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Gert Steegmans (RadioShack)
RadioShack needed "servants" for Armstrong
Team RadioShack directeur sportif Dirk Demol has explained the reason behind sprinter Gert Steegmans' non-selection for this year's Tour de France.
"We chose pure slaves," Demol told Het Belang van Limburg, speaking about the likes of Chris Horner, Andreas Klöden and Levi Leipheimer. This trio will join Armstrong, plus Janez Brajkovic, Sergio Paulinho, Yaroslav Popovych, Gregory Rast and Dmitriy Muravyev to form a powerful Tour squad for the American team.
That powerful outfit doesn't include Steegmans, who won a Tour stage in Gent in 2007. Demol was remaining philosophical, however. "You have to be realistic. We could not expect Gert to ride in full service of Armstrong. That would be against his nature. I cannot [allow that] - Gert deserves better," he said.
Admittedly the former Quick Step and Katusha rider hasn't enjoyed a stellar season to date, with limited time in competition and few notable results on his palmares thanks to a combination of injury and subsequent lack of form. The team has foregone a sprinter in its lineup and instead placed all eggs in one basket - Armstrong.
And whilst the burly Belgian would bring cobbled experience to the squad to aid Armstrong in the Tour's third stage which takes riders over several sections of pavé, Demol said that there was ample cover for this within the chosen nine.
"Gert was the ideal rider to pilot Lance over the cobblestones, but Popovych has the same capabilities, and it's nice that Rast and Muravyev know their way around the cobblestones," said Demol.
Demol also explained that the team's snub from Vuelta a España organisers meant Janez Brajkovic was rushed into the Tour de France squad. Had RadioShack been invited, Demol says he's sure Steegmans could have been riding either the Tour or the Vuelta. It appears as though he'll be at neither event, however.
"We weren't invited to the Vuelta, [where] we had Brajkovic to play as a team leader. We cannot make the talented Slovenian miss all grand tours this year, so he starts now, at the Tour. He is a lightning rod for Armstrong," said Demol.
"In addition, Armstrong showed in Switzerland that a new [Tour] victory is possible. We want to control on both the flat roads and uphill from the first day to the last summit," he concluded.