Radio Shack’s Tour de Disappointment.

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Leipheimer in Paris, TDF 2011. [twisted spoke

The final tally in Paris wasn’t what Johan Bruyneel or the electronic gizmo folks had in mind.

Option number five, Haimar Zubeldia of the Basque country took 16th place overall. Double that futility and you have Levi Leipheimer in 32nd place, a real downer for the man from Santa Rosa who came into the Tour having won the Tour de Suisse.

In a symbolic finishing touch on the bad luck that dogged the team all Tour, Leipheimer needed a bike change during the Grenoble time trial.

Crashes, broken bones, lost time behind pile-ups, a concussion, lacerations, hematomas, a bad back — you name it, it happened to Radio Shack.

Chris Horner, the winner of the Tour of California, came into the Tour with his confidence and his form at an all time high. He hit the deck hard and barely remembered where he was — France, Bend, Oregon, Mozambique.

Janez Brajkovic also crashed out and headed to a hospital and Andres Kloden suffered through a number of crashes and injuries before finally succumbing.

They came into the Tour de France with a four leader approach and lost three to crashes and another did some guardrail surfing and lost big chunks of time.

Perhaps it’s time for a change of roster and the infusion and support of younger talent. We don’t have the answer but Horner is 39 and Leipheimer is 37 and Kloden is 36. All three had successful years leading up to the Tour but at a certain point one does begin to wonder.

That’s plenty of mileage and maybe it’s time for the old diesels to head for the garage.

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  • Higgins

    Their days are numbered, and I say this as a real fan of Chris Horner.
    What I wonder now is whether the policy of riding with three or four possible top ten finishers diluted the support and protection that those GC contenders normally recieve.
    To lose one GC contender may be bad luck, to lose three looks like carelessness.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      Higgins, that's a good question. The other thing is, guys like Horner and Kloden are tremendous athletes but everything has to go perfectly for them to perform. A little crash that doesn't bother a guy in his 20's is a big deal for an older athlete. They're just more delicate. Matt

  • hermitblogger

    What everyone is calling "bad luck" and "old guys" I say is Bruyneel's dumb plan of having 4 GC men. That's 1.25 riders per rider to look out for each GC man during the perilous 1st week. He should have had the cojones (oblique reference to Juan Pelota) to pick one or two of them and say "that's the way the ball bounces" to the others — analagous to Vaughters having the guts to keep Dan Martin & JVS home from the Tour.

    For those who insist RadioShack's woes were due to bad luck and old age primarily, I have one headline for you: "Cadel Evans wins Tour de France at age 34 as BMC's undisputed team leader". Q.E.D.

    • David

      @hermit….one question for you…How many Grand Tours has Bruyneel won as a manager? The answer is 13. Bruyneel is the greatest tactician of all time.

      • hermitblogger

        @David — I'm not disputing JB's past tactics/victories. I'm disputing his approach to 2011 Tour de France. You think Lance would have been happy with 3 other GC brothers? Or Contador for that matter? Armstrong couldn't even handle being the red-headed GC stepbrother to Contador…

      • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

        Yeah, my feeling is something another reader brought up. How much protection to do you from your teammates when you've got four leaders. That's basically one domestique for each and maybe that's not enough to get you through the dangers of the first week. Matt

      • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

        The whole multiple leader thing is a question for me. I look at it like American football — you name a starting quarterback and you put everyone behind him. The roles are clear and everybody knows who the leader is. Now if he gets hurt, the back-up quarterback goes in the game. Maybe he;s just as good or almost as good and can also win the game. Athletes like things to be simple. I'm beginning to think you name one leader and that's that. Matt

      • hermitblogger

        That's a good analogy, to a football QB. Except that only 1 QB can play at a time, obviously. So if your 2nd string QB is on a roll ("in good form" in cycling parlance), he gets the next starts. In cycling, both your "QB" prospects are playing in the same game, so to speak. So unlike football, it can be a bit murky for the teammates to know who to support, unless the DS specifies. I feel sorry for the 5 RadioShack domestiques, who appeared not to have a clear path on who to support real-time, during racing. And the result? 3 of 4 of their GC men crash out of the race, and their remaining GC man crashes himself out of contention. All "bad luck"? Hmm, not sure about that…

      • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

        Yeah, good point that they're playing at the same time. My limited experience with athletes is that they're simple guys who like things kept simple. He's the leader, we're the supporters, off to war we go. It sure didn't work for Radio Shack, that's for sure. Matt

  • BikeRog

    I don't think Bruyneel went from genius in California to moron in France in the space of a month. As for four leaders, I think the clock has run on Levi's quest for a podium because he just can't handle the really big mountains. I also think Kloden's best days are behind him. If I realized that, I'm sure Bruyneel did, but perhaps he went with the "four leaders" idea to keep all his troops motivated, and then have the road determine whether Levi or Kloden would work for Horner or Janez when push came to shove. But with all those injuries, that plan fell apart rather quickly.

    Horner looked like he had a real shot this year, and Janez Brajkovic has all sorts of potential. Having said that, teams always need to keep infusing themselves with young talent, and I think this was simply a waster year for Radio Shack. But to be a threat for the future, they'll need a continuing infusion of young talent.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      I really thought Tiago Machado was gonna be the next Contador. Maybe he will and just hit a slow patch in development. But Bruyneel was hoping for a top 10 in the Giro for Tiago and that sure didn't happen. They will keep Levi and Horner for the Tour of California and the one week stage races. But the need a grand tour rider and I'm not sure it's Brajkovic. Matt

  • IdeaStormer Jorge

    Any DS with the crown jewel of a rider looks like the best DS on the planet! Lose the one rider who was the real reason for the wins and the DS is left grasping at straws, even with four possible straws this year he came up short, them's the ropes people, there is no other reason or excuse.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      Tend to agree with that. Contador has won grand tours for at least 3 DS's. I could probably "guide" him to a win, too. Matt

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1684263326 Heidi Marie Moser

    Going into a race without a somewhat clear plan is just not a good idea. At best, you have confusion, and at worst there is in-fighting. Radio Shack had four possible GC guys who all wanted to win–you bet they were all really looking out for themselves even if they do generally get on well. Thus, there is a break down in the team mentality. Instead of a team of nine guys, Radio Shack had four teams with two-ish guys each. And look at Garmin–JV is going to lose his biggest star of the year, Thor, because of unclear race tactics and the "may the best man go for the win" approach. Contrast all of that with BMC and Leopard Trek, both having clear leaders=everyone is happy and both teams finished le TdF with all nine of their riders.

  • Lyndon

    I may be out of line here, but I suspect that Bruyneel's real genius over the years has been knowing how to find ways around WADA and UCI anti-doping programmes.

    As for all this 'Four Leaders' talk – it simply means he believed not one of them had a chance of winning the tour.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      There you go. Genius knows no bounds. He found the best rider and figured the ways to beat the best tests. Chapeau of sorts. Matt