It's the phone call every sports director hates to receive. Any sense of joy or happiness immediately disappears, and you are consumed with this awful feeling in your stomach, heart and head. After the UCI called to tell me about Frank Schleck's adverse result, I immediately phoned Frank. His voice said it all - shocked, devastated, angry and confused. And while no director or any other person can fully monitor, control and watch over any one individual athlete - I believe Frank when he declared his innocence. The kind of substance and low quantity justifies the presumption of innocence.
Though the team management and I support Frank, we decided to retract him from the race. This decision was made for numerous reasons - To give Frank every opportunity to concentrate on proving his innocence; To keep the focus of the team on the race itself; And last but not least - To respect the Tour de France, where all attention should be on the competition and battles taking place every day on the road.
At this moment, there's really nothing more to say on Frank's situation. It's a wait and see and we all hope he can clear his name.
Some thoughts on the race:
- I continue to be proud of this team, who is fighting hard and did an amazing first stage in the Pyrenees.
- What more can I write about Jens Voigt? It's amazing what he continues to do at almost 41 years of age (not going to use the word "old"). And not to mention how he contributes to the overall atmosphere in the bus and at the dinner table.
- Our unseen workhorse and loyal warrior - Popo. He can do it all - drive it on the front, chase down breaks and shepherd the guys up the mountains.
- Thrilled to see Haimar Zubeldia riding at such a high level again. Currently sitting in fifth place overall, we're setting him up nicely for his fourth career top ten overall finish in the Tour. Not many have that on their palmares! Even though he's Basque, he's as "regular as a Swiss watch."
- Though we no longer have Frank, Team RADIOSHACK NISSAN TREK remains very motivated to capture the title of best team. We feel confident in our capabilities, however every day in the Tour is a challenge.
- Team Sky continues to impress in their defense of the jersey. I find it amusing how many people are looking for controversy between Wiggins and Froome. Analyzing every statement, look and gesture and then drawing assumptions that there are issues within the team. I can attest - the media always blow things out of proportion. They won't admit it, but let's be honest - Controversy and drama sell newspapers, get people to click on articles or watch a certain feature on TV.
- I continue to be impressed with the young riders who are the next generation of cycling. Two of these stars include Teejay Van Garderen and Peter Sagan. Chapeau to both.
I'm looking forward to these last few days of the Tour. Seeing how everything unfolds and cheering RADIOSHACK NISSAN TREK from afar with my assistant sports director - Christian Bruyneel. He's absolutely fascinated by the sport! While Eva and I believe that we shouldn't force our children into anything, I must say that I'd love to see him take up the sport when he's older. It's a sport that I'm certainly passionate about so it would be a nice bonding experience for us to share. But he's way too young so I shouldn't get ahead of myself. Eva and I both believe in supporting our children's interests and extracurricular activities, and ultimately just want to see them happy.
Speaking of children - Special CONGRATULATIONS to Fabian on the addition of baby girl Elina to the family! A prologue win, Yellow Jersey and a newborn girl ... Not such a bad month for Spartacus!!
Other than the Tour and spending time with my family, I remain determined to contest the USADA allegations. I expect to see my name cleared, as it has been every single time in the past. Onward.
Enjoy the remainder of the Tour. Look for some final thoughts after the race ends.
Thanks for reading and all your kind messages along the way.