Bjarne Riis: “Andy Schleck lacks the will to win the Tour de France”
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bjarne Riis: “Andy Schleck lacks the will to win the Tour de France”

by Ben Atkins at 3:55 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Saxo Bank manager says “it all comes too easily” for his former rider; remains confident in the talent of Alberto Contador

andy schleckThe war of words has already begun, ahead of next year’s Tour de France, with Team Saxo Bank manager Bjarne Riis expressing doubts in the Danish media over the chances of his former rider Andy Schleck in winning the race. In an interview with Ekstra Bladet, Riis claimed that Schleck, the younger of the two Luxembourg brothers, lacks the necessary mental toughness to step up from the second spot on the podium to take the yellow jersey in Paris.

“Andy has a great personality and a spirit that his brother Fränk does not,” said Riis. “Andy has everything you would want, but he also has the weakness that he lacks the final bit of will needed to go all the way.

“Maybe it’s because it all comes too easily to him,” he hypothesised.

Prior to this year, both Schleck brothers had spent their entire professional careers under Riis, at the CSC team, which became Saxo Bank in 2009. All seemed to be well until relations visibly soured during the latter half of the 2010 season, and the brothers announced that they were leaving to set up their own team. Things came to a head during the Vuelta a España, when Andy was sent home – along with Australian veteran Stuart O’Grady – when the pair of them defied team orders and went out for drinks after dinner.

The Schlecks left to form Leopard Trek – taking O’Grady and a number of Riis’ other big names with them; the brothers were replaced at the Danish team though, by 2010 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador.

“He may never achieve his great goal of winning the Tour de France because he is not serious enough,” Riis said of Andy Schleck. “But he is still young and he gets more mature with age.

“His problem is that he is riding in the period when Alberto Contador is also riding.”

The Leopard Trek team has since merged its resources and roster with that of the American RadioShack team. Their new manager will be the Belgian Johan Bruyneel, who sat behind the wheel for all seven of Lance Armstrong’s Tour wins, as well as two of Contador’s.

Schleck’s problem this year may not only be Contador; with almost 100km against the clock, the Luxembourger’s weakness against the clock [despite the fact that he is Luxembourg time trial champion – ed] will see him under pressure from a number of other riders; not least current champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).

To win the Tour this year it is universally recognised that Schleck will have to improve against the clock; but it is also acknowledged that if anyone can achieve this, Bruyneel can.

Contador has no such problem, believes Riis, and, so long as the Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS) rules his way in the appeals from the International Cycling Union (UCI) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the Spanish rider will be ready to make up for an off-colour 2011 race.

“Alberto is perfectly matched to all fields,” said Riis. “He has talent, he is physically unique on a bike, he has unparalleled focus and a work ethic without equal.

“He is also good at relaxing,” he added.

Such is Riis’ admiration for his team captain, that he is forced to call upon the heroes of the past for comparison.

“I’ve never seen a rider with a talent like Contador. Never!” he exclaimed. “We have to go back to Eddy Merckx, probably, or maybe Bernard Hinault, to find somebody similar.

“Alberto can be quite scary,” he added. “I’m working on a few practical things to improve him.”

With just over six months to go until the June 30th Liège prologue, it’s not tough to see who Bjarne Riis has his money on.

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