In a post-race interview with Eurosport after Thursday’s Stage 12, Team RadioShack’s Director Johan Bruyneel summed up the frustration and disappointment felt by the entire team and its fans with the numerous calamities that have befallen the group so far at this year’s Tour de France. With the months of preparation and hard work every member of the team invested in this effort and the high hopes that were harbored by many with 4 serious podium contenders on the squad, it’s been a disheartening 2 weeks with an almost complete reversal of fortune for this powerful team. Seems Lady Luck not only turned her back on The Shack, but was vengeful in the process.
Johan vented a little of his dejection when asked what his version of the day’s stage was, which saw another crash by one of RadioShack’s top hopefuls, the strong German Andreas Klöden, who was already riding injured from numerous crashes in previous stages. Coasting on a downhill turn, just behind race leader Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler, Klöden appeared to brake slightly seeing Voeckler lose control, and Andreas’ front tire slid out sending him down hard on his right shoulder. He shredded skin everywhere: shoulder, elbow, knee and reinjured his back, which he’d been nursing for several stages. He looked like he’d been through a war zone as he remounted his bike. Though he finished the stage, he lost bucketfuls of time on the leaders as well as any hope now of a podium placement when this crashfest concludes on July 24th in Paris.
Johan said, “It’s just too much bad luck. “ Talking about rearranging priorities and goals daily to compensate for the carnage, he said, “There’s nothing else we can do in this Tour de France. We must have done something wrong to have this much bad luck.” With a broken nose, collar bone, concussions, bruises, cuts, scrapes, and illness causing 3 RadioShack riders to abandon and a majority of those left to limp along well below their peak ability, Johan said he and the team are trying to stay as positive as possible, saying, “We keep trying to stay motivated, [but] this is not what we came for, we’re very disappointed.”
Johan went on to talk about what else they may try to do in the final 9 stages to come, but admitted that their options are becoming quite limited. In very characteristic fashion he realistically summed things up saying the team needed to pursue other goals, “now that the general classification is gone, [and] we cannot win the team classification anymore, so the only thing left now is maybe a stage win. But out of the 6 guys we have left, 5 are hurt, so it’s not going to be easy.”
Always the gentleman and ever the watchful competitive strategist, Johan went on to answer questions about the other rider’s chances and how some of the main contenders are looking after the first high mountain stage. He said that Contador didn’t look that good on a stage where he should have tried more than simply “limit losses,” that the Schlecks and Evans did look good, and that the other candidates, “of which we [Team RadioShack] are not part of anymore,” should pay attention to Voeckler as he continues to strongly defend his current lead. He went on to say that for many, “it’s far from over, a lot of things can happen.” Unfortunately, this proud leader, the most successful Director Sportif in cycling, was not referring to his own team’s chances when he said it.
By George Hurst, staff writer