Schleck remains hopeful after Dauphiné withdrawal, but Bruyneel admits he’s worried
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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Schleck remains hopeful after Dauphiné withdrawal, but Bruyneel admits he’s worried

by VeloNation Press at 12:34 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Critérium du Dauphiné, Injury
“Andy’s situation is not a good sign for his Tour preparation”

Andy SchleckReacting to today’s withdrawal from the Critérium du Dauphiné, both Andy Schleck and team manager Johan Bruyneel have conceded the forced retirement is a setback, but differ in how they perceive the situation to be.

Schleck continues to insist that he can be ready for the Tour de France, while the Belgian now sounds less and less certain about his prospects in that race.

The RadioShack Nissan rider has explained the reason why he quit the race 63 kilometres after today’s start in Saint-Alban-Leysse, saying that apparent sciatica robbed him of the strength in one of his legs and made it impossible to continue. The injury was related to his big time trial crash two days ago.

“Today, from the start, already in the first two hundred meters I had pain in the right leg and the lower back,” he said this afternoon. “It just got worse. I was never suffering like this in a race. I couldn’t use my right leg any more. There was no other option than to quit the race.”

Describing that moment as a ‘big disappointment,’ he said that the aftermath of the decision was very difficult for him to take. “While I was sitting in the car and I saw the other riders racing, I cracked mentally,” he admitted. “As a bike rider you are mentally very strong but today it all went a bridge too far.”

Schleck has been struggling all season, pulling out of Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya, being far off the pace in the Classics and now failing to complete the Dauphiné. Given his difficulties this year, the French race was highly important for his preparation for the Tour; pulling out, therefore, is not the ideal situation.

“It is just that bad luck is following me in the last months,” he said, voicing his frustration. “I could not avoid it. Before this I had a left knee problem after my crash in a training camp in Sierra Nevada. It healed and then I improved. Even yesterday, after my crash [on Thursday – ed.] I felt okay in the climbs. When I stayed in the saddle, my ribs hurt and I was suffering a lot but I came through the day. I was improving in the climbs and I was okay on the Grand Colombier.”

He headed back to Luxembourg and will start medical treatment tomorrow, seeing an osteopath and then having MRI scan done on Monday.

He’s got his fingers crossed that the problem is not more serious than was initially estimated. “I hope it is just muscular. Today it looked like a sciatic nerve causing the pain in the lower back and in my leg,” he said.

He’s finished second in the 2009 and 2011 Tours, and was elevated from the runner-up slot to the winning position in the 2010 edition after CAS stripped Alberto Contador of the title. He has said several times that the latter result didn’t give him much satisfaction as he missed out on the final podium in Paris, and is determined to win a Tour in the regular way as soon as possible.

Ideally, he wants to do it this year rather than having to wait until 2013. He hasn’t quite given up hope that he’ll be able to turn things around. “I still believe that physically, without any injury, I am good. I am skinny. I just have bad luck,” he said. “I’ve had so many injuries like I never had in the previous years. But I cannot lose morale as I have to focus on the Tour. I hope I can solve this as soon as possible.”

Bruyneel not sounding optimistic:

Confirming that Schleck appeared worse this morning than he was yesterday, and that this sometimes happens two days after a crash, Bruyneel said that the rider didn’t sleep well last night and was feeling discomfort this morning in the team hotel.

He said that once the flag dropped, it quickly became obvious that the rider was in trouble.

“In the race he was suffering even when the peloton was going slowly. There was definitely a problem. His lower back problem can be a consequence of his bad position on the bike yesterday, the day after the crash,” he said. “He really didn’t have the power to use the pedals. It was impossible for him to finish the stage.”

While Schleck clings on to the hope that he’ll be okay and will once again fight for yellow in the Tour, Bruyneel has a considerably different tone to his words.

“After the crash we had hoped Andy could at least finish the Dauphiné because he needs the races and the efforts,” he said. “What happened today is not good. If you are dealing with problems and trying to catch up on form and then when you start to build up and see some improvements but you have a setback again through a crash or an injury, you never have a solid foundation.

“ Andy’s situation is not a good sign for his Tour preparation, especially if you look now at the level of his competitors. For the moment there is not much we can do. It is a difficult situation.”

The aim now is to help speed his recovery from his injuries, getting him ready for a final training camp in the Pyrenees and the Alps. In acknowledging that he has missed a day and a half of the Dauphiné and is therefore further behind that he would otherwise be, Schleck knows that the situation is becoming urgent. Still, he’s not ready to give up on the thoughts of chasing yellow.

“In bad things I always try to find the good things. The good thing is that I have done six stages. Some people will say ‘It is only three weeks till the Tour’ but you can also say it is ‘still’ three weeks to the start in Liège,” he said.

“You can do a lot in three weeks. That is my strength. I’ve shown it in the last years. I was not good in the Tour de Suisse but I was in the Tour de France. I won’t stop believing in it. I’ve worked hard for this.”

The weeks ahead will show which of Schleck’s optimism or Bruyneel’s pragmatism were the most accurate. One thing is for certain: it makes for nervous times on Team RadioShack Nissan.


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