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“Nobody in theteam ever had doubts about the talent of Andy. Little by little he has come back to the level where we expect him. The Tour de Suisse encouraged and convinced us to give him the role he deserves and to give him the oppor...

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ANDREAS KLÖDEN

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ANDY SCHLECK

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HAIMAR ZUBELDIA

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JAN BAKELANTS

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LAURENT DIDIER

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MARKEL IRIZAR ARANBURU

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MAXIME MONFORT

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TONY GALLOPIN

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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19.06.2013 @ 12:56 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After a one-year absence, Andy Schleck will return to the Tour de France this year and he will enjoy the complete support of the entire Radioshack team. The Luxembourgish squad announced its selection today and with riders like Andreas Klöden and Haimar Zubeldia both included in the line-up, Schleck will be surrounded by two former top 10 finishers in the world's biggest bike race.

 

A fractured pelvis suffered in a crash at last year's Criterium du Dauphiné has continuously haunted Andy Schleck for the past 12 months but a recent return to form in the Tour de Suisse has earned the 2010 winner of the Tour de France another captaincy role at the world's biggest race. Today his Radioshack team announced its selection and the aim will be to get the highest possible placing for their Luxembourgish star on GC.

 

The complications of his fracture saw Schleck repeatedly postpone the date of his comeback and he had to forfeit last year's Vuelta, US Pro Challenge and GP Fourmies which all at different points were set to be his return to competitive action. He finally lined up at the Binche-Tournai-Binche in October but failed to finish the race. That was also the case at his final 2012 race, the Tour of Beijing.

 

In the early part of this season, Schleck's struggles continued. He failed to finish most of his early races and was far from away from the form that has seen him step onto the Tour podium three times in a row from 2009 to 2011.

 

At the Liege-Bastogne-Liege, there were suddenly clear signs of improvement. He performed well and aggressively when he returned to competition in the Tour of California, and he most recently saw encouraging signs in the Tour de Suisse where he overcame a bad start to finish 15th in the queen stage.

 

His results in Switzerland were actually much better than they have often been in the past and so are a source for optimism in the Radioshack camp. Hence, the team has chosen to select a team totally devoted to their captain.

 

“We are happy to see that Andy is back,”  Team General Manager Luca Guercilena said. “Nobody in the Team ever had doubts about the talent of Andy. Little by little he has come back to the level where we expect him. The Tour de Suisse encouraged and convinced us to give him the role he deserves and to give him the opportunity to have dedicated riders surrounding and supporting him. Of course we don’t put pressure on our champion. After the last twelve months it would be unrealistic to expect a podium place. On the other hand, the lack of stress and pressure can be a positive stimulus to a brilliant performance.”

 

Schleck will be supported by a solid team of climbers. Andreas Klöden has finished on the podium twice, in 2004 and 2006, and seemed to be incredibly strong in 2011 until a crash took him out of the race. Haimar Zubeldia finished in the top 10 in 2003, 2006, 2007 and most recently last year when his 6th place was the best result of a Radioshack rider.

 

Klöden was not at his best in the Tour de Suisse where he struggled with illness while Zubeldia had a solid but unspectacular race at the Dauphiné, finishing 14th. Both can play the role of back-up if Schleck fails to live up to expectations.

 

“You can consider Haimar as our second weapon,” Guercilena said. “Haimar, 6th last year, is always consistent and delivers his best.”

 

Maxime Monfort could be another potential GC rider as the Belgian finished 6th in the 2011 Vuelta and 16th in last year's Tour. However, the Belgian all-rounder has not his best season so far. Young talent Tony Gallopin performed splendidly in the early part of last year's race until illness took him out of the race and he will be back to continue his progress this year.

 

In-form Belgian climber Jan Bakelants will make his Tour debut, having recently finished 3rd overall at the Tour of Luxembourg while also contributing to the team's 3 stage wins. Veteran Jens Voigt will make another appearance at the Tour, having recently used a stage win at the Tour of California and a stubborn performance in the Tour de Suisse to show that his 41-year legs are not slowing down.

 

The team is completed by Markel Irizar and Laurent Didier who are both loyal domestiques.

 

The selection process was a hard one and there ended up being no room for Stijn Devolder and recent Tour de Suisse stage winner Gregory Rast.

 

“It was not an easy task to select these nine riders,” concluded Team General Manager Luca Guercilena. “Every professional rider wants to ride the Tour and we had more than nine riders in good shape, ready to tackle this 100th Tour de France. It was, for instance, a hard decision not to select champions like Gregory Rast and Stijn Devolder, but we made the choice in good conscience, taking into account the goals we want to reach in this Tour.”

 

Two notable absentees are of course Fabian Cancellara and Chris Horner who had both announced that they would not line up for the race this year. The former targets the world championships later this year while the latter has been dealing with a knee injury ever since his strong performance at the Tirreno-Adriatico in March.

 

The Tour de France starts on June 29 in Corsica.

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