Thursday, 23 June 2011

#TDF The Teams 3 - Team Radioshack

Without Lance Armstrong who announced his retirement in February the team that bears his Livestrong armband on their left sleeve are without a named leader. Not that there isn't a list of options to take on that mantle. They are also going to the line with 12 times starter sprinter Robbie McEwan, who although he as been losing out in recent years to the new generation of sprinters still has been up there in the mix.

So who are the nine men to carry on the legacy of their former leader and Tour legend. After all two of their team have podiumed in Paris and three more have been in the top 10 of the General Classification.

074 Andreas Klöden (Ger) 36 The big German (at 6ft he is big for a cyclist) has been 2nd twice in the Tour, in 2004 behind Armstrong and in 2006 (after the exclusion of Flold Landis) behind Oscar Pereiro. In 2004 he was meant to be a domestique to fellow German Jan Ullrich, but after riding a great time in the final time trial ended up 2'31" ahead of his team leader. This season he won the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and finished runner-up in Paris-Nice. 9th Tour Start: Best 2nd (2006)

075 Levi Leipheimer (USA) 37 Was third behind Contador in his first win in 2007, as well as three other top ten finishes. For many years was Armstrong's right hand man in the mountains but did seem to crack last year when the pressure was applied and trailed in 13th. However, this year he has come back strong and for a warm up won the Tour de Suisse. 9th TS: Best 3rd (2007)

072 Chris Horner (USA) 39 He may be the old man of the team, but Horner was the best placed of the team's riders in last year's Tour making it into the top 10, just over 12 minutes down. Having started the Tour as support for Armstrong he was only released to ride his own race once the legend had cracked in the Mountains. This year he started out by dominating the season opening Tour of California. 4th TS: Best 10th (2010)

Any of the above three were they to win, would become the olderst winner in Tour history and all three are still hungry enough to want it.

078 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) 31 The Ukrainian has often found himself to be a Super Domestique for some of the top riders. He was the best young rider on the Tour in 2005, when he finished 12th. But his best rides in the Grand Tours have been in the Giro, where he finished 3rd in 2003 and 5th in 2004. In 2007 as Super Domestique to Contador he ended up finsihing 8th in the Tour. Although in recent years his form has been poor finishing only 85th last year. 7th TS: Best 8th (2007)

071 Jani Brajkovič (Slo) 27 The Slovene has that rare thing, a victory over an in form Alberto Contador, which he acheived in the 2010 Critérium du Dauphiné. Matching him in the mountains and then beating him over a longer time trial, he has been the Slovenian Time Trial Champion. He rode last year's Tour mainly in support of Armstrong and came in 43rd. But he's been 7th in Paris-Nice and Tour de Romandie this season. With the younger legs he may be the man to assume the leadership over a 3 week tour. 2nd TS: Best 43rd (2010)

079 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) 34 The Basque man and former Euskaltel-Euskadi rider has been 5th in Paris twice (2003, 2007). In that 2003 Tour he had some great finishes against Armstrong and Jan Ullrich in the mountains. He is therefore alwaays considered a great climber but also is a decent time triallist which does not always go together. However, he didn't race last year and has not got the form of some of the others on his team that would earmark him as a contender to lead the team. 10th TS: Best 5th (2003 & 2007)

073 Markel Irizar (Spa) 31 Another Basqu member of the team. A domestique in the team, but like Armstrong is a testicular cancer survivor. Debut Tour

076 Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) 31 The three time Kazakh National Time Trial Champion (2003-05) and once the Road Race Champion 2002. He is the only Kazahk to have follow Johann Bruyneel, the Team Manager, from the Astana days to Radio Shack. Has come 148th twice in two previous starts. 3rd TS: Best 148th (2009,10)

077 Sérgio Paulinho (Por) 31 Picked up a stage win last year on the medium mountain stage from Chambéry to Gap. A third member of this team to have been their national Time Trial Champion (2008). He was also the Silver Medalist in the Road Race at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Radioshack may well have one of the highest average ages of any of the teams, possibly a legacy of the Armstrong cadré. Without someone designated as leader it may be a bit of a free for all to determine who that is through the Pyrénées. I don't fancy their chances of a top five finish with this squad unless Brajkovič comes through strong.

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