Kelly says Andy Schleck is correct to target Tour de France in 2012
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Friday, December 09, 2011

Kelly says Andy Schleck is correct to target Tour de France in 2012

by Shane Stokes at 8:00 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia
 
Doesn’t agree with those who advocate aiming for Giro victory instead

Sean KellySean Kelly has differed from a number of top former professionals who recently advocated that Andy Schleck should focus on the Giro d’Italia rather than the Tour de France in 2012, with the Irishman saying that the Tour is the most logical target.

Kelly, world number one from 1984 to 1989, acknowledges that next year’s Tour de France is a tough one for Schleck in terms of the number of time trials. However he points to his age and new team management as important factors to consider, believing that these could boost Schleck’s prospects.

“First of all, there will be a big change with Bruyneel. It is going to be a different situation to the past,” Kelly told VeloNation. “When he was with Riis, that was the learning process and he was growing up. It is really now this season [2012] and going forward that there is the possibility of winning a Tour.

“If he is ever going to win the Tour, with Bruyneel as a director that’s the place to be.”

The Eurosport commentator also believes that motivation will be a key point; after finishing second in the Giro in 2007, Schleck has targeted the Tour for the past three seasons and it is there that his big focus lies, rather than in Italy.

“I would say the Tour is the one he wants to go for. I don’t think anyone is going to say, ‘ah, I won’t bother doing the Tour, I will do the Tour of Italy,’ Kelly said. “I think he will be keen to do the Tour de France, and that is what he will be preparing and focussing for.”

Kelly tried to win the Tour throughout his career, but was unable to finish higher than fourth place. He dominated much of the season during his peak, and has conceded in the years since that he could possibly have won the Tour if he had spared his energy for July.

He won the Vuelta a España in 1988, and therefore knows what it is like to win a Grand Tour. However he also knows that achieving that wasn’t the same as winning the Tour de France itself.

In recent days past Giro champions such as Francesco Moser, Gianni Bugno, Giuseppe Saronni, Gilberto Simoni and Paolo Savoldelli all told La Gazzetta dello Sport they backed the notion of Schleck aiming to win the Giro in 2012, arguing the route suits him far better than that of the Tour. This echoed a previous sentiment by Eddy Merckx.

Three time Giro winner Felice Gimondi articulated it clearly. “Better first in the Giro than second in the Tour. A victory in a big stage race gives glory and makes history,” he said, arguing that the self-confidence of winning the race could make a big difference in the years to come.

Kelly feels different, though, and still believes that Schleck should target the Tour.

Warns of chief rival:


His recommendation comes with a proviso, though; he believes Schleck has a chance, but says that this depends on what happens with the rider who beat him twice to win the race.

“It all depends on Contador,” he said. “If Contador gets back to his level of climbing ability, like he was at in the Giro this year, then it is going to be very difficult for anyone to beat him. The time trials will always be difficult for Schleck; Contador at his best can climb and time trial, so it makes it difficult if he is going well.”

The Spaniard’s participation in the Tour is however not certain at this point in time. He tested positive for Clenbuterol in the 2010 Tour de France and recently appeared before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, fighting a WADA and UCI motion to have him sanctioned. A decision is due on that case in approximately a month.

In the meantime, Schleck is preparing for the new season. He’s said his programme is not finalised as yet, indicating the Giro is not completely ruled out, but Kelly – and most likely Bruyneel – believes that the Tour should once again be the goal.

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