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Tour de France

Schleck brothers top Saxo Bank’s Tour team

The Schleck brothers will carry Saxo Bank’s hopes for a podium finish into next month’s Tour de France. The Luxembourg tandem of Fränk and Andy Schleck led the nine-man team selection released Monday by Saxo Bank. The brothers are the team’s best bet to finish among the top three at the Tour following the departure from the squad of last year’s winner, Carlos Sastre.

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By Andrew Hood

The Schleck brothers at the start of the 2008 World Championships in Varese.

The Schleck brothers at the start of the 2008 World Championships in Varese.

Photo: Agence France Presse

The Schleck brothers will carry Saxo Bank’s hopes for a podium finish into next month’s Tour de France.

The Luxembourg tandem of Fränk and Andy Schleck led the nine-man team selection released Monday by Saxo Bank. The brothers are the team’s best bet to finish among the top three at the Tour following the departure from the squad of last year’s winner, Carlos Sastre.

“In Fränk and Andy Schleck, we have two super-powerful cards to play and the rest of the guys will be able to give them the right support,” said Saxo Bank manager Bjarne Riis. “We believe in a fantastic Tour de France for Team Saxo Bank.”

Fränk wore the yellow jersey and ended up a career-best sixth last year while Andy won the best young rider’s jersey and 12th overall in his Tour debut. Without Sastre, all the pressure will rest on their shoulders.

Saxo Bank for the Tour

Andy Schleck (Lux)
Fränk Schleck (Lux)
Fabian Cancellara (Swi)
Stuart O’Grady (Aus)
Jens Voigt (G)
Nicki Sørensen (Den)
Chris Anker Sørensen (Den)
Gustav Larsson (Swe)
Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor)?

Supporting the brothers will be a strong and experienced team that can aspire to snatch the yellow jersey early, with such riders as time trial specialist Fabian Cancellara, and then hunt for stages with head-bangers like Jens Voigt and Kurt-Asle Arvesen.

Riders such as Stuart O’Grady and Nicki Sørensen, both veterans in the trenches of major races, will provide a stable base for the team in the transition stages while Olympic time trial silver medalist Gustav Larsson will give the team extra kick in the team time trial.

One surprise is the selection of Danish climbing sensation Chris Anker Sørensen, a Tour rookie who will be able to help the Schlecks in the decisive mountain stages.

With a team as deep as Saxo Bank, several quality riders were left on the sidelines, including such names as Alexander Kolobnev, Karsten Kroon, Matti Breschel and American Jason McCartney.

“Just like the past couple of years, it has been a very difficult decision because there have been several excellent riders in our consideration for the nine spots for the Tour,” Riis said. “The riders have really timed their shape perfectly so it was a luxury problem having to choose. But now we have picked nine riders which together form an extremely strong lineup which could help dominating the course from the beginning to the end.”

One rider Riis expects to make an immediate impact is Cancellara, who won two stages and the overall at the Tour de Suisse, which closed Sunday in Bern.

“With Fabian in peak shape it is clear that we have a perfect chance of taking the yellow jersey from the start and there is absolutely no doubt that this is what we are here for,” Riis concluded. “At the same time, we have a homogeneous and powerful team for the team time trial and it should form the foundation for our efforts in the overall standings.”