Andy Schleck confirmed as team leader for RadioShack Leopard in Tour de France
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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Andy Schleck confirmed as team leader for RadioShack Leopard in Tour de France

by Shane Stokes at 7:28 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Team says podium place ‘unrealistic’ to expect, but also says ‘brilliant’ performance could be possible

Andy SchleckAppearing a little unsure of quite what to expect from its big name rider, the RadioShack Leopard squad has nevertheless announced Andy Schleck as team leader for the Tour de France, saying that he is coming into some very encouraging form.

Schleck finished second in the race in 2009 and 2011, and was named 2010 winner after Alberto Contador lost the Maillot Jaune in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

His aims of performing well last year were dashed when he crashed heavily in the time trial of the Critérium du Dauphiné and fractured his pelvis. As a result, he missed the Tour, the Olympics and most of his other scheduled races for the season.

His form has clearly on the rise, though, and he finished fifteenth on a stage and a solid fortieth overall in last week’s Tour de Suisse.

That’s convinced his RadioShack Leopard team that he is in sufficiently good shape to head to the Tour with expectations that he could ride well, as general manager Luca Guercilena explained.

“We are happy to see that Andy is back. Nobody in the team ever had doubts about the talent of Andy,” he said. “Little by little he has come back to the level where we expect him. The Tour de Suisse encouraged and convinced us to give him the role he deserves and to give him the opportunity to have dedicated riders surrounding and supporting him.”

Schleck will be joined by a number of strong riders, including crowd favourite Jens Voigt, Andreas Klöden, Haimar Zubeldia, Maxime Monfort, Laurent Didier, Tony Gallopin, Markel Irizar and Jan Bakelands. Missing will be Fabian Cancellara, who already said he didn’t intend doing the race as he hopes to become world road race champion later this year, and Schleck’s currently-suspended brother Frank.

“It was not an easy task to select these nine riders,” Guercilena explained. “Every professional rider wants to ride the Tour and we had more than nine riders in good shape, ready to tackle this 100th Tour de France. It was, for instance, a hard decision not to select champions like Gregory Rast and Stijn Devolder, but we made the choice in good conscience, taking into account the goals we want to reach in this Tour.

“You can consider Haimar as our second weapon,” he continued, referring to the rider who has placed four times in the top ten overall. “Sixth last year, Haimar is always consistent and delivers his best.”

As regards the team’s expectations for Schleck, it wants to play down talk of a top three place but also isn’t ruling out something spectacular.

“Of course we don’t put pressure on our champion. After the last twelve months it would be unrealistic to expect a podium place,” he said. “On the other hand, the lack of stress and pressure can be a positive stimulus to a brilliant performance.”

Whatever happens, the Luxembourg rider is clearly in a very different position than he found himself in several months ago, when even finishing a stage race was a big ask. He’s had a tough road back but with the Vuelta also a goal for the season, opportunities lie ahead.

It’s now up to him to seize them.

RadioShack Leopard for Tour de France (June 29 – July 21):


Jan Bakelants, Laurent Didier, Tony Gallopin, Markel Irizar, Andreas Klöden, Maxime Monfort, Andy Schleck, Jens Voigt and Haimar Zubeldia.

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