A Forced Marriage?

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On the surface it certainly appears like team Radioshack-Nissan-Trek is imploding at an irreversible rate and is becoming a complete farce. Is this a motivation tactic being used by Bruyneel? Or has he completely lost control?

Today the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad reported that Andy Schleck spoke out at Johan Bruyneel’s use of the media after the Critérium du Dauphiné prologue.

If I were a manager, I wouldn’t try to solve problems with my riders through the press,’ Schleck sniped. ‘I would deal with them internally. Perhaps Bruyneel is letting himself be rushed by impatient sponsors.

This was in response to Johan Bruyneel’s column in Telesport which critiscised his team’s poor overall performance this season (thank you to @bikelilac for the Dutch to English translation on both articles):

Unacceptable. In terms of results, this season is very, very thin. With only two wins, my team is scoring way below expectations. (…) I only saw a good team around Fabian Cancellara in the first months of the season.’

About the Schleck brothers, Bruyneel says: ‘So far, Frank and Andy haven’t performed as you would expect from team leaders of their status. I was very disappointed that Frank left the Giro d’Italia last week. In hindsight, his injury turned out to be more serious than it initially appeared, yet in recent years, I’ve had to pick up many great riders from the road who were more dead than alive, but absolutely still had the will to go on. I find that lacking sometimes.’

And about the upcoming Tour de France: ‘At the moment, aside from Fabian Cancellara, no-one is certain of a place in the Tour de France team. Both Schleck brothers know this. They don’t have a free pass. I just want to see them perform. Of course, a lot would have to go wrong for them not to ride in the Tour, because I’m counting on their class to come out in the Dauphiné Libéré and the Tour of Switzerland. Up till now, however, I have no vision of a Tour team with both Schleck brothers in it.

Bruyneel appears to have come down heavy handed and has is resorting to using “tough love” towards the Schlecks in order to motivate Andy to win the Tour de France. Or are these antics staged by Bruyneel’s and the Schleck’s so they can fly under the radar until the TdF? We can speculate all we want, but all we have to go on is what’s been portrayed in the media.

Today Sporza interviewed Andy Schleck in English which tells his side of the situation (click here if video does not work):

Johan Bruyneel was also interviewed by Sporza today in Flemish which talks about his reasons for the recent shake-ups:

(click here for a full translation of this interview)

Love him or hate him, Johan Bruyneel has a few credentials he can put beside his name. He’s directed thirteen Grand Tour wins in eleven years. However, airing his dirty laundry through the media to team is an unprofessional and immature thing to do which seems out of character for him.

Many of the problems within the Schleck brothers seem lay within themselves. Together they’re a very strong combination, but can’t get that elusive win (if you don’t count 2010). It’s been said that they’re more interested in riding for each other rather than their team. Splitting them up seems to be the obvious fix which Bruyneel has done. Throughout the past two years the Schlecks were basically the boss of their own team, Leopard-Trek. However, in the past the Schlecks seemed to have problems with Riis and now Bruyneel, both who have had excellent successes as team directors. Being pampered hasn’t help either of the Schlecks win the Tour so maybe Bruyneel’s shake-up is exactly what’s needed.

This year’s TdF has over 100km of time trialling and neither of the Schlecks have shown any sign of improving their weakness this season. Andy finished 29 seconds down on the 5.7km prologue at the Dauphiné last night and Frank finished 59 seconds down at the 9km Giro ITT. Regardless of the inter-team politics, their race results don’t indicate that either of the Schleck brother’s form is on track to win the Tour and perhaps Jakob Fuglsang would be the best GC leader for the team after just coming off his Tour of Luxembourg win.

One thing is for certain, it’s interesting to watch the story unfold and as the Tour de France quickly approaches.

As many times as I’ve seen variations of this “Downfall” parody, I’ll never get sick of it…

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