With Alberto Contador pretty much confirmed to be joining Riis at the new version of Saxo Bank. Specialized will become a major sponsor of the Team, but details are unclear at the moment if they will be the Title sponsor. My guess is Yes and it will make a lot of sense as Specialized is a personal sponsor of Contabore.So there are lots of questions buzzing around my head in regards to the new Schleck Team, which I'll call Team Lux for the moment. My thoughts are split into a couple of areas , one being the riders & secondly & more I interestingly the equipement.
1. I'm sure in the three weeks on the road many deals have already been done. I'm sure the main focus of the Team will be the Tour and this will reflect the choice of riders chosen. Climbers (grimpeur), puncheur & Rouleurs have all got to be on the shopping list. Sprinters & cobbled Classic riders may be much lower down on the list. I would expect a fair amount of riders to speak Flemish/Dutch, with a mix of Italian and Spanish thrown in. I hope they do not forget the Ardennes Classics as the Schlecks should be able to win any of those races.2. Okay onto kit, and currently this is the area I've spent more time thinking about. The equipment could make the difference between Andy winning the Tour or losing it, as having bikes that in principal where the same for Andy & Bert, Andy needs to make some marginal gains to bag as much time as possible in order to win next year. Bikes
It won't be another Specialized sponsored Team. So who can provide a frame that will give an edge. Many of the most cutting edge manufacturers already sponsor one and in some cases two teams. Who does that leave?
Time is one and they have the expertise to make something special.De Rosa could be an option especially as they have the ability to make custom frames for the riders. This could be a key feature for the Schlecks who in my books have never looked that comfortable on the bikes they have ridden.
Ridley, is my third option. As far as I am aware there is no Luxembourg bicycle manufacturer, so Ridley being Belgian is the nearest there is. They make a wide range of bicycles and as we have seen also from the bike provided to Pozzato that they can make custom when required. From light weight to aero they have it covered.Others, well you can't rule out one of the other American companies wanting a potential Tour winner on their books. Big money talks, and this could be enough to sway them to use their bikes. Groupset.
As far as I am aware professionally they have never ridden on Campa. So which of the two big 'S's' will they opt for. I think both will have some cash to secure the deal. Shimano will insist of having a monopoly on kit choice, so I'd expect Shimano wheels & Pro finishing kit. If Sram is chosen you'd expect that the Zipp wheel brand would go hand in hand with the deal. I'm not so sure that this will happen as Andy needs an edge over Bert and I think that just having a different frame isn't enough. So he may choose Mavic or Lightweight.
Cock pit wise I'd expect FSA to be the natural choice or if the ex CSC/ Saxo boys search their history books they could rekindle a relationship with USE to gain a performance advantage. There aero bar has been helping athletes hit PB's over the last four years. Ironically it would have made Schleck's time a lot closer to Contador's in the TT.Pedals, well I'd be amazed if they switched from Speedplay, but money talks. Tyres I'd expect it to Vittoria as the guys have done thousands of km's on them over the years. It's a safe good set of rubber to race on.
I'd expect three people to be in the fray for the contract. MOA will be one. They sponsor loads of geMs already and they ARE Pro Team clothing. Descente will be another as previously they have worked with CSC. The other will be Craft as they too have worked with Saxo.