May 10, 2012 0
The more things change, the more they stay the same? So journalist Anthony Tan tells us.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I like Anthony. I like it when he gets air time providing commentary on Le Tour. And I really like it that he is a passionate supporter of international cycling. But (sorry, Anthony) I don’t buy this one.
See, Fränk Schleck, older brother of the exceptional Andy and an impressive cyclist in his own right, should be on holiday right now. Instead he received an eleventh hour call-up to the Giro d’Italia, saying, Fränk, how about it? And to his credit, Fränk said hey, I’m not quite in form but I like this year’s course and I’ll give it a go.
Tan says ‘I accept that Jakob Fuglsang, RadioShack-Nissan-Trek’s original leader for the Giro, is still out due to injury, but compromising a potential podium at the Tour for an unlikely podium at the Giro? It just doesn’t make sense. Couldn’t Fränk simply have told team manager Johan Bruyneel no?’
To begin with Tan’s latter point, quite apart from any politics and desire to demonstrate goodwill within the team, Fränk’s keen to be there. He wants to ride the Giro, and why shouldn’t he? For a cyclist to turn down an opportunity to participate in the Giro, simply because it may impact his performance in Le Tour is to imply that Le Tour is a far more important race, a view with which I’d heartily disagree. Like Le Tour and Vuelta a España, the Giro’s one of the three Grand Tours, and it’s more than reasonable to attribute our obsession with the Tour – at least in part – to manufactured media hype. The Giro is one of the world’s great races, a truth that is not in the least diminished by insufficient coverage, nor by slighter interest from once-a-year cycling enthusiasts. As former race director Angelo Zomegnan says, ‘It is often very different from the Tour de France. The Giro has a life and soul of its own.’
And what of compromising a potential podium finish at Le Tour? Consider this year’s Tour route for a moment. Consider that the organisers have significantly added to the distance covered by the three time trials, if not the 6.1km prologue in Liège. Consider that Fränk is a specialist climber, and that a time trial will potentially defeat him every single time.
Elsewhere, Tan waxes lyrical about O’Grady’s remarkable 2008 performance on the 16.2km individual time trial in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, essentially suggesting that Fränk – to put it more bluntly than Tan – just needs to get his shit together. But is this fair? For starters, this year’s Tour route incorporates brutal 41.5km and 53.5km time trials, arguably requiring a somewhat different skill set. And further, it must be remembered that O’Grady was a part of the team who won the team trials at the 2001 Tour de France and 2006 Vuelta a España. Certainly, team trialling is yet another different experience, but it does hint that he’s far from a time trialling disappointment.
At least in comparison to previous years, the 2012 Tour is all about the individual time trials, and Fränk ain’t going to love it. He’s a resolute competitor and I’d be taken aback to see him give less than his best effort in Le Tour, but it isn’t looking like his year.
Interestingly, in other places Tan has made a few comments about the Giro noting that it really is a very close field this year with no stand-out favourite. He’s said that there are around ten serious contenders for the overall win, and – somewhat inconsistently, given his criticisms – he’s included Fränk in their number. While I agree it’s a close field, I don’t have a strong opinion on Fränk’s capability to take the race out. However, if one is going to argue that Fränk’s in the running, it’s curious to suggests he ought to have passed up Giro to improve his chances in a Tour that is really not looking too good.
So, could ‘Fränk simply have told team manager Johan Bruyneel no?’ Perhaps. Should a passionate cyclist pass up a race he truly wants to ride, simply to boost his chances in a more media saturated race which is less than likely to showcase his talent?’
Ride your Giro, Fränk Schleck. If it makes you happy, you’ve already won.