Schleck content with season, wants bigger year in 2010
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Monday, November 02, 2009

Schleck content with season, wants bigger year in 2010

by Conal Andrews at 9:09 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 

He may not have had a spell in the Maillot Jaune like he did in 2008, but Luxembourg’s Frank Schleck can look back on this season with a strong sense of satisfaction.

The highlight of the year was undoubtedly the second Tour stage win of his career, namely his victory ahead of his brother Andy and eventual Tour winner Alberto Contador (Astana) at Le Grand Bournand. Schleck was one of the strongest climbers in the race and went on to place fifth overall, his second-such finish in the event.

The season had got off to a good start with a stage win in the Tour of California plus second overall in Paris-Nice. Schleck’s first major target was the Spring Classics but a bad crash in the Amstel Gold race – which he won in 2006 – put paid to those plans. He bounced back, though, taking a stage and overall success in the Tour de Luxembourg.

"It was a wonderful year in which I was able to enter several victories,” he told the Luxemburger Wort newspaper. “The stage victory in February in California gave me a lot of confidence and I was able to aim calmly for the tasks ahead. The Ardennes classics were the first [big] target. Unfortunately, a fall at the Amstel Gold Race messed that up. Andy and I were in very good shape and we would have won there.”

He went down hard with Australian Matthew Lloyd (Silence Lotto), suffered concussion and said that he still cannot remember the crash. That sapped his strength for Fleche Wallonne but he was feeling like himself again in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where his brother soloed to a superb victory.

Schleck is very close to his sibling and that memory is a strong one. He does wish things played out a little differently that day, though. “The triumph of Andy was very special,” he explained. “In retrospect, I regret something, as with Andy being certain to win, I should have tried everything to get second place. That would have been possible, but the emotions were too overwhelming.

“Andy and I have agreed already that in 2010, he will win the Amstel Gold Race, and I am sure I will take Liège -Bastogne-Liège,” he smiled.

He got his own chance to top a podium in June, when he became the first home winner of the Tour of Luxembourg in over three decades. He described that was a very special moment for him, and a way for him to thank the fans. The two were also strong in the Tour de Suisse, where they helped Fabian Cancellara take a completely unexpected overall victory.

"We had Fabian (Cancellara), the most promising contender for the overall victory in our ranks, so we put ourselves at his service,” he said. “The race was not quite as hard as in previous years and Fabian coped with things perfectly.

The roles were reversed in July, when Cancellara assisted the two Schlecks to their top five finishes. Andy was undoubtedly the second-strongest in the Tour de France, but his brother thinks he could have done better. "I know that even more was possible. With a little more luck, a podium finish was achievable.”

The thoughts of that give him motivation for the years ahead. “Standing together with my brother on the podium in Paris would be the greatest thing,” he said. “And why should this not be possible?”

Schleck may not mind, but he’s been upstaged a little by his younger brother this year. He’s been hampered somewhat by a knee problem and with the joint now having been fixed by an operation, he feels confident that he’ll be in good form in 2010.

“Now I can relax in complete peace and quiet again,” he said. “I’ll have my full strength again next year. This was a good one, and I would love to build on that with an even better season.”

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