First, a chapeau to Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Trek) for finally working his way back from a cracked pelvis and making a return to the Tour de France. Le Grand Shindig is where Andy shines the most and it’s great to see him back in action.
According to team manager Luca Guercilena, a podium finish is “unrealistic” but he hopes that with some luck Andy may produce something “brilliant,” perhaps a stage win in the mountains.
Schleck is missing that final 5% of his form and perhaps just as important he’s missing 100% of his brother Frank, who is still serving a one-year ban for a positive test for the diuretic Xipamide. Pelvis, bad pee, both had trouble down there.
Riding the Tour without his brother Frank is a huge disappointment for Andy. The two are inseparable in France even when powerful managers like Johan Bruyneel try to pull them apart.
Andy will be lonely with nobody except Jens Voigt to cheer him up and he’ll miss Frank on those long Pyrenean and Alps stages where lots of skinny guys like to attack without mercy.
So we at Twisted Spoke are wondering who can play Frank and help his younger brother in this grueling three week sufferfest. Who can he bond with and who will help him along, perhaps trade pulls and keep him up front?
We’re ruling out Alejandro Valverde and his side kick Nairo Quintana right off the bat. They have their own agenda and will see no reason to help out a Luxembourger in need. In fact, we’re also throwing Katusha’s pocket rocket Joaquin Rodriguez in that group of Non-Franks. Just the accent along would throw Andy off.
That brings us to former semi-pal Alberto Contador. Would he be willing, given the tactical situations on the road, to give Andy a pull up the road and a few kind words of encouragement? Frankly, Contador is 100% focused on trying to find a weak point in the Sky battle plan. El Pistolero won’t have any time his old Tourmalet riding buddy.
What about those French guys Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland over at Europcar? They seem kinda friendly — perhaps one of them could be Frank on occasion. Well, Voeckler is the consummate race opportunist and it he thought working with Schleck and maybe sharing a gel or two made sense, then he might just take on the role of Frank-ophile. Rolland however will be busy monitoring his cortisol levels and is in no mood to lend anyone a hand.
One thing is certain: Andy shouldn’t expect any Frank-friendliness from the BMC duo of Cadel Evans and Tejay van Garderen. They are locked in a daily battle to see who is the captain of the squad. Now, that doesn’t mean if Evans is up the road a bit that Tejay doesn’t form an instantaneous affection for Andy and insist they work together. But don’t count on it.
You can you the difficulties here. Everyone is so busy at the Tour de France that it’s hard to find a true friend at the last minute. Really, Andy should have been making calls and going for training rides with some possible candidates and making some rider a strong pitch.
Now, the guys at Garmin are always pretty chill so maybe that’s an option. Ryder Hesjedal is a fine fellow but with his terrible Giro d’Italia still on his mind, he can’t be bothered doing any charity work.
However, it’s here, chez Argyle Army, that we discover the Frank-in-waiting. A nice, cheerful, loyal rider who can climb well. We nominate the toothy Dan Martin as our prohibitive favorite for Being Frank.
Andy Schleck would do well to drop round the Garmin-Sharp hotel in Corsica as soon as possible just to get the ball rolling. This is Le Tour de France and Andy needs a brother fast.