Leopard Launch first impression:
A bald guy who looks and sounds a lot like Sky’s head honcho David Brailsford.
Leopard master of ceremonies and team manager Brian Nygaard is a dead ringer, separated at birth copy of Brailsford — swap the euro scarf for an ice blue Sky tie and you’ve got a body double. The big dome head, strong chin, even his eyes remind us of Brailsford, aka Uncle Fester.
Side question: do all managers of pro cycling teams go bald? Is it just a natural consequence of the job stress or do you have to be hairless before taking control of a team? We’ve got Bjarne Riis, Brailsford, Nygaard, Mauro Gianetti of Geox, etc etc.
Brailsford and the Sky team took an aggressive, big budget approach to their first year in the pro peloton. A style that irritated more than a few riders and journalists. Brailsford set expectations sky high, maintained tight control over media access and generally acted like a bull in a china shop. Which is cool but some people like fragile dinnerware.
Brian Nygaard’s comments at the Leopard launch sound like old Brailsford sound bites. “We have developed our new team, aiming for a fresh and innovative style. Of utmost importance, though, is to take cycling back to its proper roots: It’s all about the racing,” Nygaard said. Funny, we thought it was about the world travel and free massages.
We’re still in the dark about what “true”racing is all about? Subtle reference to racing clean without the secret sauces? Pointed suggestion that other teams have been, gulp, cough, faking it? Is it some kind of subliminal message to Alberto Contador about attacking when another rider’s chain has fallen off?
Maybe it just means racing all season long really fast. “With riders on the roster who can win from the first race of the season to the final, we are looking to be competitive in a lot of races,” said Nygaard. “We are not going to win every race, but we are certainly here to make our mark in the biggest events.”
The Team Sky resemblance is also striking when it comes to the jerseys and Leopard team bikes. They’re black, white with an icy pale blue or green — depending on your monitor. Either way it’s a real imitation of the pastel Sky blue — and that goes for the simple, clean blocks of color, too. Mr. Brailsford is looking at them as we speak, thinking, “what the fudge?” Leopard as copy cat. While the Sky Pinarellos are mostly black, the Leopards are mostly white so there’s a yin-yang going on.
With all this imitation going on, the inevitable question is this: will Andy and Frank Scheck get themselves one of the 60’s mod Bradley Wiggins haircuts?
It’s an exciting team stuffed to the gills with top talent like the Brothers Schleck and Fabian Cancellara. They should win races, more than a few. Let’s wish them well and hope Nygaard and the team management won’t make some of the same mistakes Sky made in its first year.
P.S. Where are the cool Leopard cars and team bus? As my friend Jim McDonough would say, “somebody dropped the meat in the dirt.”