves the old “how to become a millionaire” strategy – start out a billionaire and buy a sports team.

Emil April 25, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Awesome positioning reference (Easy Rider)!
Natalie has some very interesting points as well.
Although I’ve had no interaction with the Schleck’s I don’t quite feel that they live up to either their potential or to fan’s expectations.

SlapshotJC April 25, 2012 at 5:08 pm

I’m in the NOT a fan category, I don’t like the tweeness of the pair of them and the fact that neither has the instinct to win. They both appear to believe in their own hype yet constantly fail to measure up to any of it, they are not alone in this but they are the main ones we think about.

I don’t think Bruyneel is the right guy for them either, if there is a “best” of them to come it’ll need to be mollie coddled out rather than bullied out Bruyneel style. I don’t know what their future holds but for all the hype they are pretty poor.

They need to grow up in a hurry and start producing reults otherwise the derision will continue and team managers will start to look at other options.

Brian carless April 25, 2012 at 5:16 pm

I think Frank is the better of the 2. But they dont seem to be hungry enuff to take charge and be more aggressive to win the tour. Its a dog eat dog race. Where does their motivation and aggression comes from to try and win a grand tour?
It will be hard but they have to try look at the likes of pantani.

Mat April 25, 2012 at 5:43 pm

I think Andy’s biggest barrier to winning the TDF is the strongest rider of his generation Alberto Contador. The one year Contador is out the TDF, the parcour has three TTs. As Contador enters his thirties this year, I feel the next two years will be A. Schleck’s best chance of winning the TDF (when he will be 28 and 29). Unless another stronger rider emerges this year.

Cat4Fodder April 25, 2012 at 6:23 pm

I think all you needed to understand why the Schlecks hate Bruyneel was captured in those photos of them performing cornering drills on their bikes in a parking lot.

JimW April 25, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Hahahaha!
So true.
I’d be pissed off about that!
A parking lot.
Cat 6.

Larry T. April 25, 2012 at 8:00 pm

But what does that SAY about top-tier pros who the DS thinks need that kind of drill? The bros have gone a long way with what would seem like fairly limited skills – they go uphill fast and…?
To me it would be different if they’d act more like Lucien Van Impe (not the doping part) instead of (guys who think they’re the next) Eddy Merckx. I’m no fan of The Belgian but it seems obvious that the weakness of these guys is what needs to be worked on if their Yellow Jersey dreams are to be realized…otherwise try to win the polka-dot jersey and be happy with that. If The Belgian can get one of these guys on the top step of the podium in Paris, he just might prove himself worthy of the accolades he’s already received – thanks mostly to BigTex.

JimW April 26, 2012 at 12:31 am

I completely agree they need skills help.
What does it say about the DS that he’s got these guys in a parking lot and it becomes media material.
The brothers get eaten alive by the press as is.
If Johan wanted to improve their skills then he could put a little more effort into it than the Ikea parking lot(that’s assumed as I haven’t seen the photos & couldn’t draw another euro walmart parallel). Was it for show? I’m fixing up the Schlecks? See did all I could they’re hopeless.
The Belgians job isn’t easy but the psychological component with the brothers may be far too subtle for his heavy hand.
I wish the Schleck’s the best and hope they can get away from mr. 9times.

Thienthai S April 25, 2012 at 7:16 pm

In cycling you ride as a team but there can only be one winner. I think this is the fatal flaw in the Schelcks mentality and the team that was built to support them. The goal for Leopard was that the brothers need to win together. They will look out for each other, and will rely on each other in the race. The cruel reality is that it doesn’t work that way. Granted it’s good that you can do a 1-2 punch, there ‘s that. But when it comes to the real meat, the TT where no one is there to help you, Andy will need stronger motivation, more hunger, more emotion to win. I never doubt they put in their best, but that “best” remains in comfort zone.

tl:dr;
The cat need to becomes real a real leopard. I think that’s the most important thing for Schlecks. Pressure and expectation surrounding them sure don’t help, nor megalomaniac DS.

The point about no coherence and camaraderie in the RSNT is also quite true. They should look at Sky and Garmin. Garmin rarely win but they always ride like a team, willing to sacrifice for one another and hardly transfer come end of the season. Sky has always been doing everything they can to aid their rider. Granted being almost a national team with unlimited fund does help, but you can see the real hunger to win in the team. Sky whilst doesn’t get many wins either, but when they do it’s quite impressive. Look at Wiggin today, a GC who put shame to sprinters. Most of Sky can TT well, to coming from track background. They tend to get consistent results, getting overall good time across the riders in races.

The Inner Ring April 25, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Good points but let’s note it took a year or two for Sky to get going. Leopard started and then got folded into Radioshack so this is the squad’s first year all over again. If there’s going to be any growing team spirit, it will be next year. Unless the riders and management fall out irretrievably.

Frank April 26, 2012 at 10:43 am

Not taking Kim Andersen to the next Tour the France, the person who is responsible for the entire career of the Schlecks, the person they trust, will consequently separate the team at the end of the season. I think Bruyneel is intelligent enough to know about the consequences. If Bruyneel is holding upright the decision not taking Andersen to the Tour that suspects how far opinions diverge. There are different lobbies in this team. Leopard last year acted as team, I cannot perceive this from Radioshack after I saw the Ardennes classics.

Roadie61 April 26, 2012 at 8:00 pm

@Frank: I agree that Bruyneel at least realizes the consequences of leaving Andersen at home.
But this has to be the ultimate best result for the Schlecks, Cancellara, etc. for next season — this season may be shot already. The downside is that they have the great unknown of where they’ll land for 2013. Talk about stressful.

Yes, Leopard was only beginning their journey towards “gelling” as a great team; suddenly, the rug is pulled out and next they are told they are merging with RS and Bruyneel. Can you imagine their complete disbelief and frustration?

Bruyneel has not impressed with his huge, merged team this season. I can guess that morale is low and that the team atmosphere is far from ideal. Probably feels like two separate teams to the L-T guys as Bruyneel has his favorites, although he’s forced to use Andy in the TDF (who else does he have?) We can’t expect many riders to perform well in this subpar environment.

Larry T. April 25, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Except either of the bosses of those teams would trade their left testicle to have their guy in yellow in Paris. The Belgian will settle for nothing less despite any PR baloney (after the fact) to the contrary. Neither SKY or Garmin has shown much in the big tours as of yet, everybody on those teams could be just as happy if they shared in the winnings from a Tour, Giro or Vuelta victory. With Contador out of the Giro and Tour picture for 2012, this could be their best chance. Can they take advantage of it?

Thienthai S April 25, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Very good point, we often neglect the fact that whilst the Schleck teams doesn’t have many wins in their bank, they do indeed podium the one race that matter most. As Inrng points out, it would be interesting to see how their RSNT moving forward from now. I hope they stick together and work get the right formula, because it would be sad to see them start all over again.

walt April 25, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Maybe they should go back to Saxo Bank after all…

Jakob April 25, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Even if the Schlecks have many flaws (i particulary dislike it when the attack and look more behind themselves than ahead), i think the bigotry and outright hatred of some people here is simply a sign of very bad character. Friendly/nice people always seam like easy targets for a bully.

For example, i don’t think in the last 10 TDF there haven’t been many moves more ballsy than Andy’s attack last year…
And how can you reproach them that they believe in their chances? that is just ridiculous

@El Gato de La Cala: in every comment you write, you show how little you really know about cycling. You must be borderline retarded to think Becca wanted to make money with his sponsorship. That’s simply a rich prick who wants to be important in little Luxembourg.

Roadie61 April 26, 2012 at 10:24 am

@Jakob: You’re demonstrating “bad character” by calling El Gato de La Cala “borderline retarded.” That’s downright rude and unacceptable.

@El Gato de La Cala: Referring to Andy and Frank as the “Schleck Sisters” really shows your lack of maturity.

Both of you need to think before you post so offensively.

Jason S. April 25, 2012 at 10:12 pm

I was never really a supporter OR a detractor of either Schleck. However, after watching Fabian slow down the peloton for the crash in 2010 and then a few days later watching Andy cry about a “mechanical” caused by a nervously mistimed and crappy shift, I lost any respect I had.

SactoCycleGuy May 16, 2012 at 4:33 am

I agree with you 100%. The venom spewed during the 2010 tour, a lot of which came from the Pharmstrong fan-boys, over a shift a junior racer wouldn’t dream of making was surprising to say the least. And no one talks about Fabu putting the hammer down after brother Frank crashed and held the peloton up in the first week, giving brother Andy the 40 seconds or so that he eventually lost with his junior racer shift.

I also agree that Andy & Frank need to read and believe in Rule V of the velominati. Maybe one of them will legitimately win a TdF…

trounder April 25, 2012 at 10:38 pm

The Schlecks are the most successful brothers cycling has ever seen. Are they the Kardashians of the sport? I’m sure the brothers’ lack of talent is nowhere near equivalent to the sisters’, but they do receive similar media and fan scrutiny. Thankfully leopard is just a name and not a fashion choice for them, or is it…?

http://www.hollywoodlife.com/2011/09/15/kim-kardashian-kourtney-khloe-dress-pics/
http://www.atwistedspoke.com/last-vestige-of-leopard-gone-bruyneel-confiscates-scarves/

Recently I’ve noticed a subtle change in tone of some of the comments on this blog. It is up to us to make sure the INRNG doesn’t devolve into obnoxious baiting and banter. I also get tired of the pejorative use of nicknames to emphasize whichever camp one is in, or not in. Keep it clean everyone!

Larry T. April 26, 2012 at 8:47 am

+1 on your last paragraph

L_Islandais April 26, 2012 at 9:42 am

Second that!

Roadie61 April 26, 2012 at 10:31 am

+ 3, thanks for bringing this up.

Goods April 26, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Couldn’t agree more. One of the best things about INRNG is the quality of discussion below the line.

Tom April 27, 2012 at 1:04 am

“The Schlecks are the most successful brothers cycling has ever seen. ” Really? I would have thought they’d have a way to go to catch the Bobets.

trounder April 27, 2012 at 9:38 pm

You are right for sure that neither Schleck may ever match Louis’ amazing palmares. But as a pair they’ve both had considerable success on the bike already in their careers, whereas Jean seems to have lacked whatever magic his brother could muster, for whatever reason. It is a bold statement, and if others think I’m wrong that’s fine, but I was speaking of them as a pair. I can add other qualifiers as necessary if it helps get me out of hot water. :-)

Larry T. April 27, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Not to pile on but the Coppi brothers come to mind as well. I think neither of the Schleck’s (so far) measure up to the greater Bobet or Coppi, so while the lesser one might have a better palmares than Jean or Serse doesn’t much matter so much in this comparison. But thanks for throwing out the brother idea, it’s interesting to think about, especially as there are a some others, the Planckaert’s, the Moser’s, etc. Maybe Inner Ring will do (or already has?) a feature on famous racing brothers over the years.

brian April 25, 2012 at 10:42 pm

indurain was over 6 feet he could climb and time trial as well, maybe andy need some more mass to give him power. but if climbing his is strength y dont he use the talent that he has. Andy need to work harder, he made a bold move last yr which was a very good ride for him to secure 2nd place. in these few wks coming up to the TDF andy and frank have a lot of working out to do. i dont see them dropping the kill blows to drop his opponents as well, but the competition is getting better too. one thing for sure this yr TDf is not a boy thing @ all.

David April 25, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Both brothers are very talented, but clearly they struggle to motivate themselves for pretty much every race in the season. This is something that Mark Cavendish has said he has problems with too, which is why he often gets dropped on climbs in small races that he would get over in July. It is hard to knock them for that, but part of the problem is being in teams that clearly don’t care about results in other races. When commenting on his motivation in other races Cav indicated that the switch to Sky would be good because unlike HTC (which apparently cared about the Tour and nothing else) the management of Sky want to win everything.

An important question is whether they maybe need the structure and planning to the n’th degree of a team like Sky, or would just feel suffocated and underperform as a result. While obviously a very talented rider, Bradley Wiggins is achieving multiple high level results in part because of the level of structure/organisation/pre-planning that Sky bring to the table. Johann Bruyneel is someone who knows the benefits of that kind of preparation and clearly wants to impart some of that knowledge on the Schlecks. Are they willing to accept it though?

If either of the brothers manages to win in July it will be because of attacking riding that involves more than jumping from a group with a few hundred metres left before the finish. They need to ride hard and put the time trial specialists in trouble as early as possible. They also need to find ways to counter the likes of Nibali, who could easily leave them behind on a descent. That will require a strong team that can support them for as much of key stages as possible. They also need to pin their hopes on one brother, with the other riding all-out as a team-mate. Based on previous performances that should mean Andy is the chosen leader.

Touriste-Routier April 26, 2012 at 2:25 am

HTC only cared about the Tour? I think a team comprised around various sprinters and their unprecedented palmares speak otherwise. Unless I misunderstood what you meant.

Thienthai S April 26, 2012 at 3:35 am

HTC has over 500 wins in their existence. You could probably call them one of the most prolific team in recent years. I don’t think they only care about the Tour surely..

David April 26, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Yes, but in terms of Cav he stated in an interview that they had no interest in wins in other races, which didn’t help with his motivation outside of three weeks in July. I will see if I can dig out the exact words he said…

Adam April 26, 2012 at 2:05 pm

I think Cav’s actual quote on the matter was ‘I could race shit small races and have 20 wins too’ when confronted by the stat that team mate Greipl had more victories than him. Its not to say he only cares about the Tour – he does have many other wins – but that victories in Down Under and the Tour of Turkey cannot be compared to Grand Tour wins.

Barbara April 26, 2012 at 12:20 am

I’m so fed up with all the bashing of the brothers.
Much more than any other cyclist at the moment they seem to attract the venom from a lot of so-called commentating spectators.
I often asked myself why, but I don’t come any further than something as banal as jealousy. It can’t be that, can it?
All of the other riders (whom are now so hailed) have their flaws, either in some parts of their riding skills and/or in their personalities. They may get some negative critics, but there’s not a lot of aggressiveness in it and outright disrespect. Mostly there is understanding and empathy when bad luck strikes.
So why is there so much hatred towards the brothers? And I’m not talking about rightfull or even a little bit less rightful, critcism.

Jean-Pierre April 26, 2012 at 2:48 am

for me, the cyclists i love are the ones that ride their guts out…the ones that ‘leave it all on the road’…the ones that work hard and are not born with everything so easy for them.

the schlecks have none of that.

yves April 26, 2012 at 7:37 pm

How do you know what is easy for them?
Does anyone here know how much they train? No

And about the Stockeu incident: Armstrong and Ullrich also waited for each other after mechanicals or crashes. But i realize that’s not a rule, in history not every rider always acted like that. In the end i think it’s simply a question of your caracter. Do you attack someone when he’s down? I guess in everyday live 80% of people do it….

how can you say they don’t ride their guts out? you must be watching other races than me.

But i realize many people watch sports to see fighting, somehow representing everybody’s own struggles in life. Seeing people tackle and overcome their problems. The Schlecks are simply 100 times to nice to fit into that “hero” role.

Tim April 26, 2012 at 3:19 am

Good question, Barbara. I’m not a hater or a basher, but like many here, I just don’t really like the Schlecks. Why exactly? Hmm. My attitude is most similar to Jason S. above. I didn’t have any real animus against them, before 2010. They were great on the Alpe d’ Huez defending Sastre in 08. But, here are the facts that have led to my dislike of Andy Schleck in particular.

1. Jason S. mentioned Cancellara’s stopping the race on whatever stage it was for Andy Schleck after the crash on the Stockeu, when Thor Hushovd and others had a chance to catch Chavanel and win.

2. Andy’s anger at Contador’s riding over the top of him, AFTER Andy attacked Contador and the selection and suffered a “mechanical”, and his public representation of this as foul play.

3. Andy’s complaint that the Tour should not be won on descents, after losing time on a wet descent. He recently expressed the same attitude. (The Real Thorn)

4. His Armstrong-like specialization for just the Tour from the time he was what? 23 or 24?

My dislike comes from these four. But now the question is, Why would these four facts lead one to dislike Andy Schleck or both Schlecks together? Well, the real source of our dislike for things or people can be hard to track down. But, I’d say this.

These four facts indicate in Andy arrogance, self-indulgence, childishness, and a sense of entitlement for something not earned. You might put it in like this. Andy comes off as spoiled noble, spoiled aristocrat.

Where’s the arrogance found? In 2, 3, and 4. He’s arrogance is found in the fact that he thinks he can attack the final selection on an important climb, botch his gearing up, pop his chain, and then demand that others stop for him, for just him. This also conveys a sense of entitlement to a kind of respect that perhaps no bike racer should ever be given, except maybe a great champion, which Andy is not.

Fact 3 is just the real kicker that has turned so many against Andy. His remark comes off as utterly childish, arrogant, and conveying a sense of entitlement. “I can’t descend well, so this race shouldn’t be decided on any descents.” That seems to be the source of his remark, and if so, it’s just fantastically childish. “I can climb well, so this race should be decided on a climb.” So, one man, Andy Schleck, gets to decide how the Tour de France should be ridden, even though he’s only won one major race, a single day classic. Arrogance, in full colors. An unbelievable sense of entitlement to a kind of respect unearned. I think it’s quite possible ASO put so many time-trials in the route this year to punish Andy for this remark in particular.

On Fact 4. Who in their early twenties is so self-deluded into thinking they should specialize in winning the TdF? Even Armstrong didn’t start doing this until 99, after he was a world champ and won some big races. Honestly, I think this may be Riis’s fault. He may well have used Andy to position his team for sponsorship money. I don’t think Andy was developed well.

On Fact 1. That episode just left a bitter taste in my mouth for everyone on that team, especially Cancellara. He either was ordered to do it by Riis, or did it on his own. Who knows. But, yuuuchccch. And, they perverted the race, the competition, for Andy Schleck.

Jason S. April 26, 2012 at 7:03 am

Perfectly stated, Tim.

I’m not a fan of bashing anyone until I have had the chance to walk, or in this case ride, a mile in their shoes. But the attitude that Andy seems to carry along with him to the races gets really old, really quick.

El Gato de La Cala April 26, 2012 at 7:50 am

Touché!

Larry T. April 26, 2012 at 8:42 am

+1

Bundle April 26, 2012 at 11:20 am

I can, to an extent, see why you are fed up. But there are specific reasons why Andy Schleck has progressively stopped deserving respect (Tim has listed most of them, but I would include not pulling on the way to Alpe d’Huez last year when he had managed to leave Evans behind, and not thanking the TdF for having so little TT in the years). Yet I would add the symbolic reasons why Andy represents what I personally dislike most about modern-day cycling: the lack of pleasure in enduring and suffering, which is the very nature of this agonistic sport.This attitude manifests in not attacking with 100 km to to go everytime he should (which is about every mountain stage of a GT), not doing the Giro often enough, going partying in the middle of the Vuelta, not running Lombardia or not trying to win any of the great mountainous one-week races in the calendar; complaining when it rains, when there is wind, when people attack, complaining period.
The accusation of jealousy, by the way, is too easy. I would suspect someone with a much better record like Evans would then generate even more of that jealousy-fueled “hatred” and bashing. But he apparently gets none of it.

yves April 26, 2012 at 7:59 pm

“This attitude manifests in not attacking with 100 km to to go everytime he should (which is about every mountain stage of a GT), not doing the Giro often enough”
yepp, you seem to know cycling. that’s the way you win the tour. you you hate every current cyclist? who last attacked with 100K to go and won the TDF? must have been 40 years ago.

“going partying in the middle of the Vuelta”, you have a point there, i personally think it’s charming, but probably my life is too easy too… but i get that point

” not trying to win any of the great mountainous one-week races in the calendar”
has Evans ever won LBL? has Contador ever won LBL? has Wiggo ever won LBL? no current TDF GC candidate races the classics as serious as the Schlecks did, and they were right to stop it this year. Again: do you hate all other GC candidates too?

about the complaining: you do have a point, but Cavendish complains too after losing a sprint, as do many other racers if things don’t turn out as they want. it’s a normal thing. The real problem seems to be that they come across as incredibly weak. Weak people don’t get respect

JimW April 26, 2012 at 8:18 pm

“Weak people don’t get respect.”
Well said.
It’s so simple and obvious but never put that way.

They must drive Bruyneel the Belgian tough guy absolutely nuts. I can see him boiling over in frustration while they shrug him off.

Barbara April 28, 2012 at 1:11 am

Weak?
Interesting, perceiving another man, who can climb mountains like almost nobody else can, as weak.
So if I don’t misunderstand, because they gave a glimpse of their (more specific Andy’s) frustrations at some moments, they are not entitled to respect and better should be pushed off the ape-rock?
Anyway very clarifying and probably true. Thanks.

PT April 26, 2012 at 1:34 am

Interesting thread.
FWIW: Becca seems to be the (ironic) problem to me. He set the whole thing up and he’s killing it with a death of a thousand cuts. Tough when your sugar daddy is the root of your problems.

The Schlecks are strong bike riders and could win more GT’s if they really wanted to. Road racing is a team sport but the great riders always find a way to make it happen.

Peter April 26, 2012 at 4:15 am

Interesting conversation, but I want to focus on one critical aspect of racing that is not getting a lot of attention here. Racing is a mental sport, and being mentally ready to compete is more than bike position and team work. It is very difficult. It is immensely difficult to manage.

Who has experience at managing that well? InnerRing, *that* would be another interesting article, but for this note lets focus on individuals. Like him or not, Bruyneel has that proven experience. Riis has it. Anderson, not yet. The Schleck brothers, they are clearly getting there. But the telling moments in the Tour last year were not just physical, they were mental. Cadel won with his mind as much as his legs and position on the machine.

The expectations are intense. 2nd in the Tour is a career for most riders. It is a failure for these guys. Managing that dynamic is a very difficult task. It may not work for RSNT this year, but could any other combination of people do a better job of managing the mental side? I think Bruyneel is doing the right thing around DS. However, at the moment, I think it is advantage Cadel’s team, in a big way.

Thanks!

Peter

Pave April 26, 2012 at 4:53 am

Wow. 66 comments as I write this one. Is this an inrng record?

Kjetil April 26, 2012 at 8:30 am

This entry brought out comments that are similar to the ones I see in cycling forums.
You seem to have hit the feel-button this time, inrng.

Steppings April 26, 2012 at 9:54 am

I find myself strangely warming to AS this year. I also feel this storm will not blow itself out before next year and 2012 may be looked upon as disasterous. Never been keen on Bruyneel since his wheelsucking stage 7 win at Liege in the 92 Tour, but it cant have been easy coming through on Miguel.

Steppings April 26, 2012 at 10:29 am

95 Tour, my error!

eric w April 26, 2012 at 4:04 pm

I agree whole heartedly. That stage ruined him for me too.

Bundle April 26, 2012 at 11:37 am

One precision concerning the Bahamontes anecdote. He has repeatedly (I think for the last 40 years or so) that he had a mechanic problem (I think his brake had loosened) and had to wait for the assistance, and that in the meantime he did have the ice-cream, visible to all. The material for the journalists to make the story up was already there. I guess old-day cycling writers were not a 100% scrupulous with truth (which helped to have so many good stories). Bahamontes is the first to admit he was a poor descender anyway.

Stylo April 26, 2012 at 2:21 pm

‘When Andy Schleck took off on the Col d’Izoard last July, the plan was that he’d be chased down and Fränk Schleck could counter’. You mention this yet at Liege Bastogne Liege in 2011 they were both away at the front with Philippe Gilbert but had no tactical awareness as to what to do. It also seems from your article that Frank has the stronger personality to which Andy defers, we see this in races with Andy looking for Frank when he should be racing.

yves April 26, 2012 at 8:18 pm

“at Liege Bastogne Liege in 2011 they were both away at the front with Philippe Gilbert but had no tactical awareness as to what to do”
they knew very well that Gilbert could ride away from them whenever he wanted. Gilbert knew it too. There are no miracles in cycling, nether is there chance in a situation like this. it’s not a ball-sport. you can’t “by chance” “suddenly” put out 30% more Watts. One of the facts i like about cycling btw

But the looking behind is really ridiculous. it makes their attacks seem half-assed; even if they only want to check other riders out, they could do it with more style. Or they could use handlebar mirrors ;-)

Stylo April 27, 2012 at 10:20 am

My point was that they seemed resigned to their fate. They had no strategy, when they could at least have tried to attack to wear him down. Although I agree this would probably not have worked it seemed slightly inadequate that they didn’t try something together.

Willy T. Ribbs April 28, 2012 at 5:22 am

I love Andy Schleck. His tactics are poor, he has many weaknesses, he is friendly with his brother, he is a mountaineer, he is affable and relatable, he seems a nice guy. If his DS is poor, that means he is poor for making bad choices. If he specialises to try win the tour he is a mug for not trying to win the Giro whilst Franck should be going for the Vuelta or vice versa. Sporting greats are pretty much dick heads; Merck and Michael Jordan are homicidal maniacs when it comes to winning. Is this to be celebrated? We expect so much from our heroes we kind of forget that they are just blokes who are trying their best and maybe not that different from us, whilst the ultimate legends are just wired in a fucked up way. Schleck is wired not too different from the norm. He will never be great. But if Bahamontes was trying to win the tour now would we complaining about his lack of an aerodynamic shape on the TT bike? No, we’d be celebrating his attacks, and, encouraging him to win the tour in a climbers fashion. Schleck’s alright.

Pamt April 28, 2012 at 10:14 am

I’m all for looking at the Schlecks as mountain specialists. My only problem lies in the fact that they refuse to do it themselves. Why on earth did both of them decide to focus on tour de France this summer? Why did any of them? Maybe people expect to much from the Schlecks. It’s not like they are trying to relief them selves of the pressure either. Aren’t they just contributing by still focusing at winning the tour de France. Can’t they at least try to win the giro once? It’s not like it’s a choice for eternity. Try it once. Please. And of course, this would have been the year to do it, but that’s too late.

Peter April 30, 2012 at 1:01 am

You know, I was thinking about this thread of conversation. 4 years ago, would we have had the same thread about maturity and specialization and arrogance and youth but have used Cadel Evans’ name instead of Andy Schleck? Two years ago, would we have used Wiggins’ name?

Does maturity come a different times to different riders? To the rest of us as well? I tend to think so. Where will the Schlecks be in two years?

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