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Schleck brothers named to Trek Tour squad, but not as GC contenders

MILAN, Italy (VN) — Trek Factory Racing confirmed its Tour de France roster Wednesday and gave the green light to the Schleck brothers. Luxembourg’s Andy and Frank will race together in the Tour for the first time since 2011, but they have taken a backseat in the team’s lineup.

The U.S.-registered squad began announcing its lineup via a series of messages on Twitter starting Tuesday. It named six of the nine riders — Fabian Cancellara, Gregory Rast, Danny Van Poppel, Markel Irizar, Haimar Zubeldia, and American Matthew Busche — but waited on 2010 winner Andy and older brother Frank until Wednesday.

The final rider, Jens Voigt, was announced Wednesday morning. This Tour will be Voigt’s 17th, which equals the record held by George Hincapie and Stuart O’Grady.

On Twitter, the team asked its followers who should race alongside the first six riders it named instead of announcing the bothers from Mondorf, Luxembourg, immediately.

The Schlecks, along with Cancellara, were part of the original foundation when Brian Nygaard formed the team with backer Flavio Becca ahead of the 2011 season. Frank has finished fifth on two occasions (2008, 2009) and third once (2011), while Andy was the runner-up in 2009 and 2011. He won the 2010 Tour after Alberto Contador’s doping disqualification.

In the last three years, however, the brothers have moved away from the spotlight.

Andy has struggled to return to top form since he crashed in the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné and fractured his sacrum. He spent last year recovering and trying to reach the form that he had in 2011. He finished 20th at the 2012 Tour.

At the Tour de Suisse last week, Andy struggled to keep up with top classification riders — finishing 9:24 back after an escape Sunday, and 2:07 the day before — and placed 29th overall.

“I know I’m not a favorite for the Tour,” 29-year-old Andy told his home newspaper Le Quotidien. “I placed 20th last year and wasn’t competitive in the spring classics. If someone said otherwise, I’d call them mad.”

“Andy’s getting better slowly and giving good signals, but clearly, you always expect something more from an athlete like him. From Luxembourg to Suisse, he improved, but clearly, he’s still far off from how he showed in 2011,” Trek general manager Luca Guercilena told VeloNews.

“He’ll go to the Tour de France to try to win a mountain stage instead of the overall classification; his condition is too far off to do that.”

Frank, on the other hand, left the 2012 Tour de France after testing positive for the banned diuretic Xipamide and served a one-year doping suspension. This year, the 34-year-old returned and enjoyed a better run than his younger brother did, finishing sixth in the Critérium International and ninth in the Tour of Luxembourg. The only hiccup came on a foggy day last week in the Tour de Suisse, when he crashed on the descent of the Grimselpass, suffered a concussion, and abandoned the race.

With the Schlecks off their best, Trek will look for stage wins in the upcoming French Tour and search for other general classification leaders for 2015.