Now in its fourth iteration since Andy and Fränk Schleck led a delegation of refugees from Saxo Bank to establish Leopard Trek ahead of the 2011 season, Jens Voigt believes that the revamped Trek Factory Racing squad maintains the same spirit of its beginnings.
The original Leopard Trek line-up was widely dubbed a "band of brothers," in part because of the Luxembourgish pair, but also because the key riders appeared to have a greater than normal input into the running of their squad. That impression was bolstered by the hiring of erstwhile press officer Brian Nygaard as team manager, a sea change from the close tutelage of Bjarne Riis at Saxo Bank.
"We had a great start with Team Leopard in 2011 and I think we’re just reinforcing this band of brothers team right now for this year again," Voigt told reporters ahead of Trek Factory Racing’s presentation in Roubaix on Friday. "I like teams that are run like that."
Nygaard was quickly discarded by Leopard Trek when backer Flavio Becca shoehorned his team to RadioShack for the 2012 season, turning the band of brothers into a supposed super group under the stewardship of Johan Bruyneel, a rather dubious svengali.
When USADA’s Reasoned Decision did for Bruyneel’s career in October 2012, Luca Guercilena was elevated to the manager’s role to steady a floundering ship and he remains in situ following Trek’s acquisition of Becca’s WorldTour licence. In spite of all of the changes over the past four seasons, the four riders who met the press on Friday afternoon – Voigt, Cancellara and the Schleck brothers – had all raced together in CSC, Saxo Bank, Leopard Trek and RadioShack jerseys.
"I think I’ve been racing for probably six or seven years with Andy, Fränk and Fabian. Obviously we have a good friendship, and I really believe that each one of us in these years could have got a euro or two euros more on another team, but we never chose to take that option because we like to work with each other," said Voigt.
"Actually I don’t think there’s been a group of riders that stayed together for so long like us, now that you mention it. I think we all four of us see that we are in a lucky position. We are friends who can still work together in a great environment."
There has been a discernible change in the dynamic of the team since 2011, however. If Leopard Trek was assembled to win the Tour de France with Andy Schleck, the balance has shifted decidedly towards Fabian Cancellara’s classics ambitions in the intervening period.
Cancellara shrugs off the notion that Trek Factory Racing is in any way "his" outfit, however, and insisted that the riders are far less involved in the planning of the team than they were during the Leopard Trek era.
"When you look on the past for me, Fränk and Andy and Jens, we are probably more relaxed because we are less involved in many things. That gives us more space to perform because on the end, we want to perform and not to create," said Cancellara, adding that after years of flux, they were glad of the promise of a stable structure under new owners.
"I think it gives a big chance for us to spend our time on the road and perform there instead of hanging in offices, having meetings and talking by phone and being in charge of all the things. We’ll try to be the best in class on the road, and that’s what counts."
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