Since Fränk Schleck's controversial withdrawal from the Giro d'Italia, reports of increasing differences between the Schleck brothers and RadioShack-Nissan manager Johan Bruyneel have been abundant in the media. Most recently, Andy Schleck criticised Bruyneel's outspokenness, saying that if he was team manager, he "wouldn't try to solve problems with my riders through the press, but discuss them internally."
Now, the Belgian director has justified his comments, holding his ground on his ways of communicating. "I found it was the right moment to announce my opinion. Some people told me not to do this in the media, but I can't play-act, either. When a journalist asks me about the state of my team, then I have to say it's insufficient," Bruyneel told Sporza, blaming a lack of results for the frustrating situation.
"We should have won everywhere, but when I look at the outcome so far I see two wins by Cancellara and some placings of honour. Of course, there are the circumstances, but nobody can be satisfied.
"So I'm increasing the pressure. I'm seeing to it that there is no relaxing. It's also my task to point everyone at their responsibilities. Sometimes, hard words have to be said. If some guys don't like what I'm saying but then improve their performances, then that's fine my me," he added.
Another issue has been Bruyneel's decision not to include directeur sportif Kim Andersen in his Tour de France team. Andy Schleck, who is known to have a strong relationship with Andersen from the seasons spent together at Saxo Bank and Leopard-Trek, was adamant that the Dane's support was very important to him. "Even if Kim is not in the car behind us, he will be with us in another way. I will be talking to him every day at the Tour," said the Tour de France overall contender.
Again, Bruyneel justified his actions. "We decided this already in December. I don't understand why we have to talk about it again now," the Belgian told Sportweekend. "In any case, the situation is very clear to me. Andy rode his best Tour in 2010, even if Andersen was not present that year due to circumstances."
As a consequence of the publicly-staged quarrel, the collaboration between Lance Armstrong's director and the Schleck brothers can hardly be called a success so far, and Bruyneel did not deny this. "I knew it would take some time, but it takes longer than I expected," he said, before taking another opportunity to provoke his riders and especially Andy Schleck.
"This year, we'll do the best with what we have and I think in the coming years Andy has a great chance to win the Tour. But this year we are not the top favourite. We'll lose a lot of time against the clock. We'll have to take risks and race smart. But in a Grand Tour anything can happen."