Andy Schleck has established himself as one of the brightest young stage racing stars of cycling after two runner up results in both the Giro and Tour de France. An excellent climber and ever-improving time trialist, the younger of the two Schlecks seems on the right track for stage racing glory in the near future. Andy's older brother Frank, at 30 years old, is in the absolute prime of his career. He is a classics winner and a Tour de France stage winner. At his age his average time trialing skills probably won't improve, but as a climber he is still a proven commodity. Unfailingly loyal and tactically sound, Frank is always willing to put aside his own chances at victory to support those of his younger brother.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Providing they have a few things go their way in the upcoming Tour de France, the Schleck brothers could turn the race on its head, and in the process put Andy on the top step of the overall podium. Each year of his career Andy has improved his time trialing and so he should be able to limit his losses in the year's Tour. He is riding on a strong team that is more than capable of supporting him, and he'll go into the Tour as the team's number one protected rider.
Leading the squad from the team car will be the always wily Bjarne Riis. The Dane is recognized as one of the top two cycling tacticians in the sport (Johan Bruyneel being the other), and his decisions at key moments during key races have seen his riders ride away with victory time and time again. Riis seems to know just when to alert his riders to attack, and having both Andy and Frank on his Tour team will give Riis all the ammo he needs to put the peloton through fits come Tour time.
At a grand tour, it is extremely hard to control a race once you are the race leader. The prologue offers and 8 kilometer test against the clock, and Alberto Contdor's first chance to take yellow. He'll likely not take the jersey though, and it wont be until stage 8 that we see the first real shuffling in the GC. If Contador takes the jersey during stage 8, it would give Riis and his Saxo team a great chance to put the Spaniard's team into difficulty in the following days. In fact, the 9th stage is brutal despite being after a rest day and whomever holds the yellow jersey heading into the day will find it a tough task indeed to defend, especially against the likes of the two Schlecks.
Andy Schleck is only 25 years old, and still building himself into the best bike rider he can be. Still, his time as a top contender began a year ago and every year from now on he'll be considered one of the top three threats to take yellow. After a tough early season marked by sickness and injury, he and his brother seem ready for the Tour. Operating as one unit split into two bodies, the Schlecks present a daunting challenge to any team looking to control them at the Tour. Whether they can prevail against the likes of Alberto Contador, Denis Menchov, Ivan Basso and the rest is yet to be seen, but like they say two is better than one. The Saxo Schlecks will look to prove that theorem true in a few weeks at the biggest bike race in the world.