Blazin' Saddles

Grey matter

Blazin' Saddles

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Last year the Schlecks sunk sartorial substratum with those naff neckerchiefs — but this year's grey cardigans at the RadioShack-Nissan launch plummeted fresh depths of fashion foibles.

Never must it have crossed Johan Bruyneel's mind, while he was winning those seven consecutive Tours with Lance Armstrong, that one day he'd become a music mogul dressed head to toe in all black, Simon Cowell-style, on the Boulevard du Rock 'n Roll in Luxembourg's second (!) town of Esch-sur-Alzette - famed for its miniature railway - and surrounded by a boy band dressed in white V-neck T-shirts and grey cardigans.

But that seemingly became a reality on Friday.

The black besuited Belgian Bruyneel was flanked by his understudies, the up-and-coming five-piece "RSNT" group — a conglomeration of two former bands that split last year and an outside bet for the all-important July number one.

Lead singer Fabian Cancellara, thought to be the creative spark (the Gary Barlow, if you will) behind RSNT, stood tall and proud. Like old-hand Chris Horner, Spartacus elected to wear his grey cardigan unbuttoned, giving him the carefree look of someone totally in control of the nuances of his wardrobe.

Alongside Horner was fellow pop veteran Andreas Kloeden. The German, despite his harsh electro kraut rock background (he remixed Kraftwerk's Tour de France for a recent Ministry of Sound compilation), has now found his niche singing harmonies with his new fresh-faced bandmates at RSNT (the band's name is meant to be a mainstream reaction to the perverse nihilism of MGMT).

Horner and Kloeden may not get the young girls screaming, but their presence mellows the rest of the band, counteracting Cancellara's constant race to be on time as well as the youthful exuberance of background dancers, Andy and Frank Schleck. Rumour has it the brothers mime when on stage, preferring instead to let their feet do the talking.

Of course, dear readers, you know this is all just a cheap shot at easy targets. We all know RadioShack Nissan Trek are not a boy band, but instead one of cycling's new super teams, and this was, in fact, their belated team presentation after their rapid formation at the back end of last season.

But the boy band analogy is fitting given those ridiculous cardigans and white t-shirts: Bruyneel did look like Simon Cowell surrounded by One Direction on the X-Factor stage.

Never mind managing a boy band — it would be strange enough envisaging Bruyneel being on the same sides as the Schlecks a few years ago.

The be-dimpled directeur sportif who for so many years prayed on the psychological weakness of the Schleck as he guided Alberto Contador to three Tour wins, has now ended up working with those very same Luxembourgeois whippets — and something (not just those cardigans) doesn't seem right.

Later on in the evening, Bruyneel took his prized quintet of riders to the stage where they answered questions from the press. Behind them a huge board was emblazoned with the words RadioShack Nissan Trek. Next to the sponsors' logos was what appeared to be a huge zero in the shape of the Luxembourg national colours.

Presumably this was something to do with the number of Grand Tour wins to the Schlecks' name, which seemed a little harsh. Although it's nice to see even their own team management can have a little joke about their bare trophy cabinet.

Asked if he would forgo the Tour, with its near-100 kilometres against the clock, in favour of the more mountainous Giro in May, Andy said: "For me, it's not the Tour de France, and it never will be."

Although given his track record, anyone entering the room at that moment would be forgiven if they thought the question posed to Andy was 'which race can you see yourself winning in the future?'.

Cavendish caught short

Was Saddles the only one to see the irony this week in the news that Mark Cavendish missed a drugs test last year because he was filming a documentary for the BBC, which months later crowned the sprinter its sports personality of the year not only due to his winning ways but his admirable anti-doping stance?

It easy to see why the whole thing has been widely reported, but truth be told, it's really not much of a story.

Still, the potential repercussions are certainly interesting: cycling works on a three-missed-tests-and-you're-out policy and if "simple administrative errors" keep Cav from two further tests within an 18-month period, then it will be more Team Bye than Team Sky.

Can you imagine the kind of underhand tactics that could be employed by his rivals were cycling more like football, a sport where players are encouraged to get their rivals sent off by diving, overreacting or feigning injury?

We'd have a scenario where the teams of Cav's main sprinting rivals would employ people to follow him around the world, making sure his planes were delayed or his drivers got lost or his post never arrived. It would add a whole new dimension to the sport.

But seriously, let's just hope Cav stops his Rio Ferdinand phase and puts all this behind him for he's got a big year ahead. It won't just be the BBC wanting to make documentaries if he wins gold in London 2012.

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