Fränk Schleck (Leopard-Trek) has said that he and his brother Andy were not involved in the initial development of their new team and that they only received a concrete offer to join after the Tour of Luxembourg in June. The pair left Saxo Bank to sign for the Luxembourg squad.
“I’m not going to say that I’d never heard anything, because I’d heard all the rumours but rumours were of no interest to us,” Schleck at the Leopard-Trek team presentation in Luxembourg on Thursday. “Then after the Tour of Luxembourg we had a concrete offer, which was interesting.”
Schleck said that he and Andy were upfront with Saxo Bank manager Bjarne Riis throughout the process, and explained to him that the lure of leading a home-based team was simply too great to resist.
“Three days after we received the offer we went to Bjarne and we told him in time and very nicely,” Schleck said. “We thanked him for the eight years that he gave us and for helping us to grow and we’re still thankful to him for what he did for us.
“We were fair with him. We told him three days after we heard ourselves. We just told him that a dream was coming true. There was an opportunity in Luxembourg that was going to happen and I loved the idea already.”
Schleck was reticent to talk about his brother Andy’s expulsion from Saxo Bank’s Vuelta a España team after he broke the team’s internal code on alcohol consumption, but he insisted that his respect for Riis remained intact throughout the affair.
“It’s an old story. Bjarne was the boss and I respected the boss,” Schleck said. “I didn’t necessarily agree with it, but I respected his decision.”
Schleck was happier to discuss his new Leopard-Trek line-up and he underlined his enthusiasm at the prospect of riding with a number of his closest friends.
“I have great friends on the team,” he acknowledged. “Fabian [Cancellara] and Stuart [O’Grady] are two of my best friends, and there are others on the team too. We call each other, text each other. It’s great fun here. It’s fun to go to races with your friends rather than with somebody you maybe don’t like.
“We have a very, very good team. We have a lot of nations, so the horizons are very large and I’m sure that it’s going to work out fine.”
While paying tribute to the international dimension of Leopard-Trek, Schleck also expressed his pride at the team’s Luxembourg identity and admitted that the impact he and Andy have made in their country is still sinking in.
“It’s hard to appreciate what we’ve done and how many people we’ve touched,” Schleck said. “Maybe at the end of our careers we’ll realise that we’ve made part of Luxembourg cycling history. This is very satisfying for all of Luxembourg.”
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.