Alain Gallopin is confident that Andy and Fränk Schleck will have the strongest Grand Tour team in the world at their disposal next year following the merger of the RadioShack and Leopard Trek teams. The Frenchman previously worked with the Schleck brothers as a directeur sportif at the CSC team from 2004 to 2007, and they will renew acquaintances with RadioShack-Nissan next season.
Though the 2012 Tour de France features almost 100km of time trialling, Gallopin believes that the strength in depth of his new team means that Andy Schleck remains a contender.
“Even if at first glance the Tour suits Andy less than it does Cadel Evans, for example, I think that our team will be without doubt the best grand tour team in light of the coming together of the teams,” Gallopin told Le Quotidien.
Gallopin acknowledged that there are obvious areas in which both Andy and Fränk Schleck will need to improve in order to land a grand tour, but he believes that their new manager Johan Bruyneel can help them find the winning formula.
“As I was no longer part of their team [in recent years], I took the time to observe them, and I’ve seen that there is work to be done,” he said. “Johan Bruyneel has the experience to steer the ship.”
While Gallopin has worked under Bruyneel at Astana and RadioShack since leaving Bjarne Riis and CSC, he has remained in close contact with Andy Schleck, who he guided to second place behind Danilo Di Luca at the 2007 Giro d’Italia.
“That 2007 Giro and Andy Schleck’s second place remain my best memory as a directeur sportif,” he admitted. “It’s true that Andy has regularly called me in the last few years, and he’s told me that he’s very happy to work with me again. Me too.”
Gallopin is also looking forward to joining forces with a number of his other former charges from CSC, including Fabian Cancellara and Jens Voigt.
“I’m going to join up again with Andy, Fränk, Fabian and quite a few riders that I know very well and with whom I really like to work,” he said.
The team's initial gathering gets under way at the Hôtel de la Source in Stavelot, Belgium, on Tuesday and continues until Thursday.