Fränk Schleck on Leopard-Shack: ‘It’s going to be a great team’

Fränk Schleck says a stronger team forged by the merger of Leopard-Trek and RadioShack will only bring good things for next season.

Fränk Schleck says a stronger team forged by the merger of Leopard-Trek and RadioShack will only bring good things for next season.

The elder of the Schleck brothers told VeloNews that the fusion of the two teams will bolster he and his brother’s chances of winning the Tour de France next year.

“It will be even stronger. That’s the idea of why they’re doing it, to have the strongest team,” Schleck told VeloNews. “It’s good for us, for me, Andy, Fabian, Kloden and Horner. It’s going to be a great team.”

Schleck got his first look at the new lineup last week when riders and staff met for the first time during a meeting in Belgium. Another mini-camp is scheduled for December as the new-look RadioShack-Nissan-Trek team takes shape going into 2012.

Backed by Luxembourg investor Fabio Becca, the Schleck brothers were the focus of Leopard-Trek in what was hailed as the new super-team this season. Becca, however, was unhappy with how the team performed and reached out to RadioShack manager Johan Bruyneel about taking over management of the team. The pair decided to join forces, bringing together the best riders from both squads to create what will be one of the powerful teams next year.

Schleck says that will be critical, especially in light of a 2012 Tour route that’s long on time trials and light on decisive mountain-top finishes.

“There is one less mountain-top finish last year, but there are 25 climbs, there were 23 this year. With a strong team, we will have our chances,” he continued. “Yes, 90km in time trials does not favor us, but we will take the challenge to Cadel (Evans) next year. We will have the strongest team.”

The Schleck brothers and 11 other riders are staying on with the merged team. All of the remainder of Leopard-Trek’s 2011 lineup have found new teams for next season. Schleck insists the Luxembourg identity remains strong.

“We still have the luxembourg team. RadioShack is joining that, and of that, we’re very proud,” he continued. “I am looking forward to get it going. As far as the rumors of what’s going to happen, let’s wait to see how things come together. That was just like last year at Leopard-Trek, everyone was speculating about everything. We decided to wait to see and it turned out great. We have a lot of trust in those people and they know what they’re doing.”

He also said finishing as brothers on the Tour podium this year — with Andy second and Frank third — was a dream come true, but there remains some unfinished business.

“It was was special moment for us, second and third, a dream come true for us being together on the podium,” he said. “It still gives us some space for the top, That’s what we’re going for next year.”