SAINT-PAUL-TRES-CHATEAUX, France (VN) ─ As the dust settled for Monday’s rest day in the Tour de France, many inside the peloton were looking at Leopard-Trek with a critical eye.In three stages across the Pyrénées, the Schleck brothers were unable to open substantial gaps over their two primary rivals – Cadel Evans and Alberto Contador.
Leopard-Trek sport director Kim Andersen defended the team’s performance through the Tour’s first climbing stages and shot back at critics.
“People can say what they want, but they are sitting in front of the television,” Andersen told VeloNews. “If the legs don’t react they want, you cannot change that. You cannot just program the human body like a robot.”
Andersen said the three mountain stages unfolded as they expected, but admitted that the Schleck brothers didn’t have the legs they needed to make substantial gains on their top GC rivals.
“We had a very nice tactic. We made the race hard, but the legs were not there to make the difference as we had hoped, but we cannot know this before the stage starts,” Andersen continued. “We have to try. OK, things didn’t go as we hoped and we didn’t win anything, but we didn’t lose anything, either. Yes, we wanted to win the stage and take some time, but it didn’t work out.”
Andersen said Leopard-Trek remains confident it can deliver one of the Schleck brothers into the yellow jersey in Paris. Frank was strong at Luz-Ardiden, but seemed less sharp at Plateau de Beille. Andy looked better at Beille, but was only able to take two seconds out of the GC rivals.
“We are feeling pretty confident. The team works very nice together. OK, we didn’t get as much out of it as we had hoped, but you never know. Maybe the hard efforts of the others will cost them later,” he said. “I cannot say the victory is there, but it is possible for sure. We are second and fourth, everything is possible, but it’s not going to be easy.”
Andersen said the team will stick with its two-pronged approach and protect both Schleck brothers. He said the team will rally around the one who has the legs on the day.
He said Contador and Evans are their top rivals, saying they could use a stronger Contador in the Alps to their advantage to distance a more dangerous Evans.
“Alberto is not at his best, they are all equal. Maybe that’s normal after he does a hard Giro. Maybe he gets better in the Alps, we don’t know. I think it would be good if Alberto could attack, because we can go with him. We have a good gap with him,” Andersen said. “I don’t like to put a number on it – but we need more time on (Evans). He is the most dangerous one right now if nothing changes, but it will change. The Alps will decide everything in this Tour. Those big climbs will be hard for everyone.”
Andersen also said the team is not forgetting about Thomas Voeckler, who is the surprise of the Pyrénées.
“Voeckler is stronger than we thought,” he said. “Of course, he is a problem. He is a problem for everyone.”