Two steps forward, twelve steps back.
Johan Bruyneel, now presiding over the merged Radio Shack and Leopard squads, issued a mandate at the team’s first get-together in Belgium in late October: Andy Schleck needed to toughen up.
First, Bruyneel ordered his director sportifs to search the rider’s hotel rooms and confiscate any leftover Leopard scarves. Bruyneel believed the fashion accessories were a sign of weakness and communicated a feminine loser’s attitude. Team officials burned the two scarves found in Andy Schleck’s suitcase.
Then, on the recommendation of Lance Armstrong, Bruyneel brought in the Texan’s personal fragrance coach to help the younger Schleck develop a more overtly masculine scent. These two concrete steps were just the beginning of Bruyneel’s program designed to turn Schleck into a real man on the bike. The only goal for the RadioShack-Nissan Trek team in the coming season is yellow in Paris.
Then, suddenly disaster struck at the Amstel Curaçao race festivities on November 4th. Andy and his brother Frank were photographed engaged in a pillow fight with fellow riders. Bruyneel was horrified to discover that all his efforts to get Schleck to “man up” were falling on deaf ears.
“He was about as mad as I’ve ever seen,” said DS Dirk Demol. “He felt betrayed by Andy and that Andy wasn’t willing to make the hard sacrifices necessary to win the Tour. Armstrong never engaged in pillow fights.”
According to at least one source, Bruyneel later confronted the three-time Tour de France runner-up at his house. The message was clear: no more girlie pillow fights. Andy refused comment of the blow-up but brother Frank issued the following statement: “We regret that our actions were deemed feminine. It is not our wish to compromise our chances in the Tour.”
According to a RadioShack doctor, Andy was also forced to take several days off training as breathing in the feathers had compromised his breathing and irritated his lung tissue. “It’s nothing serious but as a precaution, we have him on some light medication,” said Nils Veerden, a team physician.