Things couldnâ€™t have gone much worse for RSNT so far this year as injuries, poor results, abandons, and a new doping investigation have the team limping into the Tour de France.
That said, there are still some bright spots on a team that could perform better than the drama surrounding it might indicate. Letâ€™s take a look:
First, thereâ€™s Frank Schleck, the third-place finisher from last yearâ€™s race. Schleck began the season slated for the Tour, started the Giro, abandoned the Giro, and is now heading to the Tour. Despite what anyone says, he is his teamâ€™s captain for the French grand tour. As his second-place in the Tour de Suisse two weeks ago indicates, heâ€™s in-form and ready to battle.
The question remains as to how Frank will perform without younger brother Andy. I think heâ€™ll do pretty well actually, although the course doesnâ€™t do him any favors. Were I Frank, Iâ€™d shoot primarily for stage wins and maybe a chance at the polka dot jersey. Sacrificing opportunities at stage wins for the sake of a top-6 finish is not the best approach for a team desperate to save face after the embarrassment of the last three months.
Next we have Fabian Cancellara, a rider who looked as if he would challenge Tom Boonen in the cobbled classics before a broken collarbone in the Tour of Flanders ended his spring. Cancellara is back and racing the Tour, but he was beaten twice in time trials at the Tour de Suisse. While not terribly ominous, being defeated in oneâ€™s signature eventâ€”on home turfâ€”is not the ideal scenario heading into the Tour and the Olympics.Â That said, Cancellara lost a lot of time due to his injury, while he might not win Saturdayâ€™s Prologue, I suspect heâ€™ll race himself into shape for Stages 9 and 19.
Letâ€™s forget RadioShackâ€™s very own Mutt and Jeff, Andreas KlÃ¶den and Chris Horner. (If I were a rich man, I would pay the team to make them roommatesâ€”and then film it for TV.) Â Both riders crashed-out of last yearâ€™s race, and both return this year looking for some revenge. As for the object of their anger, well, thatâ€™s anyoneâ€™s guess, but expect inspired performances and some interesting tweets.
Man of the Hour
Frank Schleck doesnâ€™t have to worry about younger brother at this yearâ€™s Tour de Franceâ€”but he will have to worry about a race that doesnâ€™t suit him. That said, Frankâ€™s always seemed to have more of a killer instinct than his brother, and should make things interesting in the mountains.
Tony Gallopin proved to be one of RadioShackâ€™s most consistent riders throughout the cobbled classics and now heads to his second Tour de France. While the field sprints at this yearâ€™s Tour might be a bit over the young Frenchmanâ€™s head, he could challenge for a stage win from a breakaway during the second and third weeks.
On the Hot Seat
KlÃ¶den and Horner have done a lot of talking prior to this yearâ€™s Tour de Franceâ€”now they have a chance to put their money where their mouths are.
RadioShackâ€™s best bet for a high GC finish might actually come from Belgiumâ€™s Maxime Monfort, a rider who quietly finished sixth in last yearâ€™s Vuelta. Monfort can climb, but more importantly in a race like this yearâ€™s Tour de France, heâ€™s a rather handy time trialist when he needs to be. Assuming things go south for RadioShackâ€™s big guns, donâ€™t be surprised if Monfort ends the race as the teamâ€™s best finisher.
Follow Whit on Twitter at @whityost