Andy Schleck Fallout
With Andy Schleck out of the Tour de France 2012, what can RadioShack do to save themselves?
Andy Schleck of Team RadioShack-Nissan, to put it mildly, has not had a good 2012 season to date. Injury, illness and poor form have dogged the Luxemburg rider since his previous team, Leopard-Trek, merged with RadioShack. However, things took a turn for the worse at the Dauphine.
During stage 4's time trial a gust of wind hit Schleck's disc wheel, knocking him to the ground. Two days later he abandoned complaining of pain. Regardless of the setback the younger Schleck was still placed on the long-list for the RadioShack-Nissan 2012 Tour de France squad.
Suspicions about Andy's participation in the Tour de France were increased as a team press release announced an Andy Schleck press conference for today. It was quickly sussed out through various sources, including family members, that he was going to announce that he wouldn't race this year's Tour.
By the time Andy gingerly sat down at the long table in front of him we all knew what the press conference was about. His doctor Charles Delagardelle illustrated Schleck's injury with a plastic pelvis model and told the press that an MRI detected a fracture - specifically in an area of the pelvis that would be directly affected by the pressure of a bike saddle. It was official: Andy Schleck's 2012 Tour de France participation was over.
"I know I'm not going to be in it. I'm 27 and have many years in front of me," Schleck told the journalists. "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger."
The time required to heal the fracture was placed at four to six weeks, making a return to the 2012 Vuelta a Espana a somewhat obtainable goal. Spain's national tour starts August 18th, a little over eight weeks away. His rebooted race schedule now includes the World Championships and the Tour of Lombardy.
Andy told the assembled press that the fracture "really hurt." That I have no doubt, further showing how tough professional cyclists are when he remounted and continued riding for two more stages. However, it got to a point that finally he couldn't take the pain any longer.
Team manager Johan Bruyneel wisely had been quiet publicly regarding Andy's injury. Perhaps learning his lesson when he aired his disappointment to the press regarding Andy's brother Frank's abandonment of the Giro d'Italia? That ‘motivation' backfired on Bruyneel and only alienated the manager and one of his star riders. As someone who has reviewed Bruyneel's motivational book, "We Might As Well Win" I missed the chapter of publicly shaming your athlete. I'll go back and review his book again. Perhaps I missed it.
The Bruyneel-led RadioShack-Nissan squad has now been further hamstrung by misfortune. While neither Schleck is on anyone's short list for the overall Tour de France victory in July, it's never a good thing when a marquee rider is missing from the start list. And unfortunately whoever wins the 2012 Tour the question will always be asked, ‘What if Andy Schleck had been there in good health?'
Personally I hate those type of ‘what if' suppositions. Sport, and if I may get a little philosophical - life, is filled with, ‘if this hadn't happened, then this might have happened instead.' You can't look at events in a vacuum. Case in point: the slipped Schleck chain during stage 15 of the 2010 Tour de France. People say that if he hadn't dropped the chain Andy could have won the Tour. That's impossible to determine. Who knows what would have happened if he had kept the chain on the front chain ring? The take-away from both the slipped chain of 2010 and the fractured pelvis of 2012 is that stuff happens. Instead of wondering what might have happened, if I may borrow from the US Marine Corps mantra, RadioShack-Nissan needs to improvise, adapt and overcome.
Improvise means be on the look for opportunistic stages or breakaways that normally never get a second glance. Linus Gerdemann and Yaroslav Popovych might have to make some ‘Hail Mary' type breaks to get on the day's podium.
Adapting to the race means the squad is no longer a favorite. And let's be honest - Bruyneel has been in that position before. In those clutch stages RadioShack needs to watch Team Sky and BMC Racing and play off of their battle. It's going to be guerrilla warfare.
Overcoming is a huge feat and one, quite honestly, that isn't going to happen this year. For Bruyneel to overcome, he needs to spend a lot of time healing the rifts that have made RadioShack-Nissan the ongoing soap opera of the professional peloton. Victory for the Belgian would be he retains his director's job and still has a title sponsor for 2013. Another notch in the win column would be the Schlecks don't jump ship. I have a feeling that the brothers will wear the kit of whatever team owner Flavio Becca still controls. Will Bruyneel be at the reins is another question altogether...
Speaking of questions - how does this affect Chris Horner's non-selection to the Tour de France long squad? My feeling is not at all. Bruyneel clearly believes Horner isn't a team player by not racing in the Tour de Suisse. As a result, ‘No Tour for you!'
This was also echoed by his teammate Andreas Kloden who took to his Twitter account to say, "If you want to ride a big Tour,you have to ride also some races with the team.Watch Team Sky ,BMC... 3 weeks racing is'nt a one week race."
And feeling like he hadn't made his point clear enough followed up five minutes later with another tweet, "If you want to race as a team.You have to stay together,race together... Not only one time (Race) in the Year.You have to work together....." Yeah, I think we know who that was aimed at.
As expected, the pressure cooker that is the Tour de France has started to heat up: inter-team squabbling, an injured star rider. We're only missing one more scandal to make it complete. We still have a couple of weeks remaining before the riders roll out of the start house in Liege for the 2012 Tour de France - so who knows what might happen.