Remember our earlier commentary about how all the ProTour squads seemed to be going over the top with their 2013 team launches (see Cannondale and OPQS). Well, apparently RadioShack-Leopard-Trek didn't get the memo.
As you can see from the photos below, the Luxembourg-registered squad went decidedly old school: Gather a bunch of press and VIPs in a bland hotel conference room (or something along those lines), ask a few questions on stage, take some photos, and then turn loose the media horde. Not exactly high-brow stuff when compared a Hollywood gala or festive night of track racing.
In the team's defense, several riders and staff had already taken of for Australia's Tour Down Under when proceedings kicked off in Benidorm, Spain, for a training camp and team presentation to the media. And it hasn't exactly been smooth sailing lately for the team that traces some of its roots back to the famed (and now infamous) U.S. Postal Service squad.
This year's version of what most people will simply call RadioShack, retains most of its major parts from a year ago, save for former general manager Johan Bruyneel (of U.S. Postal fame), who was swamped by the tsunami that was the Lance Armstrong doping saga. Bruyneel's name was splashed all over USADA's Reasoned Decision, which was enough to get him canned from RSLT and likely will mark the end of his career in pro cycling - forever.
Also gone is Nissan, who decided it'd had enough with cycling's ongoing "image" problem, and decided to discontinue its support of the team.
But like a stone headed down hill, the squad rolls on. First up is the aforementioned Tour Down Under in Adelaide, Australia, where star rider Andy Schleck is hoping to start righting the wrongs of 2012. "I want to get in as much racing as possible this year," said Schleck, looking to make up for missed time in 2012 after a broken pelvis kept him out of the Tour de France.
Schleck is also slated to participate in the Ardennes spring classics before turning his focus on this year's Tour. With a route that's light on time trials (Schleck's weakness) and heavy on climbing (his strength), the 100th edition of the world's greatest bike race might just be the one he finally wins outright. (Schleck has finished twice three times, though his 2010 effort was later upgraded to a win after Alberto Contador was busted for doping.)
"I don't know if I can return to the form I saw in 2011, but I'm only 27 and I will do my best to get back to that place," said Schleck. "I think I still have many opportunities to win."
Also looking for a modicum of redemption is classics-specialist Fabian Cancellara. A crash kept him out of the 2012 Paris-Roubaix, his favorite race. "I can't wait to be back there in the heat of battle once again," said Cancellara. "I've worked so hard during my winter training and I'm certain that with some luck I can get back into the best possible race rhythm."
And of course, the ageless Chris Horner (he turned 41 in October) is back for another year. The American will target May's Amgen Tour of California, then turn his attention to the Tour de France will he'll be tasked with aiding Schleck - and stepping up if the young rider falters again.
Still up in the air is the plight of Andy's big brother, Frank Schleck. He tested positive for a diuretic in the 2012 Tour de France, but has yet to have his final sentencing handed down. The elder Schleck attended a final disciplinary hearing in mid-January and is supposed to learn his fate by the end of the month.
"I was able to explain myself once again," said Schleck, who has claimed that either his sample was contaminated or the presence of the diuretic was accidental. "I have never made a mistake."
Whatever the outcome, it's clear the entire team cant wait to put 2012 behind them.
All photos courtesy: RadioShack Leopard Trek