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Premature to label Schlecks as contenders for Tour de France win, says Guercilena

Barry Ryan
December 18, 2013, 12:15,
December 18, 2013, 12:23
Second Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Andy and Frank Schleck celebrate after the 2011 Tour de France

Andy and Frank Schleck celebrate after the 2011 Tour de France

  • Andy and Frank Schleck celebrate after the 2011 Tour de France
  • Andy Schleck (RadioShack Leopard)
  • An unhappy Frank Schleck during the Giro d'Italia
  • Luca Guercilena and Christopher Horner (RadioShack - Leopard)

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Horner refused contract offer from Trek Factory Racing

Trek Factory Racing manager Luca Guercilena has said that it is premature to label Andy and Fränk Schleck as contenders for overall victory at the 2014 Tour de France but the Italian is confident that they can at least be competitive next July.

While the original Leopard Trek team was built largely around the Tour de France ambitions of the Schleck brothers, the emphasis of the team has shifted in the intervening period following Fränk’s ban for a positive test for Xipamide and Andy's struggles with injury and form in the period since they finished second and third at the 2011 Tour de France.

"There are three or four teams who have devoted more to the Grand Tours, while we're rebuilding. We'll be competitive but it's going to be difficult to be super-competitive because we made different choices on the transfer market to some other teams," Guercilena told Cyclingnews.

"I think that Andy and Fränk themselves can be competitive in a head-to-head with the likes of Froome, Quintana and Contador, but it's premature to say today that we could be capable of going to the Tour to try to win it."

Andy Schleck’s travails over the past two years have been well-documented. A fractured pelvis at the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné ruled him out of that year's Tour de France, and the Luxembourger was short on condition and morale when the 2013 campaign got underway. For 18 months or so, his results read as a litany of abandons and problems but Schleck managed to steady the ship in time for the Tour de France, where he reached Paris in 20th place overall.

"Last winter wasn't ideal, which meant that he began the season trying to make up for lost ground, but he got back to the right motivation and the right way of working from March onwards," Guercilena said.

"We had to increase his training load in order to at least be competitive at a Grand Tour. In the space of four months, he ended up doing work that should have been done in eight, and that meant that he had a dip in form after the Tour."

Better in 2014

Guercilena is hopeful that Schleck's fortunes will improve still further in 2014 with his older brother’s return to competitive action, and he confirmed that there would be no repeat of former manager Johan Bruyneel's ill-fated experiment of 2012, when he insisted that the pair followed largely separate race programmes.

"At the time, we were all in agreement with Bruyneel’s idea, but it really just showed that there were more advantages for both of them in riding together than riding apart," he said.

"In some situations this year, Fränk will race alone as he needs to get back to racing rhythm but beyond that the idea is to put them side by side at the Tour de France in good condition so they can help one another."

"The return of Fränk could be a great advantage for Andy, but real desire is something an athlete has to find for himself. We're putting every possible means at Andy's disposal so that he can again be competitive at the level he should be at."

Horner refused contract

Guercilena's 2013 team boasted a Grand Tour winner in its ranks, in the shape of Chris Horner, who emerged to claim a most surprising overall victory at the Vuelta a España. In spite of that unexpected success, 42-year-old Horner remains without a contract for 2014. Guercilena confirmed that he would have been happy to retain the American's services but said that Trek Factory Racing couldn't match his wage demands during talks after the Vuelta.

"The team made an offer taking various things into consideration. Given the youth-oriented line that we want to follow, the offer clearly wasn't based on him being a winner of the Vuelta, but on his status as an athlete who still offers a certain level of performance. The offer wasn't accepted and we didn't reach an agreement," Guercilena said.

As 2013 draws to a close, Horner's hopes of finding a deal for next season appear to be fading quickly. Even though his asking price has apparently dropped slightly in the intervening period, Horner is running out of potential suitors

"I don't think the problem is with Horner but with the market itself," Guercilena said. "Negotiating a contract in October when five teams have gone under is really difficult, and there are a lot of riders out there without teams or valued below their true worth.

"The laws of the market of two years ago are completely different to those of this year, both in terms of the budgets of teams and the number of teams still in operation. It's probably the case that it’s taken a couple of years for the wider economic crisis to hit cycling in earnest."

thelowerdepths 10 months ago
hasn't it been premature to label them as TdF winners for a few years now?
Mark Schwitau 10 months ago
Well, a few years ago, one or both of them were on the podium for several straight years .... so not exactly. Perhaps tough for them to come back for big wins .... But they are certainly not slobs on the bike like the "blog bros" make them out to be. I've seen some inspired rides from them. After all, it is hard to win at that level. Most of the bloggers here probably can't win their local bike shops "Sunday Funday" ride.
thelowerdepths 10 months ago
true on appearing on the podium and also agree with some great rides from them, especially Schleck the Younger, but i always thought that the top spot was a stretch given the up and down, inconsistent riding they usually deliver … and, on a personal note, whether anyone here can win a Sunday fun ride or not, we (thankfully) don't have to ride against them and can comment from the comfort of our La-Z-Boy recliners with butter nut toffee and espresso firmly in hand … as long as we can keep it civil, s'all good …
Cance > TheRest 10 months ago
Until June 2012 Andy was in fact a contender for the TDF. Then it all went wrong; Franks suspension, Andy's lack of form and his pelvis fracture... However, I can't see what alternative answers, Guercilena is supposed to give to the journalists. Afterall he can't state publicly that his two - spoiled or not - luxembourg stars won't have a chance in TdF, as it would totally kill any confidence left in both of them. Also he and the rest of the world knows its obvious that the Schlecks won't win the TDF given their current level and the competition. So afterall, saying, that its too early to tell if the Schlecks will be competitive, probably isn't totally wrong
1CameronMurray 10 months ago
TOTALLY Neither of these 2 has the nous to achieve a Grand Tour victory in the forthcoming years. Too weak minded. Andy way too reliant on Fwank. Can't stand them personally
movingtarget 10 months ago
I would say that Horner has a better chance at this stage. Like many others I think we may have seen the best from the Schlecks. A lot has changed since 2011. Evans is no longer a contender and the Schlecks have to go up against the likes of Froome, Nibali and the Colombians. Be surprised if either of them made the top 10.
wheel chaser 10 months ago
It's a shame for Chris to have his greatest achievement happen at a time and age when he'll not be able to take advantage of it financially.
Heckler. 10 months ago
He's still young. His best years are ahead of him.
HeadPack 10 months ago
You are clearly joking, but it could be mighty interesting to see how far he can go. In the sense of staying competitive while ageing. Hope he finds a team one way or another.
FabiquesAnquetillara 10 months ago
I think (provided Horner really wanted to carry on racing) he should have just back off and accept pay-cut. Even if it is sad for Grand Tour winner. But looking at the big picture: Teams folding, some so and so making that (Saxo), lots of riders with no contract, his age, etc. He must have known, that after Radioshack going and Becca going (they hardly managed to pay their bills and salaries) (becca even cut down racing program to save money late in season), Trek stepping in was sort of a miracle. And in lower budget of the team (and realiably delivering monuments victories and marketing golden egg Fabian, does not ride for free), Horner must have known that asking what he would wanted (and probably got in any other time) is just not realistic. However I feel sorry for him, I guess it is not unfair to say, it is his fault not riding in 2014.
mjbx101 10 months ago
My guess is that Horner decided that racing only for a lowball offer like Trek's wasn't worth it to him given the hard work and effort that anyone has to devote to compete at that level, and that he's perfectly ok with retiring if he doesn't get a respectable offer for 2014.
SourKraut 10 months ago
Thanks Luca. Here I had them pegged for one-two overall and an arm in arm salute atop the Alpe. better revise my fantasy team roster.
GuyIncognito 10 months ago
Heck, why not 1-2-3? They have another brother named Steve (They do, I didn't make that up)
Anonymous 10 months ago
Machado would do better than the Schlecks. He will show that this year at NetAppEndura
Bob Stevens 10 months ago
The Schlecks? Trek should sign a bonafide Grand Tour contender, one who has proven himself worthy. They should look into this American rider, Chris Horner. He won the Vuelta Espana. (I am a genius).
KatoMiler 10 months ago
Yea, it's WAAAAAAAAAAAAAY premature.
1CameronMurray 10 months ago
impossible to conceive of that idea!
Matthew Lab 10 months ago
I sure hope to Horner racing in either the Giro or the Vuelta next year, although my optimism is diminishing. While he may be a great tactician when it comes to professional bike racing, it looks like he and his agent badly misread the "race to employment" during the transfer season and as a result, have been blown off the back of the peloton.