The Trek Factory Racing team was the first of the Tour de France teams to hold their official pre-race press conference on Thursday morning, with Fabian Cancellara, Andy and Fränk Schleck, Danny van Poppel and Haimar Zubeldia facing questions before their training ride, after the team announced Samsung as a new minor sponsor and People For Bikes as a cycling advocacy partner.
The US-registered team has the youngest and oldest rider in the Tour de France with Danny van Poppel (aged 20) and Jens Voigt (42). Team manager Luca Guercilena played down their hopes of overall success, saying stage victories where their first goal.
"I think we've got a competitive team, full of strong riders. Our main goals are to be competitive for single stages. We really believe we have Fränk in good shape and with support of Haimar Zubeldia we can perhaps get a top ten result overall. Andy will be there to support them," he explained.
"I think we can be competitive on climbs and we also have some chances on the cobbled stage. With Markel Irizar, Jens Voigt and Gregory Rast we'll be going for breakaways, then Danny van Poppel is a young sprinter and showed in past that he's been super good."
Cancellara warns about the cobbles
Fabian Cancellara was the first rider to speak for the team, hinting heavily that he will go on the attack on the cobbled stage to Arenberg next Wednesday.
"It's a special scenario when you have a cobbled stage in the Tour de France. It's good for me and I will and we will go for that," Cancellara warned in his unique version of Swiss-English.
"When people ask if it's safe or not, I say that we're in the Tour de France and it's part of racing. This (stage) is a benefit for me. The Tour de France is not just about climbs and time trials, other aspects make the decision about what is the final result in Paris.
"It's risky but that's how it is. We'll fight for the best and do the best we can. We'll see what Froome, Nibal and the others do, but for sure it's going to be tough.
"The stage is quite short and so it'll be full gas and so first sector is going to be a big chaos. The big difference is that teams need to bring leaders in the first few positions. Because of the high risk. We have to fight for position in the Classics and it's the same here. There are going to be 160 riders going into cobbles sector. If you look at the parcours, there are other places where things could split earlier. That's good too."
Cancellara made a point of thanking Samsung for sponsoring the team. The brand appears on the jersey of the black Trek Factory Racing jersey.
"I'm pretty excited to see that the Samsung global brand has stepped in our team and also in cycling, not only to promote its brand but also to get something out of it," he said.
"To say cycling has a bad past is bad. Cycling has lots of potential for sponsors. We should not look in the past, we have to look to the future. When we talk about the problems in sport, we should remember it's a global sports problem, not only cycling had problems, the whole of sport had problems. These partners showed there's a future."
Schlecks focused on the present rather than the past or the future
During the press conference Andy Schleck again faced questions about his demise as a team leader and Tour de France contender. He is perhaps a super domestique for brother Frenk at Trek but refused to give on hope on one day rediscovering his place at the top table of the peloton.
"I've still got a name, good capacity and good legs even if I'm going into the Tour with low ambitions," Schleck said.
"My first objective is to help Fränk and Haimar and see how far I can go. I've got a good chance to go for a stage too. I'm realistic about what I can achieve but I believe I can do that. We'll see how the Tour goes.
"I'm not unhappy. I'm happy. It would be cynical to say I want to be team leader and go for overall, now. It's a long way to back for me but this is the first step. I'm happy with that situation."
Schleck's future remains unclear but he insisted his career is not coming to an end just yet.
"Life and cycling are full of surprises. We hope to do a good Tour and we hope that we can still have a long career ahead of us," he said of himself and brother Fränk.
"When we started with Trek we had a good relationship. We hope it continues as it is, except for my condition in races. I hope to be back to where I was two or three years ago. I believe I can do that.
"Maybe people look at me and say he's not a good rider anymore but I believe I am, otherwise I wouldn't be here and wouldn't be doing the Tour de France. The goal is to get back to where I was. It's a long way back and won't be easy but I'm a fighter.
"There's no need to go back over the past, there's a good interview on Cyclingnews that explains the last two years. This is not the place to go into details. The last two years have been tough but I'm working hard to come back.
Fränk Schleck preferred to stay in the present. “I think we've got three tough weeks ahead of us at he Tour de France and think we should focus on that," he said.
"We should live in the present, not the future. There's a big challenge ahead, that's what matters now."
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