At the mid-way point of the professional cycling season, the Radioshack-Nissan team of Johan Bruyneel seems as disjointed as the first day of training camp. Both Schleck brothers seem frustrated, to say the least, at Bruyneel's tactics, while many of the other riders seem unmotivated in the races they have contested thus far in 2012.
Johan Bruyneel, going back to his days as director sportif for Lance Armstrong's seven Tour de France wins, has always been a bit stand-offish regarding his approach toward motivating his riders. Old school and gruff at times, Bruyneel seemed to always have the correct approach to wring top results out of riders as year in and year out he assembled top team to assault the Tour de France. Recently though, Bruyneel's methods have taken a back seat to more progressive leaders like Neil Stephens, Jonathan Vaughters and Dave Brailsford.
Thus far in 2012 the Radioshack team has been an absolute mess. Few wins have come outside of Fabian Cancellara's scintillating early season form, and as we head into the summer things seem fractured almost beyond repair within the team. Bruyneel, stubborn till the end, refuses to back off of his riders, and his methods increasingly seem to be falling on deaf ears.
As we approach the transfer season, it would be absolutely astounding if the Schleck brothers decide to re-sign with Bruyneel's squad. Ditto for Jakob Fuglsang, who looks like a defector back to Bjarne Riis and Saxo Bank for 2013. Cancellara is quiet as he usually is, but it would be hard to envision him staying for another year under Bruyneel's iron fist.
Other riders on the Radioshack team just don't seem motivated to chase results. Daniele Bennati abandoned his home tour in Italy after posting a runner-up finish to Mark Cavendish. Andreas Kloden has been completely absent from the front of any bike races, while the once promising Tiago Machado seems to be languishing in obscurity under Bruyneel's tutelage.
In a worst case scenario, would it be at all surprising if the entire Radioshack team folded after 2012? Sure they still have riders under contract, but so what? If the three pillars on the team (both Schlecks and Cancellara) decide to sign elsewhere for 2013, who would be left to carry the torch? Chris Horner is, unfortunately, older by the day and less of a leader and more of a support rider. Levi Leipheimer has already left for Quick Step, and the rest of the riders on the team are domestiques at best, throw aways at worst. Bottom line is that things could get real ugly real fast if things go bad at the Tour de France, which it currently looks like it could.
For those who have count themselves as true fans of the sport, Bruyneel's plight should come with little surprise. He has been alienating fans for years and now it looks as though his stone-like demeanor is affecting his relationships with his riders as well. Perhaps the book he released about his success with Armstrong and Alberto Contador best encapsulates the perception of Bruyneel: an egomaniacal blowhard who rode the coat tails of others to find his success.