Amid speculation that Tour de France winner Alberto Contador is poised to join the Saxo Bank team for 2011, brothers Andy and Fränk Schleck have confirmed that they will be leaving to join a new squad based in their native Luxembourg.
Frank and Andy Schleck are ready to leave the team they’ve ridden on for most of their careers.
In an interview with the daily newspaper Le Quotidien, Tour de France runner-up Andy Schleck said that while plans for the new team are incomplete, he and his 30-year-old brother will not extend their existing contracts with the team run by Bjarne Riis.
“Even if we don’t yet know what our future holds, it is certain, it’s official that we are no longer riding for Bjarne next year,” the 25-year-old Andy Schleck told the paper.
Andy Schleck has spent five years and Fränk eight alongside Riis, who had, in advance of the Tour de France, already conceded that the brothers were unlikely to remain on the team.
“I cannot imagine a new Luxembourg team without Frank and Andy Schleck on it,” Riis said.
Meanwhile, Andy Schleck acknowledged that Riis was actively courting Contador, but made it clear that the two wouldn’t be riding on the same team.
Far less perturbed about the Schlecks leaving Saxo Bank than I am about the idea of Alberto Contadouche JOINING Saxo Bank (or whatever it’s going to be called next year).
It’s perfectly understandable for Luxembourg’s two brightest cycling stars (Kim Kirchen being the third) leaving their current team to help launch a team based in their home country.
Bjarne Riis courting cycling’s biggest star (and winner of the last 5 Grand Tours he’s started) to replace his loss, but as a fan of the team, you hate to seem them courting the enemy. It’s like the Boston Red Sox trying to sign A-Rod or Jeter … it’s just wrong!
Riis’s talent is in developing riders and helping them show their true potential; he’s done it with the Schleck brothers and Fabian Cancellara; he helped revitalize Bobby Julich’s career before his retirement … and there are a number of other examples. He doesn’t need to sign a new star to replace the one’s he is losing; he’s got the talent within the team already, and should focus on bringing up more new riders.
Thankfully, nothing has been finalized yet, and the silly season will be interesting to watch as recruitment gets underway in full force.