Andersen issues peculiar denial that Frank Schleck can be a contender in the Tour
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Monday, June 18, 2012

Andersen issues peculiar denial that Frank Schleck can be a contender in the Tour

by Shane Stokes at 10:56 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Is directeur sportif simply trying to take pressure off?

Frank SchleckAlthough Frank Schleck stated at the time that the extremely short notice he was given about his participation in the Giro meant that he wasn’t in the shape to contend, RadioShack directeur sportif Kim Andersen has now said that the rider has been at a high level since then and therefore can’t be considered a Tour de France favourite.

Andersen, who has worked with both Schleck and his brother Andy for many years, is playing down the rider’s chances after he finished second overall in the Tour de Suisse.

"I have of course heard predictions that with his current form, that Fränk is a good bet to figure in the showdown of the victory, but to hope for that is I think total baloney,” he told Politiken.

"It must be remembered that Fränk has competed at a high level since the start of the Giro d'Italia in early May, so that it is completely unrealistic to believe that he can assert itself with the best in the Tour over three weeks in July.

“I am well aware that Fränk didn’t complete the Giro d'Italia, but he only missed at few days. Since then he rode the Tour de Luxembourg, with the natural pressure that was on him as the race's big national star. Now has he completed the Tour de Suisse, where for nine days he has concentrated on trying to finish right at the top. Against this background, there is no basis that he can do something big in the overall classification in the Tour de France. I know that Fränk himself assesses the situation in the same way.”

If that is indeed the case, then questions must be asked about whomever came up with the racing programme for Schleck. He finished third overall in the race last year and with his brother Andy set to miss the event due to injury, it seems peculiar that Schleck and his team would hamper his chances by fighting for the Tour de Suisse win if he was already tired.

This is even more the case now that his brother won’t ride in France.

Frank Schleck was clearly in very good shape there, despite a modest time trial, and was the strongest rider on yesterday’s final stage. He broke clear on the penultimate climb and stretched out a good lead on the other contenders, but was brought back before the line. However it seemed likely that if the run-in to the finish had been tougher, that he would have had a chance of taking yellow from Rui Costa.

Schleck didn’t look like a rider who was tired, or lacking any motivation. And while he did indeed ride the Giro, he pulled out on stage 15 due to the after effects of a crash. He missed the very heavy final stages, and didn’t go as deep as those who finished the race.

What’s likely is that Andersen is trying to take pressure or the weight of expectation off the Luxembourg competitor. He’s said that Schleck doesn’t perform well when stressed, and so he may be trying to ensure that he doesn’t get weighed down prior to the start of the Tour.

“He will be able to make great performances on stages, but I consider him to be out of the picture for the overall,” he said.

Given Schleck’s display in Switzerland, some will view Andersen’s words with a pinch of salt.

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