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LUXEMBOURG (VN) — The Schleck brothers insist that the new Leopard-Trek squad unveiled Thursday is more about the overall team experience than their own personal ambitions to win the Tour de France.
Despite the team’s heavy focus on Luxembourg’s national cycling heroes, Fränk and Andy Schleck insisted Thursday that they are just two more members of the squad and say they will not call the shots on the duchy’s first major professional team.
“It is not Team Schleck,” Fränk told VeloNews. “Maybe we are the team captains for races like the Tour de France, but everyone here will have a chance to win. This is not a team just focused on us. We have riders like Fabian (Cancellara) and others who will win and carry this team.”
The Schleck brothers are the biggest sport stars in a long time to come out of Luxembourg, the world’s last remaining sovereign grand duchy.
That star power was on full display Thursday. Nearly 200 journalists showed up for an afternoon press introduction before more than 4,000 people attended a flash opening ceremony in a sold-out performance that saw tickets for the free seats gobbled up within hours.
With a population of about 500,000 and encircled by France, Germany and Belgium, Luxembourg is more well-known for its deep forests and playing seat to many of the institutions of the European Union than for its sport superstars.
Its soccer team is one of Europe’s worst and has never qualified for the World Cup. Marc Giradelli was an Olympic and world champion alpine skier in the 1990s while Charly Gaul, known as the “Angel of the Mountains,” won the Tour de France way back in 1958.
Into that void step the Schleck brothers and the high-profile Leopard-Trek team. They’ve already been dominating the sports news for years — Thursday’s team presentation made front-page news in the Le Quotidien daily — but the brothers remain low-key, accessible and prefer to retreat to their family hometown of Mondorf, where they hunt and fish during the off-season.
And they promise that will not change with the new team.
“I really didn’t have much to do with the organization of the team,” Andy Schleck said Thursday. “I suggested that we hire a few riders, but I have not been involved with the details of organizing the team.”
Both brothers say they’re more interested in racing and getting the maximum out of their best years as professionals, something that’s a marked contrast to such riders as Lance Armstrong or Alexander Vinokourov, who played key roles in the shaping, management, direction and even ownership of their respective teams.
“This team is not just about us. We have some young riders who will be big riders in the future,” Andy Schleck continued. “This is a dream come true to have a team in Luxembourg. I never thought it would be possible to have a team like this. We will all work together to make it a success, and that means trying to win the Tour, but also the classics and other races throughout the year.”
Whether they like it or not, all eyes will be on the Schleck brothers this season.
It’s something they’ve grown accustomed to over the years, but the stakes are even higher with the financial backing of Flavio Becca, a Luxembourger who made his fortune in construction, and who has made a four-year commitment to Luxembourg’s first team.
Both brothers say they will stick to what works, with an early season focus on the Ardennes classics and then the Tour de France after a short break. They also insist their new team and the new responsibilities will not change their unique relationship.
“We have no rivalry between us,” Fränk explained. “That does not exist. It’s better to have to us to share the responsibility of the team. There are a lot of familiar faces, but this is a new team. We are excited about what we can do.”
But both let it be clear that they are very happy on their home team: “We want to retire with this team,” Fränk said. “With hopefully a few yellow jerseys to our name.”