2009 SUMMARY: After the difficulties at Astana, where wages went unpaid and the team was split at the Tour, Johan Bruyneel and Lance Armstrong are now back on more secure ground with an American sponsor and Alberto Contador out of the picture. After the announcement of The Shack’s entry into the sport at the Tour, Bruyneel secured names he both knew and had confidence in for the new squad.
LOOKING AHEAD: The team’s stated goal is to win the Tour and Armstrong provides both their voice of experience and backbone. Assuming he can avoid bone-breaking crashes, he’s sure to be better prepared than he was last July. Of course, there are questions about his age, since he’ll be almost 39 – two years older than the Tour’s current oldest winner, Firmin Lambot, who won back in 1922. Still, if this record is to be broken, an Armstrong backed up by Team RadioShack is surely the guy to do it. There are winners throughout the rest of the team as well but probably not in the Classics.
THE LINE-UP: There are no real surprises here, apart from the signing of Portuguese rider Sergio Paulinho, who was widely viewed as one of Contador’s right-hand men. News of that signing was greeted by some as a cheeky attempt to unsettle the Spaniard. There may be something to that but Paulinho is exactly the kind of hard-riding, strong-climbing rider that Armstrong will be counting on when the Tour comes around in July.
ONE TO WATCH: Bruyneel and Demol have always kept close tabs on upcoming Belgian talent and Tom Boonen made his first mark with them. Ben Hermans is not of Boonen’s class but looks like a good stage race prospect after a strong 2009 season with Topsport. That was the first year he’d been racing full-time, having previously mixed cycling with his studies for a biomedical sciences degree.
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