Johan Bruyneel has always been an extremely shrewd team manager. From Postal to Discovery to Astana, Radio Shack and now the merger with Leopard, he knows exactly how to motivate and which methods to employ at any given moment.
Bruyneel only has one goal for the 2012 season and that is pushing Andy Schleck to win the biggest race in the world again, La Grande Boucle, the French Sufferfest De Luxe, Le Tour de France.
Right now, he’s using his two trusted captains, veterans Andreas Kloden and Chris Horner, to do some of the dirty work to motivate Schleck. In the last week, both riders have used the media to put pressure on Schleck to get his act together mentally and physically.
At the team training camp in Calpe, Spain, it was the American Horner who suggested that Schleck had to arrive in France in better form than last year. “The mistakes Andy made during last year’s Tour were not made during the race, it was before the race,” said Horner. “He didn’t arrive at the Tour de France with the same form that he had the year before.”
That was the face smack that said, train harder, get to work, stop messing around and win the damn Tour. Horner did his job well and we’re sure Johan Bruyneel is happy with the quotes. He wants to light a fire under the skinny luxembourger and Horner was a good flame-thrower.
Then a few days later, it was the Kloden’s turn to ratchet up the pressure on the three-time tour runner-up. The German took aim at the other target, the one many cycling fans have been critical of — Kloden attacked the brotherly love act that was holding Andy back in France.
“Each looked for the other, and this is not the right tactic,” said Kloden. “It was nice for the Schlecks to be second and third, but it’s not our goal to be third and second – we want to win.”
When Lance Armstrong was winning his seven tours, he and Bruyneel put tremendous pressure on the riders on the tour squad. Guys either delivered or they were gone. One of Lance’s talents was making everybody ride harder than they ever had in their life.
That is exactly what is happening now at RadioShack Nissan-Trek. Andy Schleck is getting the message loud and clear from Bruyneel and Horner and Kloden. We will kill ourselves for you in the mountains but you better be ready to attack like an animal and be in the best shape of your life and by the way, your brother isn’t getting anywhere near the podium.
Andy Schleck is getting a lot of wake-up calls this week. Is he listening?