It’s a strange sight to see two tour de France winners spend the off-season wishing for help. Both Evans and Contador asked for a climber to back then in the mountains. Neither got their wish.
Chris Horner rode for Cadel Evans for three years in the Tour de France. According to the always candid RadioShack-Nissan rider, Evans had few teammates then and still has no team-mates to help in the big Tour mountain stages. Horner shakes his bald head in amazement.
“Cadel had no teammates and he still has no teammates. With the exception of Tejay [Van Garderen] – and we’re not sure how he’ll do in the Grand Tours – they’ve signed no help,” said Horner. “And by signing Gilbert and Thor [Hushovd], they are effectively taking help away from him.
After the 2011 Tour de France, Alberto Contador made it abundantly clear in public statements that he needed another climber on his Saxo Bank Squad to win the next Tour. That was before the merger of the powerful Radio Shack and Leopard Trek squads. Once that super team formed, Contador was even more worried about his lack of firepower.
Bjarne Riis insisted he had no money left in the budget and despite the cries for help from his top rider, essentially told Alberto “you got what you got.” Meanwhile recent Vuelta winner Juan Jose Cobo goes begging for a team when the Spanish climber is an ideal fit and probably willing to take a minimum wage.
That brings us back to the other grand tour rider asking for help in the mountains. Cadel Evans won this years’ Tour with a strong performance in the mountains and a crushing performance in the final time trial. Still, he was alone on those final climbs in the Pyrenees and Alps. He let it be known that it would be nice to get some additional help when things turn hors categorie.
While BMC team owner Andy Rihs has shown just how deep his pockets go, what BMC spent money on would seem to have accomplished the opposite of what Evans had in mind. It was addition that might lead to division. They brought in both Thor Hushovd and rider of the year Philippe Gilbert. Both will be looking more for stage wins in France than helping Evans stay in contention.
Again, It was Mr. Horner got right to the point. “He has less help now than he ever had in the past, and the guys that they’re paying millions of dollars to come ride during the Tour de France are going to take one or two riders themselves.”
Andy Schleck might not be a great time trial rider but he will go into the 2012 Tour de France with more support than either Evans or Contador. They are still hoping but time is pretty much up.