Matthew Busche, Fabian Cancellara, Markel Irizar, Gregory Rast, Andy Schleck, Frank Schleck, Danny van Poppel, Jens Voigt, and Haimar Zubeldia are the nine riders Trek Factory Racing will take to the United Kingdom for the 101st edition of the Tour de France. With just a couple of days before the start of the race, I caught up with Alain Gallopin, Trek’s sport director, who was kind enough to tell me more about the reasons behind this selection and the goals of the US team for the race.
– Mister Gallopin, was it difficult to make the team for the Tour de France?
It’s always difficult, because it’s sad to tell riders they have to stay at home. We have 28 riders in the team and half of them knew since the beginning of the year they will not do the Tour. Three months before, we have to select 15 names, then we have to give 13 names and after the Tour de Suisse, with two weeks before the Tour, we have to decide who will be the nine riders to make it into the team. It was difficult to make the selection for the Tour de France, because Frank Schleck injured in Suisse, Haimar Zubeldia can get a top 10, but he can’t win, while Andy we don’t know what he can do. He’s here to help his brother and during the Tour we’ll see what’s happening with him. I always say that everything is possible with Andy. We have a sprinter, but not a team just for him. Jens Voigt said last year that it was his last Tour. This season, he didn’t have a good start, but things went better and better, and he’s in the Tour.
– Can Andy Schleck cope with the fact that he will be a domestique after years of fighting for the yellow jersey?
I don’t want to say Andy is a domestique. Of course he’s not a favourite to win the Tour, because he has no results for three years, but he’s not a domestique. He’s here to help Haimar and Frank in the mountains, but can become the leader of the team depending on how he will feel during the Tour. We don’t want to put pressure on him, but he could do something in the second half of the Tour, from a breakaway, in the mountain stages. Our focus is to get a top 10. Haimar was 6th two years ago, Frank showed in the past he can finish in the top 5, and now, inspite of the injury, he can get a top 10. We’ll see what Andy can do, because as I already said, everything is possible with him.
– What would mean a good Tour for Andy Schleck?
There are two options for him: to do a good GC or to win a mountain stage, which we think is possible. There are many opportunities in the last week, and if he will not be a threat for the GC, then he can go in a breakaway and try to win a stage. It would help him a lot.
– Danny van Poppel comes back to the Tour one year after he wore the white jersey. What are your expectations from him?
In 2013, he was 3rd in the first stage. Danny is a real talent, but he had problems at the beginning of the year, because he did the Tour Down Under and afterwards it was difficult for him to be at his best, because of the jet leg and the fact the race was hard. He didn’t race a lot, but in the last months he did the Tour of California, the Tour de Luxembourg and the Tour de Suisse, and we selected him. He has the experience of last year’s Tour and we hope he can get a top 10 or a top 5. Of course, he doesn’t have a train, but guys like Fabian Cancellara and Gregory Rast can help, and you can never know what will happen in a sprint.
– Being so young, aren’t you afraid this Tour could burn him?
No, I don’t think this will happen. I’d say that last year he was young, now he is stronger. We will see during the Tour what happens to him and if he wants to stop or continue the race. A sprinter has problems finishing a Grand Tour because of the climbs, but Danny isn’t a bad climber, he’s a very complete rider and we’ll take it day by day with him. He’s also a good rider for the cobbles, where he will help Fabian.
– So that stage will be one of the main goals for the team.
When you have Fabian Cancellara on the team and you don’t focus on the cobbled stage, then you are not a good manager. Cancellara and Boonen are the best riders on the cobbles, but Boonen is not here, so Fabian is the big favourite for that stage.
– I’ve asked you this, because Cancellara had to protect the GC rider of the team four years ago and couldn’t fight for the win on the cobbles.
Now it’s more important for us to win this stage. In 2010, he pulled for Andy Schleck, who was 2nd one year before and at that time was one of the favourites for winning the yellow jersey. This year, Danny and Fabian will have freedom for this stage, because we have enough riders to stay with Haimar and Frank and protect them.
– What do you expect from stage 2 and 5, can we see a shake up of the GC?
Stage 2 will be important for someone to take the yellow jersey, because the sprinters will have problems there. I don’t think something can happen there with the GC riders. Things are different on stage 5, where one or more GC riders can lose the Tour. If Froome or Contador lose two or three minutes there, then their quest for the yellow jersey will be over.
– Which mountain stages are the most difficult?
The Alps aren’t so hard this year, the Pyrenees are more difficult, but the Vosges are the most dangerous. The teams need a lot of energy to control the race, and if this doesn’t happens and a big breakaway goes, then things will become very complicated for the rest of the Tour. Sometimes it’s easier to control a mountain stages at the end of the Tour than the Vosges.