Paul Andrews

Posts Tagged ‘Team Radio Shack’

Lance’s Chances: Not the team leader, you say??

In Bicycle Racing, Lance's Chances on December 11, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Whatever else you can say about Lance Armstrong, and we do a lot and often, he’s a master of public relations. He is helped along by the fact the bike press seems to have no institutional memory, but Lance spins as well off the cranks as on.

The latest: “Lance says he will not be Team RadioShack’s main rider,” from the widely watched, respected, and linked Guardian. Now the Guardian, to be fair, is not the bike press and perhaps can be forgiven. But really, Lance not “the main rider” of ANY team Lance is on? Puhleez.

It should be noted off the top that nowhere does Lance actually say what the headline says. What Lance did say is that it would be “irresponsible” to build TRS (techie aside: Remember those initials? As in the TRS-80, or Trash 80 as we unaffectionately nicknamed it?) around him. OK, fair enough: Parse the statement out and it’s more or less true. You want other potential winners on the team, which was not the case back when Lance was riding for Discovery Channel and U.S. Postal.

But parse it any way you want: It doesn’t mean he won’t be the “main rider.” I suppose you could split hairs about what “main rider” means, so let’s put it in simplest terms. Main rider means the focal point of the team, the team leader, the chief strategist, the guy everyone looks to for direction. No disrespect to Levi or Andreas or whomever, those guys are not going to be TRS’s “main rider” as long as Lance is in town.

What you have to keep in mind here is that Lance, at this point in the 2010 season (yeah it’s early, as in 2009), wants to get everyone on his side and on the same page. He also wants to deflect attention away from himself for the sake of team building. Kudos on those fronts.

We went through this same poor-mouthing a year ago, when there was no way Lance was going for a Tour victory, and there was no way Alberto Contador was not going to be Astana’s “main rider.” The next thing we knew there was the famous breakaway in Stage 3 and all hell broke loose.

We don’t blame Lance for gullible news reports. It’s up to the press to reality-check his truth massaging. But we’re not going to spend too much time between now and July 2010 trying to figure out who, if not Lance, will be Team Radio Shack’s main rider.

As the VeloNews version noted, after taking the same bait as the Guardian, team director Johann Bruyneel admitted, “Lance is definitely the leader of the team.” Lance says he’ll race for two more years.

Why Lance is always Da Leadah!!

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.