Andy Schleck: “The Tour is still a long way away. I'll do my best, but I'm not favourite”
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Friday, January 04, 2013

Andy Schleck: “The Tour is still a long way away. I'll do my best, but I'm not favourite”

by Ben Atkins at 5:56 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour Down Under, Injury
 
Luxemburger felt abandoned by Johan Bruyneel; fighting to come back after a disastrous 2012

andy schleckAndy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard) is preparing to make his comeback after a disastrous 2012, biciciclismo reports. The 27-year-old Luxembourg rider had an indifferent spring campaign, but the wheels really came off his season when he crashed in the time trial of the Critérium du Dauphiné and fractured his sacrum. This injury saw him miss the Tour de France and Olympic games, and he only returned to racing at the Tour of Beijing, some four months after his crash.

In an interview with French newspaper Lemonde, however, Schleck reveals that another big issue last year was his relationship - or lack of it - with then team manager Johan Bruyneel, and the Belgian’s charging by United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) over Lance Armstrong and the USPS team’s doping history.

“It was a surprise for us riders,” said Schleck. “We had a different approach to prepare for the Tour, but we always try to work together. Today, I work with Kim Andersen and Luca Guercilena.

“Last year, I had the feeling of being alone, abandoned by Johan.”

While it has been generally accepted that Armstrong’s dominance of the Tour de France was accomplished through a cocktail of illegal products and practices - through the American himself, and his teammates - Schleck is one of many riders that insists that such things are in the past, and could no longer happen on the same scale.

“The Armstrong case is from another era,” he said. “We are willing to accept other measures, but I think we can do more. Some want to change cycling, but cycling has changed. The Armstrong case was the big story of the year but we can learn from it, try to change things in the current framework with the tools available to us. We have the biological passport, whereabouts, sports are more controlled... You couldn’t do that today.

“I laugh when I hear people say we can’t do it without taking [banned] products,” he continued. “All those who know cycling know that it’s quite possible. For me, the biological passport is the only way to control riders. Perhaps there should be more controls, not only for the best.”

Part of the fallout from the Armstrong case has been a number of other teams seeking to clean house. One of the most extreme examples of this has been for Team Sky to rid itself of any riders or staff with any doping in their past, which has seen a former teammate and trainer of Schleck’s pushed out.

“It's their decision, but a guy like Bobby Julich, who admitted to taking EPO but then changed his attitude should not be punished,” said Schleck. “I've known him a long time. In Saxo Bank, he helped me a lot and was one of the most honest. Everyone deserves a second chance.

“Look at David Millar: tested positive for EPO and now does a lot for doping prevention among young people.”

Not feeling like a Tour champion but rebuilding to become one again

andy schleckSchleck has stood on the second step of the podium at the Tour de France on three occasions - in 2009, 2010 and 2011 - but, in the run up to last year’s race, was awarded victory in the middle of those. Thanks to the eventual settling of Alberto Contador’s positive test for clenbuterol in the 2010 race, Schleck is officially the winner of that year’s edition, but he still doesn’t feel that way.

"I won the Tour in 2010 on paper, but I don’t attribute it to myself,” he said. “There was no finish on the Champs-Élysées, no party, no yellow jersey... This tour was really hard fought, and I loved it, but it was not so. We [Contador and I] have spoken and there is no conflict. All I know is that the positive control had a small trace of clenbuterol in his urine, and he denies doping. I honestly don’t know who to believe in this case and I don’t judge him.”

Looking ahead to 2013, Schleck is looking to return to the form he showed before his disastrous 2012 season, where he was a contender for both Grand Tours and hilly Classics alike. To this end, the Luxembourg rider will begin his season on January 20th, at the Santos Tour Down Under.

"I want to prove I'm still in the game, able to return to the front,” he said. “I know I still have a long way to go, but that's what motivates me. I need to find my sensations. I really wanted to run the Tour Down Under, where I've never raced. This is the first time that I will have started so early in a season.

“The Classics are my priority,” he explained. “Other than last season, I've always had good results in the Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The Tour is still a long way away. I'll do my best, but I'm not favourite this year.”

In order to compete at the Tour, Schleck knows that he must not only take on old adversary Contador, but also the powerful team of 2012 winner Bradley Wiggins, which will include runner-up Chris Froome.

“I've never seen a team dominate as much as Sky,” said Schleck. “I think this year it will be Wiggins who will be the helper. In 2012, Froome was exceptional in the mountains and this edition is more for great climbers. Wiggins rides the Giro and, judging by his character, he will win.”

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