This time last year, just after the 2010 Tour of Luxembourg, Luxembourgish pro cyclists Frank and Andy Schleck were offered leading roles on a new Luxembourgish pro team. Six months later, in January 2011, the world learned that Team Leopard-Trek would have its eye on the Tour de France, from July 2nd to July 24th. With proven talents like Fabian Cancellara, Jens Voigt, and Stuart O’Grady riding with the Schleck brothers, the new team caused a stir in pro cycling.
The team’s ambitions extended to all the major European races. The hype grew as the cycling season began this spring. Cycling commentators dubbed them the number one team on paper.
The Tour of Luxembourg was important to the team from the beginning of the season. It is, after all, Leopard-Trek’s home turf, and the timing and difficulty of the staged race makes it a good tune-up for the Tour de France.
In May, during Stage Three of the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy), Leopard-Trek rider Wouter Weylandt died after crashing on a descent. The team withdrew from the race the next day, after the entire peloton honored Weylandt by turning Stage Four into a memorial procession. Over the next weeks, the Tour of Luxembourg gained significance as the team dedicated itself to the memory of their friend and teammate.
The prologue was Thursday, June 2nd, on a very short course through the streets of Luxembourg-Ville. Fabian Cancellara, who had several top-three finishes in the spring, finished first and earned the yellow jersey of the race leader for Team Leopard-Trek. That evening he said, “I wanted to get a personal win and a win for the team, but I especially wanted to add to our happiness after our loss a few weeks ago. This win is for Wouter. It is also a win for Luxembourg.”
We were there. I even rode in a chase vehicle for one of the time-trialists, thanks to the generosity of The Expatresse and another local friend.
That’s the build-up. The story continues in the descriptions of our photos from the Prologue, Stage 1 and Stage 2. You’ll find them in the following Flickr sets of photos:
In Part Two: More photos, including the exciting finish under the Gëlle Fra in Luxembourg-Ville, and videos too!