Team RadioShack has trimmed down and announced the squad’s nine starters for next month’s Tour de France. Johan Bruyneel said Tuesday the team would enter le Grand Boucle with a four-headed GC attack.
“With (Jani) Brajkovic, (Chris) Horner, (Andreas) Klöden and (Levi) Leipheimer we will start with four guys who will be able to contend for the general classification,” said Bruyneel.
Bruyneel, who directed all seven of Lance Armstrong’s Tour wins, and Alberto Contador’s first two, said he dealt with the problem of too many strong choices in cutting down his final roster.
“It was hard to make the selection of these nine riders,” he said. “After the injury of Sébastien Rosseler, we still had a pre-selection of 14 riders. In the end we can say that the complete 2011 Tour roster has been chosen based on the strongest team from both a sportive and experience criteria.”
Rounding out the RadioShack Tour squad are Markel Irizar, Dmitriy Muravyev, Sergio Paulinho, Yaroslav Popovych and Haimar Zubeldia. Missing from the squad are sprinters Robbie Hunter and Robbie McEwen.
“The hardest part has been to disappoint some non-selected riders,” said Bruyneel. “It is obvious that we will tackle this 2011 Tour de France with podium contenders. We are aware we won’t win mass sprints this Tour but we decided that a good GC will be worth it and we make it our main goal in this Tour.
“As we do every year, the directors and I carefully evaluate all the riders in contention. It’s never an easy decision for us to make, but in the end, we feel confident that the chosen riders will help us achieve our goals for the 2011 Tour de France.”
After 2009 when the recently returned Armstrong battle for team leadership with eventual winner Alberto Contador, Bruyneel knows well that too many GC men could lead to problems. In fact, he said, RadioShack’s numbers would help them turn the tables on overall favorites Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) and Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek).
“Jani Brajkovic beat Alberto Contador in last year’s Critérium du Dauphiné. At age 39 Chris Horner dominated the Tour of California and proves to get better with the years. Andreas Klöden has had a healthy and strong season so far, winning the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and finishing as runner-up in Paris-Nice. And then Levi … he was so impressive in Switzerland; he is ready,” said Bruyneel.
“Too many leaders is not an ideal situation, but we are confident we can turn this into an advantage. Together we are strong to fight against Contador and the Schlecks. Moreover, after the first decisive stages you already have a very good idea on the tactics to follow. We proved in the past that Team RadioShack is a real team. All riders sacrifice themselves with pleasure for the common goal. Team RadioShack is not a mixture of individuals.”
RadioShack for the Tour de France:
- Jani Brajkovic (Slo)
- Chris Horner (USA)
- Markel Irizar (Sp)
- Andreas Klöden (G)
- Levi Leipheimer (USA)
- Dmitriy Muravyev (Kz)
- Sérgio Paulinho (P)
- Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr)
- Haimar Zubeldia (Sp)