Luxembourg’s Leopard-Trek team ready to pounce
LUXEMBOURG (VN) — The name of the new Leopard-Trek team came about almost by accident, but its goals are nothing short of domination in the classics and the Tour de France during the 2011 season.
The name of the new Leopard-Trek team — confirmed Thursday afternoon to about 200 assembled media — wasn’t by design, but the Luxembourg-based team anchored by the Schleck brothers and classics star Fabian Cancellara wants to win cycling’s most important races, with the northern classics and the Tour de France firmly on their radar.
Team general manager Brian Nygaard said Leopard is the name of the Luxembourg holding company created by businessman and real estate investor, Flavio Becca, that will own and operate the new team and will remain the team’s brand name for the foreseeable future.
“We had a meeting with a notary and when we signed the papers, he asked us what we wanted to call the company. I looked at Becca and we said ‘we don’t care, can you pick a name? ‘” Nygaard explained. “He came back two weeks later with Leopard, and the more I looked at it, the more I liked it. The leopard is a slick, strong, elegant animal, and if we can be something like that with this team, I’d be very happy.”
The rest of the team’s creation was anything but accidental. With Becca’s financial backing guaranteed up to four years and the arrival of important co-sponsors such as Trek, Nygaard and former Saxo Bank sport director Kim Andersen quickly assembled the most potent lineup going into the 2011 season.
Tour contenders Frank and Andy Schleck join Cancellara and four other ex-Saxo Bank riders to create the core of the team that promises to be competitive in all aspects of racing. Other top arrivals include Brice Feillu, Daniele Bennati, Linus Gerdemann and Jakob Fulgsang.
“I think we can be competitive in any type of race,” Nygaard continued. “From sprints, to cobblestones, to going uphill, and with some good luck on the downhill crashes, I think we can win a lot of races.”
The Schleck brothers will take aim for the Tour, with the younger Andy Schleck hoping to improve by one after two runner-up performances at the season’s most important stage race. Frank will race Paris-Nice and the Vuelta al País Vasco while Andy will head to Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of California before the brothers reunite for the Tour de Suisse ahead of July.
“The dream is still to win the Tour and that will be the top goal of the season,” Andy Schleck said. “I know we have the team to win the Tour.”
Cancellara, meanwhile, said he wants to continue his dominance on the cobblestones and said following the Schleck exodus out of Saxo Bank was a move he could not afford to miss.
“I wanted to respect my contract (with Bjarne Riis), but I also had to look at myself,” Cancellara said. “A lot of things changed (at Saxo Bank) and I didn’t feel it would be the same. I had different options, but I think I chose the right option with this new team. Bike racing is more than just training, racing and cashing your check. This will help me keep the motivation and focus.”
Nygaard said the team promises to be competitive yet race with “soul” throughout its debut season as cycling’s latest super-team. The new 27-rider squad vows to let their results do the talking.
“To be honest, there’s a lot of bullshit in cycling. Cycling has been taken away from the fans. We want to bring cycling back to its true roots,” Nygaard said. “Cycling is a sport of fit, healthy, clean racers, putting on a number and racing hard. We would like this team to have a soul. We don’t want to be a team that just does everything correct, but does it with a soul.”
Winning remains the top objective, with Andersen believing his team can win and win often.
“We have a very strong team and I think we can do our work. If we don’t win the first race or if we don’t win the second race, I am not worried,” Andersen said. “I know we will win a lot of races.”
Leopard-Trek Project for 2011
• Daniele Bennati (Ita), Liquigas-Doimo – sprinter, classics