Bruyneel concedes outsider role for RadioShack, hints Brajkovic could lead in Tour de France

Johan Bruyneel admits that RadioShack will not be among top candidates for the yellow jersey, but suggested Brajkovic may be a wild-card at next year's Tour de France

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Johan Bruyneel was not the center of attention at Tuesday’s unveiling of the Tour de France route for 2011 route. With Lance Armstrong in retirement, all eyes were on Andy Schleck and other clear favorites for victory next year.

Playing defense
Brajkovic rode brilliantly to win the 2010 Critérium du Dauphiné. | Graham Watson photo

Bruyneel admitted that RadioShack will not be among top candidates for the yellow jersey, something unfamiliar for the Belgian director who won seven Tour crowns with Armstrong and two with Alberto Contador since 1999.

“We’ll have new objectives for Team RadioShack. We don’t start as a favorite. For us and other teams, the presence of Alberto Contador will be crucial. As the second and third finishers last year the favorites will be Andy Schleck in a new team as well as Denis Menchov in a new team. We will start in an underdog position,” Bruyneel said on the team’s web page. “We still have Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden. Though getting older they still remain outsiders with a chance.”

Alongside Leipheimer and Klöden, two riders who have reached the Tour podium before, Bruyneel said that slim Slovenian climber Janez Brajkovic could be the team’s third option. Brajkovic beat back Contador to win the 2010 Critérium du Dauphiné.

“But I look forward to seeing how our young guys will perform. Jani Brajkovic will start for the first time in the Tour as an objective to perform well. He will have an experienced team around him without having the pressure to be the leader of the team or a Tour favorite. But I will be expecting something from him,” Bruyneel explained. “Jani has always been a guy with expectations. His victory in the Dauphiné has been the confirmation of his talent. He won that hard race against Contador and he can make a step forward now. Top five must be his ambition but we won’t put too much pressure on him.”

Bruyneel said he liked the look of the 2011 route, saying a challenging second half of the course will provide plenty of chances for RadioShack to become protagonists in the season’s most important stage race.

“For our team it is a good Tour. There will be a lot of occasions for breakaways and stage wins, just as Paulinho did in 2010,” he said. “We will go to the Tour without a Tour favorite. We will take all opportunities we can get.”

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