One of the quiet surprises of the 2011 season has been the performance
of RadioShack as it emerges from the shadow of Lance Armstrong.
course we all know about Armstrong. Not only did he dominate the
structure and focus of his teams but his presence was such that it
dominated the sport for a decade.
Armstrong offered a dual
presence in the sport over that decade, bringing in a new fan base in a
way no other rider did but often sucking the oxygen out of it when the
superb performances of other riders deserved a better airing.
the outside looking in, riding for a Lance Armstrong led team may have
been suffocating for his team mates, but they chose their fate and were
largely paid well and enjoyed winning seasons.
But with his
leaving that has all changed, and in a sense RadioShack is a better team
Last year RadioShack finished the season outside the
top-ten (11th) and with one rider in the top 20 (Chris Horner). As of
this week they are world number one and have two riders in the top ten (Kloden
Though still strongly connected to Armstrong, the
RadioShack of 2011 now appears a different team to the one Armstrong
left in January and have now posted some handy results on their way to
the top spot on the UCI WorldTour rankings.
That ranking has been
achieved on the back of a rider who has often ridden in the shadow of
others, Andreas Kloden (35) - who has re-emerged as a team leader and world number three on a
team that has lost its dominating head.
Kloden won a stage at Paris Nice, finished second
overall and the team won the the overall classification in the teams
category. He won a stage at the Criterium International and then last
week took out the overall at the Tour of the Basque Country.
I haven't worked harder than the other years," said Kloden about his
Basque Country result on the team website. "Maybe I even trained a bit
less obsessively, but this year I never had bad luck or illnesses like
in the last seasons.
"I was good in Algarve, I continued in
Paris-Nice, recovered well and did a good TT in CritÃ©rium International.
And here, in the Basque Country, I was lucky with this hot weather -
perfect for me - and with my glorious teammates."
Can this be
considered a new lease on life? I think so. Given their opportunities,
the entire team has performed this season, young and old.
Hermans, Robbie Hunter, Markel Irizar, Jesse Sergent, Manuel Cardoso and
Sebastien Rosseler have all posted winning results this season.
a barely missed podium for Gregory Rast at the biggest one-day race of
the year (4th Paris-Roubaix) and you'll see there is a lot to like about
RadioShack - while a talented bunch, no one rider stands out.
while I'd be loathe to identify any team managed by Johan Bruyneel as
scrappy I'm happy doing it.
They have a good mix of veteran
performers and young riders and while they may be missing a true 'killer
punch' like the one represented by Lance Armstrong they have the next
best thing, a team.