Gallopin brightens up RadioShack prospects
In his 18 years as a team director, Alain Gallopin has looked after some of the greatest Tour de France riders but he has always remained a man of the shadows.
However, this year the Frenchman has been forced into the limelight after RadioShack team manager Johan Bruyneel stayed away from the race after being cited in an investigation by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
The former right-arm to 1983 and 1984 Tour champion Laurent Fignon in his riding days, Gallopin had the best possible start as temporary RadioShack boss when the team's time-trial specialist Fabian Cancellara won Saturday's prologue.
“"It was a great relief after all the hard luck we had all year. Our season was marred by two hard blows, Fabian's crash in the Tour of Flanders and then Andy Schleck's crash in the Dauphine," Gallopin told Reuters in an interview on Sunday.
“"Had Fabian won in Flanders, there would never have been so much fuss around RadioShack. Sometimes sport simply depends on a bottle hanging on the road."
RadioShack's misfortunes increased further with the USADA inquiry involving team founder Lance Armstrong and Bruyneel, who deny wrongdoing, while it soon appeared obvious that the Schleck brothers did not really fit their new team.
Bruyneel was even reported as saying he was ready to fire the whole underperforming team with the exception of Cancellara.
Gallopin, who has worked with RadioShack since 2008 and has looked after the likes of Armstrong and Alberto Contador during his career, was an ideal fill-in as he is respected and trusted by the whole peloton.
He previously stepped in for CSC team manager Bjarne Riis in 2007 when the Dane confessed to having won the 1996 Tour while doped.
"“I'm an experienced team director and I think I earned the esteem of the riders because I'm a no nonsense, trustworthy man. I'm not famous but it's my choice. Fame often means trouble," he said.
"“I'm sorry Johan's not here simply because we get on very well and it's fun to be on a race together. But it's OK, I know how to handle a team. My job has always been to bring some harmony."
While the withdrawal of 2010 Tour winner Andy Schleck meant the American outfit started the Tour without their natural leader, Gallopin is convinced they can aim at the podium with veteran German Andreas Kloeden.
“"We're not starting with Tour victory in mind but then only two teams do, Team Sky with (Bradley) Wiggins and BMC with (Cadel) Evans.
"“Everybody's talking about a third man and I'm convinced it can be Kloeden. He's a TT man and the Tour route has never suited him so well. He's getting old but with his experience I think he can go for the podium. It's one of our objectives."
Kloeden, 37, twice finished runner-up in the Tour, in 2004 and 2006.
Andy's brother Frank Schleck was named the official team leader but his chances of a good overall finish are slim given the importance of time trials in this year's course.
"“He's mainly looking for a nice mountain stage win," Gallopin remarked.
As for Olympic time-trial champion Cancellara, Gallopin said he would improve still as the race goes on and would be one of the men to beat in the ninth stage time trial to Besancon.
"“In the last week we will spare him a bit as he needs to relax and think about the Olympics," he added.