Frank Schleck won the Tour de Suisse in a dramatic and searing attack on the Glaubenberg. He left an exhausted Rui Costa (Movistar) for dead, quickly pulling out ten, then thirty and finally almost a minute on the Portuguese rider. Schleck silenced his critics, boosted his confidence just two weeks before the Tour de France and finally gave the miserable-luck RadioShack Nissan Trek squad something to cheer.
Except that Frank Schleck didn’t hold that 55 second gap on the descent. He was caught by the yellow jersey group and Schleck was out of attacks. Alejandro “Nothing Wrong” Valverde went to the front for teammate Costa and set a torrid pace on the final climb that nobody could argue. Schleck rolled across the line still 14 seconds behind Costa, Tour de Suisse over and feeling Andy-like in second place in the overall.
It was a series of almosts and second places for the Electronic Gizmo-Car-Bike squad in Switzerland. Peter Sagan and the suprising Fredrik Kessiakoff beat Fabian Cancellara in the time trials by a handful of seconds. Schleck mistimed his attack on the climb to Verbier in stage two and was caught by Costa close to the line. The Luxembourger finds himself in familiar family territory — almost the winner, one step down, semi glory, half happy.
However, the elder Schleck must be pleased to have some actual genuine form in the final leadup to La Grand Boucle, Le Big Show, the Shindig Royale in France. Ca c’est bon, mon vieux.. After months of injury, disappointment, team discord and bad luck, Frank is ready to rock. Now, will he have Chris Horner to help in the Pyrenees and Alps? Difficle a dire, mes amis.
While Frank Sschleck will be at the start in Liege, it’s hard to say what role team manager Johan Bruyneel will have at the Tour de France. There’s been enough media furor that his physical presence at the race might not be possible. There is such a collision of forces and the impacts are still being determined. Tour boss Christian Prudhomme, sponsors RadioShack, Nissan and Trek, team owner Flavio Becca and Bruyneel himself are all trying to assess the damage. It will be hard for Bruyneel to withdraw without it adding a degree of perceived guilt but the PR could get ugly with three weeks of media grilling.
Our race question was, what was Shcleck thinking when he decided to sit up and wait for the yellow jersey group? He had some kind of “it ain’t worth it” moment. Sure that group was ramping up the speeds, but Schleck decided it wasn’t worth trying to hold a gap going into the final category 2 climb. How much time did he need over Costa to keep his attack going? Seems like he went full gas in a half hearted way, like he wasn’t all in.
The Tour de Suisse and Dauphine are done. Break out the Bordeaux, a baguette and some rabbit pate. Le Tour is almost upon us.