Ahh, the language of unrelenting optimism.
Trek sport director Kim Andersen is working hard to stay positive with Andy Schleck despite few signs that a return to the top will happen anytime soon. New kit, same drawbacks.
“I am optimistic they can be there in the Tour,” Andersen told VeloNews. “They are both working hard. We can hope. That’s what we are working for.”
Hope is a good thing. Hope keeps the human race from watching porn all day or kicking the dog or running over old ladies with a truck. Hope is an essential ingredient for the poor, the dispossessed and those who haven’t been a factor in a WorldTour race in several years.
Basic sports psychology says you keep your athletes pumped up! They’re getting strong and stronger, folks. No raining on the parade, no throwing a wrench of doubt into the fan belt of possibility. What’s to be gained by lowering the spirits of a rider who hasn’t looked like a top Tour contender in ages?
No, family confident, long-time friend, and anti-Johan Bruyneel guy Kim Andersen isn’t going to say one bad word about Andy’s progress or lack thereof.
Still, you read Andersen’s quotes and you can almost picture his mouth tightening. Given all the set-backs and disappointments, there’s an inevitable strain on our credulity and patience.
“For sure I hope that he’s back to a good level for the Tour,” says Andersen. “Things could be better, but he’s better than he was at this time last year. I am still optimistic.”
There’s that word hope again and another shot of optimism. Really, Andersen is a glass-overflowing kinda guy. He’s practically singing “All things just keep getting better,” the theme song from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
Andy himself appears to be running on some kind of optimism autopilot. He keeps trotting out the positive messages regardless of results. “The ambitions are big for the Tour,” Andy told VeloNews. “The last two years I have not been up there for a top result, but it’s a new team, a new start. The ambitions are high.”
Well, we hope that the commitment is even higher than the ambitions. That sentiment seemed to be echoed by Fabian Cancellara, who is not under any contractual obligation at Trek to talk up Andy’s chances this year. Fabian, a true Classics hardman, takes a more realistic approach to the swirling optimism.
“With his brother, they can go back to this good level,” Cancellara told journalists Monday night. “It’s going to be hard for them. The level of the Tour has grown a lot. There are young riders coming up. There are teams that are working just for [the Tour]. They also must work.”
The “must work” statement can’t help but re-trigger the critical debate. Is Andy Schleck committed enough to get himself back to Tour de France contender?
His old nemesis Alberto Contador took a beating from Chris Froome in the 2013 Tour but that only motivated him to work harder. So far his results show the renewed focus and commitment: an overall win in Tirreno-Adriatico and two stage wins in the italian race.
Meanwhile Andy was racking up an invisible 66th in Paris-Nice. From there to a Tour de France podium is quite an hors category leap but one that Andy still insists is possible. “I’ve been on the podium four times already, I believe it’s a reality,” says Schleck. “The dream, of course, is to step on the podium. We have to take it from the start, but the sensations are good.”
Andersen is just going to keep up the optimism routine until after the Tour de France. “We are quite happy with Frank, and Andy is better than the first days, coming around slowly,” said Andersen. “I am quite sure we will be very happy later on in the year.”
Is he sure the happy later part? Because he sure doesn’t sound like he’s sure.