When it comes to winning the 2012 Tour de France, RadioShack-Nissan Trek manager Johan Bruyneel is in Andy Schleck’s corner. That may or may not be a good thing for the three-time runner-up in La Grande Boucle.
Bruyneel’s plans to toughen up Andy Schleck have so far met with mixed results. First, at the initial team get-together in Belgium, the Belgian, who guided Lance Armstrong to seven tour wins, confiscated all leftover Leopard scarves. It was a fashion accessory that he associated with failure and femininity.
Then he brought in the Texan’s personal fragrance coach in an effort to develop a more overtly masculine scent. Act like a winner, smell like a winner, was Bruyneel’s thinking. The jury is still out on the Luxembourger’s winning new cologne.
Then came the awful set-back: the Schleck’s unfortunate round of pillow fights with other riders at the Amstel Curaçao race. Bruyneel blew his stack and insisted the talented Schleck knuckle down and make the sacrifices required to win yellow in Paris.
The Schleck “Man Up” program took a new step forward as Bruyneel insisted on a winter course in the sweet science for Schleck. Yes, it’s boxing lessons for the rail-thin Schleck.
“You want to beat a Contador, you want to beat an Evans, then you attack,”said Bruyneel. “He needs to learn to punch to physically dominate an opponent, The ring is the best place for that.”
Bruyneel is personally involved in the boxing training at the Boxing Club D’Or on the Rue du Commerce in Luxembourg. A man with an iron will, Bruyneel is not about to let Schleck wander through the off-season.
“He will be there three times a week, sparring, working the speed bag and undergoing some general conditioning,” said Bruyneel. “With Lance, I did not need to do these things. He was a natural fighter but Andy is too nice. He wants to be friends with Contador. If you want to win the Tour, you have no friends.”
The sessions got off to a rough start with Schleck the Younger nearly getting his nose broken in the first sparring session. “He’s got a lot to learn,” said Buster “Sawdust” Perkins, a cornerman and trainer for superstars Muhammed Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard. “We was laughing the first day watching that stick boy try to throw a punch. But he’s getting it, slowly, very slowly.”
According to one eyewitness, the sight of his own blood streaming from his nose caused him to pass out momentarily but he quickly recovered. “The point is the fight. One must fight. We have the mountains and the time trials,” said Bruyneel. “We must fight for the whole tour, not just here and there. That is what Andy must learn.”