Fabian Cancellara scored a much needed win for RadioShack-Nissan on Saturday by winning the Tour de France prologue and yellow jersey in Liège, Belgium. Cancellara bounced back from a fractured collarbone in April to win in the same place where he won eight years ago, in 2004.
Cancellara’s win boosted morale within the team, which starts the race without star Andy Schleck and General Manager Johan Bruyneel, who’s being charged in a US doping investigation.
“It’s too easy to let your head down,” Cancellara said in a post-race press conference. “I’m responsible for myself and my family, but also in a way for my team-mates and my team. That’s why this is important, to show that we are going in a good direction. You have to be strong, a leader can’t be weak, otherwise he’s not a leader.”
Not counting national championships, the team only has four wins so far this year, three thanks to Cancellara and one thanks to Jakob Fuglsang in the Tour of Luxembourg. Andy Schleck crashed in the Critérium du Dauphiné and fractured his pelvis.
Fuglsang said recently that he’s unhappy in the team and will leave next year. He’s also rumoured to be one of the riders left unpaid by the team. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) confirmed to the media that three riders have been unpaid since May.
The team’s overall classification leader, Frank Schleck is unhappy because he raced too much heading into the Tour. Bruyneel selected him to race the Giro d’Italia as the leader to replace Fuglsang, who suffered knee problems. Schleck crashed out of the race in the final week and said recently that he’s not ready to lead the team in the Tour.
Bruyneel is listed along with Lance Armstrong and three others in a US doping investigation. Overnight, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) charged him and said that he possessed, trafficked and administered drugs, and that he helped cover up his riders’ drug use.
“Internally for us, the situation is pretty different,” Sports Director Luca Guercilena told Cycling Weekly. “We have good morale since we’ve been here and in the Tour de Suisse and so on. The big problem so far is due to the lack of results. We were focusing on this and getting a result. In the end, it paid off. It will be helpful to calm most of us down and to focus on the race.”
Guercilena stayed with Cancellara for a month in his home country of Switzerland to build his form back following his crash and fractured collarbone in the Tour of Flanders. He helped Cancellara to second in the Tour of Switzerland time trial and to the national title. The goal is a month away in the Olympics, where Cancellara aims to defend his TT title and try to win the road race.
Asked if his riders weren’t being paid, Guercilena responded, “I don’t think so. I am being paid and all the people I know are being paid. It’s not up to me, my job is working on the road. We’re here, we won.”
Tour de France 2012: Stage reports
Prologue: Cancellara wins, Wiggins second
Tour de France 2012: Comment, analysis, blogs
CW’s Tour de France podcasts
Blog: Tour presentation – chasing dreams and autographs
Comment: Cavendish the climber
Tour de France 2012: Live text coverage
Cycling Weekly’s live text coverage schedule
Tour de France 2012: TV schedule
British Eurosport live schedule