Tour de France 2012 Team Preview: Radio Shack-Nissan

Photo courtesy Radio Shack-Nissan-Trek

Things couldn’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. Let’s take a look:

First, there’s Frank Schleck, the third-place finisher from last year’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 team’s captain for the French grand tour. As his second-place in the Tour de Suisse two weeks ago indicates, he’s in-form and ready to battle.

The question remains as to how Frank will perform without younger brother Andy. I think he’ll do pretty well actually, although the course doesn’t do him any favors. Were I Frank, I’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 one’s signature event—on home turf—is not the ideal scenario heading into the Tour and the Olympics.  That said, Cancellara lost a lot of time due to his injury, while he might not win Saturday’s Prologue, I suspect he’ll race himself into shape for Stages 9 and 19.

Let’s forget RadioShack’s very own Mutt and Jeff, Andreas Klöden and Chris Horner. (If I were a rich man, I would pay the team to make them roommates—and then film it for TV.)  Both riders crashed-out of last year’s race, and both return this year looking for some revenge. As for the object of their anger, well, that’s anyone’s guess, but expect inspired performances and some interesting tweets.

Man of the Hour

Frank Schleck doesn’t have to worry about younger brother at this year’s Tour de France—but he will have to worry about a race that doesn’t suit him. That said, Frank’s always seemed to have more of a killer instinct than his brother, and should make things interesting in the mountains.

Up-and-Comer

Tony Gallopin proved to be one of RadioShack’s most consistent riders throughout the cobbled classics and now heads to his second Tour de France. While the field sprints at this year’s Tour might be a bit over the young Frenchman’s head, he could challenge for a stage win from a breakaway during the second and third weeks.

On the Hot Seat

Klöden and Horner have done a lot of talking prior to this year’s Tour de France—now they have a chance to put their money where their mouths are.

Unsung Hero

RadioShack’s best bet for a high GC finish might actually come from Belgium’s Maxime Monfort, a rider who quietly finished sixth in last year’s Vuelta. Monfort can climb, but more importantly in a race like this year’s Tour de France, he’s a rather handy time trialist when he needs to be. Assuming things go south for RadioShack’s big guns, don’t be surprised if Monfort ends the race as the team’s best finisher.

Follow Whit on Twitter at @whityost

About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
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