2013 Team Previews: RadioShack-Leopard

radioshack2013

Who are the sponsor? RadioShack are a US electrical retailer, Leopard are the teams management company.

Nationality: Luxembourgian.

2012 Ranking: 12th

Past Stars: Daniele Bennati, Oliver Zaugg, Linus Gerdemann, Jakob Fuglsang

Selected Team Palmares: 1st, Tour de France 2010, 1st, Liege-Bastonge-Liege 2009 (Andy Schleck), Stages, Tour de France, (Andy Schleck, 2010, 2011×2, Frank Schleck, 2006+2010, Yaroslav Popovych, 2008, Jens Voigt, 2001+2006, Fabian Cancellara, 2004, 2007×2, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012), 1st, Tour of Flanders 2010, 1st, Paris-Roubaix 2006+2010, 1st, Milan San-Remo 2008, 1st, Tirreno-Adriatico 2008, 1st, Tour de Suisse 2009, 1st Olympic Time Trial 2008, World Time Trial Champion 2006-07, 09-10 (all Fabian Cancellara), 1st, Tour of California 2011, 1st, Tour of the Basque Country 2010 (Chris Horner)

Brief Team History: Radioshack has a complicated history. First created in 2011 as Leopard-Trek after stripping the best bits from Saxo Bank, the name was indicative of the fact they could not attract a sponsor. They had a habit of coming second a lot, with Paris Roubaix and the Tour de France the most obvious examples, which didn’t really endear them after all the hype and swagger of the formative months. At the same time, there was a concurrent Radioshack team, sponsored also by Nissan, which then at the end of 2011, if we believe the Leopard story, folded, and the sponsor transferred to the Leopard team so that they became RadioShack-Nissan-Trek. Unfortunately, no one told current car sponsor Mercedes, who were understandably a bit miffed. They then got told they could only have two sponsors names, so became just RadioShack Nissan.

Last year: Talk about a miserable. After the off season issues forced the odd team merger, and an odd jersey merger, the team seemed to start well with Cancellara coming second (again) in Milan San Remo. They couldn’t come second in everything again though, surely? Nope. Cancellara was wiped out by a crash at the Tour of Flanders which broke his collar bone in three places, ruining his classics campaign. Then it quickly became evident that Andy Schleck was in trouble, and couldn’t seem to deliver any form. To add insult to injury, he was blown off his bike in a time trial at the Dauphine and fractured his hip, keeping him out for the rest of the year despite various announcements of returns for the Vuelta and so on. This was arguably a blessing in disguise, as it removed the pressure and meant Schleck wouldn’t lose on a course that didn’t suit him anyway. The Tour actually went quite well considering, with Cancellara winning the prologue and holding yellow for a week, before Frank Schleck brought doom and gloom back by testing positive for xipamide. However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Tony Gallopin had been a season long suprise, as had Giacomo Nizzolo, and the ostracised Jacob Fuglsang won them the Tours of Luxembourg and Austria. However, things returned to form at the Olympics were Cancellara crashed out in a winning position, then manager Bruyneel left after the USADA decision, but they must hope they have had years of bad luck condensed into one year.

Schleck rides in after breaking his hip.
Schleck rides in after breaking his hip.

Transfer dealings: Out go Fuglsang, who had disagreements with Bruyneel, as well as Gerdemann and Bennati, who provided some results, if not wins, every so often. In their place, the team hasn’t really brought anyone in who really looks to be that useful for Schleck’s challenge at the Tour, with Kivierlovski the sole climber. Stijn Devolder will be there to help Cancellara, but given he’s been appaling in the classics since he wont he Tour of Flanders twice, he might not be all that useful. The team will hope that what they have will rise back to the challenge.

Who are the star riders? The team is based in Luxembourg, and as a result, Andy Schleck and Frank Schleck are the main attractions, if the latter isn’t banned for his Xipamide positive. They are supported by men who have been in the top five of the Tour de France, albeit years ago, in Andreas Kloden, Yaroslav Popovych and Haimar Zubeldia. They also have able mountain support in Chris Horner, Tiago Machado and Maxime Monfort. The main attractions to those who for some reason hate the Schlecks in Jens Voigt and Fabian Cancellara, the unstoppable roleurs who will fight to the death or win classics/place second in classics for fun.

groep_0

Fashion Police: They finally unveiled their new kit, which is a departure from the 2011-2012 versions which were very much trying to empahsise the Luxembourg flag and the team’s style. Unfortunately, the new one looks a little like they picked a template from a set and added colours, but the new white and red looks better then last year. They have removed the yellow Livestrong armband from the sleeve.

radioshack jersey

What are their targets? There are two targets for the team: first, Cancellara for the spring monuments. He seems to have given up on winning the complete set of 5 and instead be chasing the cobbled ones and Milan San-Remo, which is fair enough, as he claims he’s giving up on Time trialling. Then, it’s the Tour – delivering Andy Schleck to a yellow jersey in an all or nothing effort.

What are they likely to achieve? This depends purely on if they can get their riders to perform at the best of their ability. If they do, and they get some of the good luck they seem to be owed, then Cancellara will win at least one monument and Andy Schleck would win the Tour. I must admit, I’d very much like him to, and for the sake of the sport, a Contador-Schleck duel would be fascinating.

Schleck will want to wear this in Paris.
Schleck will want to wear this in Paris.

Components: RadioShack ride on Trek’s Madone and Domane frames, with Shimano Di2 components. Craft make the jerseys.

The Big Question(s): Can Schleck return to the 2010 form that ‘won’ him the Tour? Can Cancellara recover to his 2010 vintage? Will the team’s collective high average age catch up with them (if it hasn’t allready)?

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