The racing’s well underway in the 2011 ProTour season, and it’s clear that Team RadioShack (TRS) means to make its mark during its sophomore campaign. With the team’s well-known founder, Lance Armstrong, announcing his retirement after this year, and already concluding participation in international races for the season, there’s plenty of opportunity for the many other strong riders on the team to shine. And that’s exactly what they intend to do, it seems!
In fact, during the team’s inaugural season last year there were already strong efforts, stage wins, and podium spots won by the likes of Levi Leipheimer, Jani Brajkovic, Sergio Paulinho, and Chris Horner (among others). The team is continuing to show its depth and diversity of talent as 2011 ProTour racing powers on into the spring.
Already there was reason for excitement as this year’s roster solidified. The team lost a few riders to other squads, but also picked up a strong one-two punch, especially to contend sprints, with the signing of Robbie McEwen and Robbie Hunter, both successful veteran sprinters on the ProTour.
McEwen quickly made his mark in the Tour Down Under that kicked off the season in January, contending several sprint finishes and even standing atop the podium in the GC after Stage 2.
TRS built on the energy found Down Under with the squad they put on the start line for the Driedaagse (Three Days in West Flanders). The Shack delivered a sort of cycling “hat trick”, taking all three places on the podium in Belgium. Jesse Sergent, the rookie up from the U23 Trek-Livestrong team, stood on top with the win. Sebastien Rosseler and Michael Kwiatkowski rounded out the TRS Troika.
At the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal, Andreas Kloden gave a hint of things to come. Showing good form, this TRS’ veteran racer finished fifth overall in the GC. Tiago Machado also road well throughout the race, demonstrating why he is another key contributor to the team and contender for the podium again this season.
Soon there after, another Shack squad attained similar results next door in Spain, during the five day regional stage race, the Vuelta a Andalucia. When all was said and done, Markel Irizar stood atop the podium in the GC, with three teammates — Levi Leipheimer (3rd), Haimar Zubeldia (8th), and Ivan Rovny (10th) — giving TRS four of the top ten positions at the finish.
In the Giro di Sardegna, Team RadioShack finished the five day race around the island of Sardina, with promising results as well. With a good mix of veterans and younger riders, TRS had two racers finish in the top 20. Ben Hermans had a sixth position result at the finish and Matthew Busche ended up in the 17th slot. Good to see for these two riders!
It was then on to Paris-Nice, where the “Race to the Sun” would become “race to the rain” in the final days, but Team RadioShack’s squad would again shine bright. The brightest outcome was undoubtedly for Andreas Kloden, with a Stage 5 victory and the dual honor of wearing the GC-leader’s yellow jersey to start the next day’s time trial. Kloden would finish the eight day race to southern France in the number two spot on the podium behind countryman and HTC standout Tony Martin; no shame in that game. Also continuing to show good form early in the season were Levi Leipheimer (who finished 8th), and Jani Brajkovic (who finished 7th).
Finally, at the Tirreno-Adriatico (“Race of the Two Seas”) in Italy just concluded, TRS again raced well as a team. In this race considered by some an important primer for the Milano-San Remo classic later in the season, The Shack again had two riders in the top 20. Tiago Machado again showed good form, finishing 7th overall; back again for the second TRS season, the veteran Kazakh rider Dmitriy Muravyev finished in 16th place for the GC.
Summed up, there’s plenty of reason to follow The Shack throughout their sophomore season in the ProTour. With new faces and those well-known, younger riders and veteran alike, it’s more than evident that Team RadioShack plans to race at the front of the peloton this year, contend for stage wins and podiums finishes, and generally give fans plenty to cheer about all season. Go Shack, GO!
By Jeff Ludlum, staff writer