Saddles never thought the day would come, but he has to
admit that both Andy Schleck and his brother have this week soared in his
In a hilarious Japanese-style spoof interview filmed back in
August but only just recently aired on Dutch TV, Andy deals with being labelled
"a skinny man person" and interrogated about his sexuality while
Frank manages to keep his cool despite being accused of taking drugs and being
his brother's security blanket.
The premise for the weekly TV skit - entitled Ushi & The
Family - seems to be quite simple: seasoned blonde Dutch presenter Wendy van
Dijk dons a black wig and disguises herself as a Japanese reporter, asking a
series of cringeworthy questions in a near unintelligible accent to
unsuspecting stars. LOL & ROFL etc and so forth.
It's worth adding that she looks about as Japanese as Sean
Connery did in You Only Live Twice while her attempts at Japanesing her Dutch
'yeshhes' are fairly lamentable - about as calamitous as Steve McClaren's own
attempts at Dutchifying his own affirmatives.
It's all very Banzai-lite - and the results are not so much
You've Been Framed as You've Been Frandied. For if anyone in the peloton was
going to prove so gullible it was the Schlecks. Although goodness knows what
Cadel Evans would have done in their situation - perhaps resorted to
head-butting the camera while squealing his way out of the building?
All in all, the Schlecks deal with the situation extremely
admirably - maintaining a high level of politeness despite either being in
stitches of laughter or entirely incredulous for the entire 16-odd minutes of
After an opening question about their frail physique, Frank
- referred to simply as "brother" throughout - somehow finds himself
being obliged to share with the interviewer the exact location of his
daughter's conception (in his bedroom in Luxembourg, he eventually answers).
"Andys" then rather sheepishly has to deny that he
was looking on during this undoubtedly special moment between Frank and his
wife. So far, so creepy.
After a baffling interlude about the yellow jersey being the
same colour as a small duck, Frank is "misunderstood" when he
describes his notorious crash in the Tour of Switzerland, when he flipped over
the road barrier and fell into a ditch.
Choosing to hear "tripped" and not
"flipped", the interviewer asks him if he was taking drugs at the
time. Despite the denials, "Ushi" won't give in: "You can tell
me, it's ok. How many drugs did you take?" she asks, before labelling the
Schlecks "the dopey brothers".
You can imagine riders with less of a sense of humour -
Saddles is thinking Evans here, again, but also the likes of Lance Armstrong
and, perhaps, Mark Cavendish; certainly Mick Rogers and Robbie McEwen - simply
walking out at this point in a strop.
But Frandy are having a ball: they can't stop laughing and
staring at each other and shaking their heads in utter disbelief (ironic,
seeing that they still - inexplicably - seem to believe the veracity of the
Like their riding styles when on the bike, they don't want
to cause offence - and so seem prepared to sit it out to the bitter end.
Not leaving the room in a harrumph means in turn having to
answer further ridiculous questions, such as which way they "hang"
when sitting on the saddle. It's hardly Pulitzer Prize-winning stuff, but it's
funny in a very backward, simple, puerile way.
But by far the best moment comes when "Ushi" asks
"the brother of Andys" why he is always "driving behind him,
For the first time, the elder Schleck looks rather puzzled,
even hurt, as the spoof interviewer points to Schleck Junior and continues:
"He wins, but you're behind him. You're loser, but very important
Again, the joke is on Andy a bit too, for you could say that
a series of second-place finishes on the Tour makes him the peloton's most
important loser after all.
A moment later, Frank refuses to answer a convoluted
question, simply stating: "I wasn't listening - you keep on calling me the
brother, but I'm Frank."
"But you are brother," comes the faux naïve reply.
Poor Frank, will he always be remembered as the brother of a man who finished
the Tour as runner-up on three (four, five, six...) separate occasions?
Perhaps sensing that Frank may soon lose his sense of
humour, Wendy van Dijk turns her attention to his brother, asking Andy to do a
kind of catwalk exercise in front of the camera.
Andy, whose increasingly sweaty armpits betray his probable
discomfort under that obliging facade, does what he's told - only for Ushi to
say: "Mr Andys, are you sure you're no gay person? Brother, you sure he's
no gay man?". (To be fair, you can certainly see where she's coming
And yet, despite this on-going glaring provocation, both
Schecks continue trying to answer questions sincerely and with a straight face
- much in the same way that unsuspecting interviewees tried to ride out the
questioning of Ali G.
Andy puts in a big shift on the front, trying his best to
explain how riders use race radio during stages (and getting accused at talking
to his t-shirt in the process).
Then, towards the end, when posing for a photo with Ushi,
Andy even beckons her onto his lap, assuring her, "I am gay, don't
The moment the Schlecks learn that they have been duped is
fairly priceless, with Frank in particular looking about as bonked and
shattered as if he'd just ridden up to Alpe d'Huez.
Of course, this was all filmed back in August, a week or so
after the Tour. Things have changed considerably since then: Leopard-Trek has
ceased to exist, joining forces with RadioShack; the much-feted Johan Bruyneel
now has his Tour-winning mitts on the brothers; the 2012 Tour route has dealt
them all a duff hand, with almost 100km of time trials and less mountain-top
But Andy remains upbeat ahead of the new season. He may
still be a skinny man person and walk like a bit of a queen, but he also
bullishly admits to be "growing" and "getting stronger".
"I have finished second three times in a row and I
don't want to finish second again," he stressed.
Time will tell if either Andy or Frank has it in them to
improve on their second and third places in the Tour next summer, but Andy has
hinted that their security blanket tactics may be something of the past.
"Riders and fans don't like it when the races turn into
waiting games. Next year if you wait, you will lose. We have to be on the
offensive from the first stage."
Given the parcours, the Schlecks will indeed have to make up
as much time in the mountains as they can if they want to get it through the
two ITTs within a whisker of the race summit.
Let's just hope they're not in a break with Saxo Bank's
Takashi Miyazawa. After all, there must have been a reason Bjarne Riis signed
the unheralded Japanese veteran...