Paul Andrews

Armstrong Courting Schleck(s) for Radio Shack Team?

In Bicycle Racing on July 28, 2009 at 6:49 am

It was a small gesture, barely noticed. But when Lance Armstrong placed his left hand on Andy Schleck’s right shoulder and congratulated him “warmly” on the podium in Paris, it may have sent a signal about his machinations for the Tour de France in 2010.

The bad blood between Lance and Alberto Contador means the two already have established an intense rivalry for the 2010 season. But being realistic, Lance has little chance of beating The Pistol on his own. There’s a question whether anyone can beat Contador … anyone except Andy Schleck.

But for a couple of bad breaks and one missed opportunity, Andy and Alberto would have been separated by seconds rather than minutes as the Tour headed to its final decisive week. With a slimmer margin separating the two on Ventoux, there’s a question whether Andy would have held back in hopes of reeling his brother Frank toward the front. And if he hadn’t held back, maybe A.C. would not have been able to hang on as he did.

You never know.

Andy lost crucial time in two early misfortunes. He missed the late “Lance” break on stage 3, losing 41 seconds. And the Team Time Trial on Stage 4 hurt him as well, costing another 40 seconds. At the end of Stage 4 he was down by more than a minute and a half, a discouraging hole from which to dig out of.

Andy also could not hang with Alberto during the latter’s predictable breakaway on Verbier in Stage 15. Nor could Andy and Frank, working together, shake Contador during their stirring attacks on Columbiere in Stage 17.

Still, Andy was the one guy who looked like he could crack Contador in the 2009 Tour. Lance undoubtedly noticed.

Whether it would be in the Schlecks’ interest to hook up with Lance is an issue fraught with backstory intrigue. There are lots of pros, lots of cons. On the pro side, if Andy could get assurances that once he asserted himself, Lance would really work for him, it might be Andy’s best hope. Lance has shown himself time and again to be not just a powerhouse of a rider (still, at nearly 38), but a master strategist.

Some of the mistakes Andy made — I would call his hanging back for Frank a mistake, even if he had no chance at raising his overall placement — and his apparent lack of form early in the race, when he could not hang on Contador’s wheel, would not be repeated under Lance. No one knows how to prepare for a Tour better than the King.

Lance could also coach Andy in time-trialing, a past weakness but one Andy is overcoming.

The big “con” here is that Andy would have to stand in Lance’s shadow much of the Tour. That’s just the way things are. Andy has more ego and pride than he appears to have, as exemplified by his closing TV interview with Versus. He admitted he was disappointed to finish 2nd. A hundred and sixty other riders would have killed to be where he was. But it was a clear testament to Andy’s ambitiousness.

There are inevitable contractual issues for Andy and brother Frank (assuming the two would stay on the same team), and political considerations as well. But a Lance-Andy alliance for 2010 (Team Radio Schlack!) would set up the most potent rivalry against Contador, and wow, the media and cycling worlds would just go crazy.

  1. If Lance wants to salvage any self respect after this years constant media spin and cat and mouse game with Contador, he should do it the old fashioned way, earn it; not by buying a better rider to be his domestique… Didn’t he and Bruyneel try and do that this year behind Contador’s back and fail? When Contador realized their promises weren’t worth beans, he left Lance behind and suddenly the man who promised to ride for Contador and didn’t was twittering away that Contador didn’t ride for ‘the team’. What coach would tell his best climber, his team leader, the best climber in the peloton, to hang back and wait for his team? Correct me if I’m wrong but shouldn’t the team be protecting their best climber, their leader in the climbs? Not the other way around. While Armstrong was busy twittering and spinning every which way, Contador was winning, over and over again. Armstrong now wants to buy Contadors only close rival in the mountains… My guess is not so he can win because that is not possible and he knows it, it’s so Contador doesn’t equal his tour wins have also won the other major races and becoming the undisputed great of this last century. Don’t think Armstrong’s ego could take that. Andy, I hope you stay out of this mess. Stick with your brother. Heart always beats money in the end.

  2. I agree with Anthony. Andy Schleck has NOTHING to gain by teaming with Lance. No GC rider should even consider being on a team with Lance, since he will become another victim, like Alberto Contador & Andreas Kloden. Armstrong & Bruyneel concealed their attempts to undermine Contador’s clear superiority, and instead of supporting him, left him to attack on his own, and then criticized him for “not following the plan.” What, a 3-time grand tour winner should hold back so his lesser teammate can prevail???

    And you can see how Armstrong treats his “friends,” the way he joined with Team Garmin to help prevent his oldest former teammate & friend, George , from taking the yellow jersey in the 2009 tour, even though it would only be for a day, and George was no threat to the GC riders.

    Andy, you have a chance to go on to greatness, but you will never do it as a subordinate to Lance Armstrong. Go out as a team leader for Saxo or any other team. You can make your own ticket. You deserve to compete with Lance, and Alberto, and beat them, not work for them!

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