Consider this irony: we are a month away from the Tour de France and two of the most famous team managers in modern pro cycling are disappointed with their squads and unsure which — if any — rider will lead in France.
After the Giro d’Italia, Saxo Bank’s Bjarne Riis was clearly a disappointed man. “I had obviously hoped for more than we got,” he wrote in his column in the Ekstra Bladet newspaper. “But we struggled with what we had.” Chris Anker Sorensen says he doesn’t think the team will even have a captain for Le Tour, instead focusing on getting in breaks for stage wins. It’s a sad situation for Riis, who thought he’d have Alberto Contador in action.
If the circumstances are not quite as dire for Johan Bruyneel, they are certainly cloudy and the Belgian is beside himself with frustration. He announced a week ago that he doesn’t consider that any rider on RadioShack Nissan-Trek has earned a roster spot except Fabian Cancellara. Not Frank or Andy Schleck, not Chris Horner, not Andreas Kloden.
That’s a strange turn of events for both men. Bruyneel thought he had inherited a super team in the merger with Leopard Trek but injuries, bad luck, minimal results and difficulties in motivating Andy Schleck, have led to increasingly critical public comments.
Riis has been out of sorts all year and spent most of his off-season trying to figure out how to win Alberto Contador’s clenbuterol case. Uncharacteristically, he put all his hopes on the Spaniard with no plan B. Then he had to argue with the UCI about even keeping the team’s ProTeam license once they had subtracted Contador’s tainted points. His roster is bare and as clever as Riis is, he can’t manufacture wins with minimal talent.
Riis and Bruyneel usually bring a powerhouse team to the Tour de France. This year Saxo Bank will pin its hopes on second tier sprinter JJ Haedo, not Alberto. Bruyneel and Andy Schleck may yet find common ground but anything less than victory will seem like failure despite being declared the 2010 winner after Contador’s positive for clenbuterol.
Both men would like to have the problems of Team Sky’s David Brailsford: how to juggle the conflicting agendas of a red hot GC favorite in Bradley Wiggins and the world’s faster sprinter Mark Cavendish. Riis and Bruyneel have more pressing calamities and they are not happy about it.