Editor’s note: The January 2013 issue of Velo magazine, which is on newsstands now, is our 25th annual awards issue. Our 2012 Cyclist of the Year was announced on November 29; we’ll be rolling out various other award winners throughout the month of December.
International Disappointment of the Year: The Schleck Brothers
Ever since he finished runner-up to Cadel Evans in 2011, it appeared Andy Schleck would be looked to as the Tour leader of RadioShack-Nissan, a strong team with a shot at doing some real damage in July. He’d been awarded the 2010 Tour after Alberto Contador’s suspension, but perhaps Andy was on the brink of earning a Tour de France on the road. He’d certainly be part of the conversation.
“This team is built around helping Andy Schleck win the Tour,” said teammate Chris Horner. “If he has the form he had two years ago, he’ll win.” But after a lackluster spring campaign that failed to garner a single result worth mentioning, and then, a time trial crash at the Critérium du Dauphiné that saw him abandon with a fractured sacrum, his form was nowhere to be seen.
Disappointment was certain when he opted off the Tour team altogether; his race for the maillot jaune was over. It would be the first time he would miss a grand tour start in a season since he finished second in his debut at the 2007 Giro d’Italia.
So, his brother Fränk, third at the 2011 Tour, became one of three potential leaders for RadioShack-Nissan at the Tour, joining Horner and Andreas Klöden on a squad scratching for any positive results or publicity. Unfortunately, only six stages in, Fränk fell victim to the “Massacre in Metz,” the devastating crash that dashed the hopes of many. “It’s a pity; it’s just on the day before the Tour really starts,” sport director Dirk Demol said after the dust had settled. “Tomorrow we have the first climbs. We stayed out of trouble the whole week and today we had one in the crash and it’s our leader.”
Fränk lost 2:09 on the day, but that was far less than he lost when he produced an “adverse analytical finding” for the diuretic Xipamide in a sample taken on July 14, less than 10 days later.
Soon after, his B sample tested positive, but not before he abandoned the race in disgrace.
Since the summer, the Schleck brothers have been extremely quiet. Struggling to recover from his injuries, Andy’s only victory this season has been making it back to the WorldTour peloton. And even that was a serious struggle. He made it to the start of October’s Tour of Beijing — but his result was still shocking. On a 116km stage, he finished third-from-last, more than 15 minutes behind stage winner Tony Martin.
Meanwhile, Fränk’s case before the Luxembourg cycling federation was held in October. As of our print date, no decision had been made.
Shortly after the hearing, their father, ex-pro Johnny Schleck, advised his two sons to quit the sport. “I advised them to quit cycling,” Johnny told the French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche. “Frank is depressed. He spent a lot of money on medical analysis and lawyer’s fees trying to prove his innocence. This is not a life.”
For the Schlecks, who are used to riding at the highest levels of the sport, their performances in 2012 showed no life at all, and they can only hope for better in 2013 — if Fränk makes it back at all.
International Mechanical of the Year: Shelley Olds, Olympic road race
At one moment, American Shelley Olds was sitting in prime position for an Olympic medal; the next, she was by the side of the road, waiting for a wheel change, her dream shattered by a flat tire.
With roughly 40km remaining in the women’s Olympic road race, and no more trips over the Box Hill climb, Olds was in the winning move with Marianne Vos (Netherlands), Lizzie Armitstead (Great Britain), and Olga Zabelinskaya (Russia). But with about 29km remaining, disaster struck when Olds’ front wheel went flat. She took a wheel change and regained contact with the chasing peloton, but even with Germany, Italy, and the United States driving the chase, that group would never see the leading trio again. One of the best sprinters in the world and the winner of the Tour of Chongming Island World Cup, Olds could only watch as a near-certain Olympic medal rolled up the road. Vos, Armitstead, and Zabelinskaya would each take a medal, in that order.
Asked how she rated her chances at earning one of the three medals on offer for the four women in the break, Olds did her best to fight back the tears. “Of course, I think I had a chance for a medal,” she said. “I’ll pick my head back up, and I can be happy that I was in the winning move in the Olympic Games. Bad luck is a part of cycling, and it happened to me today, unfortunately.”