Lionel Marie, sport director at Garmin-Cervélo, says Alberto Contador will have an ace up his sleeve this July in his showdown against Andy Schleck. Why? Because Marie says that Bjarne Riis knows his former pupil, Andy Schleck, better than anyone, and the Dane will be able to pick up the tell-tale signs when the younger of the Schleck brothers is pushing into the red.
Schleck was part of a high-profile move from Riis’s camp to form the new Leopard-Trek unit. Now Riis and Schleck will be adversaries, something Marie said will play into Contador’s hands.
“Riis knows Andy Schleck better than anyone. When Andy has a bad moment, Riis will notice it faster than anyone,” Marie told VeloNews. “Everyone has a ‘tell sign,’ something small that only the sport directors from the teams know. Some riders are very good at covering it up, but whether it’s a small thing, how they sit on the bike or how they’re holding the handle bars or a look on their face. Riis will know when Andy is not going well.”
That insider information could prove decisive as the Schleck-Contador showdown looks to be one of the top stories in next month’s Tour. Marie said sport directors build an intimate relationship with their riders over long hours, months and years of working together. So if Schleck is just slightly off his best, Marie insists that Riis will probably be able to pick it up.
“Having Riis in his corner will help Contador at the Tour,” Marie continued. “Riis is very experienced and he knows how to handle the race.”
Contador is slated to race the Tour despite his unresolved clenbuterol case. Schleck has publicly stated that he prefers Contador to be at the start line so he can “beat him.” Schleck has finished runner-up to Contador the past two editions of the Tour and will be supported by a strong Leopard-Trek team, many of whom raced with Riis last year at Saxo Bank-Sungard. That dynamic should be one of the most compelling stories during the 2011 Tour.
Marie, meanwhile, says he believe Contador could well pull off the Giro-Tour double. Marie said despite the toughness of this year’s Giro route, Contador was never put under serious pressure from his rivals.
“Contador is the best stage-racer in the world right now. I think he can win the Tour,” Marie said. “No one attacked him during the Giro. This Giro was difficult, but I wonder how much energy he spent. The Giro course was so hard that everyone was trying to save something and the race was blocked. People were afraid to attack because they didn’t want to blow up and lose everything. That helped Contador control the race.”