Schlecks talk 2009 and look forward to 2010
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Friday, December 04, 2009

Schlecks talk 2009 and look forward to 2010

by Conal Andrews at 8:25 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 

The Schleck brothers Andy and Frank have outlined their plans for the 2010 season, saying that they will aim to peak in April and July, and that both expect to be challenging for the top races.

“I am really happy with last year, and I know next year is going to be the most important season I am going to have so far in my career,” the younger of the two, Andy, said in a video interview on the saxobanktakingthelead.com website.

“I will go for the Classics in the spring and try to do my best in the Tour. After that, I aim to go to the end, until Lombardy. But the main goals are the Classics and the Tour…then we will see.”

Like Andy, elder brother Frank also believes in following a similar pattern to before. “I think we will stick to the [usual] programme,” the Team Saxo Bank rider said. “It has been working out for three, four years, so why change something that is working out? I think we’ll do more or less the same programme, more or less the same races and training.”

The brothers have similar attributes; strong climbers, good in Grand Tours and the Ardennes Classics. Both have won one of the latter races in the past, and want to share the spoils this time round.

“It is pretty easy,” said Frank, when asked how they will decide who is the team leader in the spring races. “I won Amstel [in 2006], so now he is going to win it, and he won Liège [in 2009] so now I am going to win that.”

“At least that is what we will try,” Andy said, with a laugh. “Of course, there are other riders….”

The Luxembourger stepped up a level in 2009, winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège with a storming solo ride and then finishing second overall in the Tour de France behind Alberto Contador. He was the only one who looked on a similar level to him in the final mountain stages of the July race, surging forward with him on Mont Ventoux.

However, while he conceded over four minutes this year, he’s a full two and a half years younger than the Spaniard. For that reason, he is reckoned by many to be a future winner of the event.

Andy Schleck first showed his Grand Tour potential when he finished second in his first three week race, the 2007 Giro d’Italia. Since then he’s continued to develop. He’s just 24 years of age, but has the twin weights of expectation and team leadership on his shoulders. Was that role easy to take on?

“It is not like when I came into cycling,” he answered. “I started up as a small rider in the beginning, but still a rider. Over the years you learn a lot and you grow into the position. It is not like being thrown out there into cold water, suddenly being a leader.”

Anyway, he is convinced that the two of them will be fronting the team in 2010, thus sharing that responsibility. “Last year [in the Tour], it was Frank and me at the beginning who should do the general classification. It turned out that I was in better shape - I was suddenly the leader and the guys worked for me. But he finished fifth and as we saw in the last few days, we would really would have liked to have been together on the podium.

“Next year it is going to be more or less the same, Frank and I. Maybe I will be seen more in the press as the leader of the team, but I am pretty convinced that we can both be on the podium next year.”

Frank’s season was undoubtedly affected by a bad crash he had in the Amstel Gold race. He fell heavily during the race and hurt his knee. He received treatment and was able to struggle on , but was never quite 100%. Now he feels better, and will hope that will lead to an increase in form.

“I have to say that I am really happy with it,” he said, referring to his knee. “I had problems since April, May already, and it just kept on going. Through the Tour we pushed it. After the Tour, I went to the specialist and he said that this is a soft tissue problem and we need to remove it.

“I asked him if I could harm it, if I could damage it more than it was already. He said no, if you can stand the pain, you can’t damage it any more. So I said that I’d try to do the Vuelta and the Worlds, and then I’d have my surgery [after that].

“But in the Vuelta I had a lot of pain again so I said no, I’ll stop it here. I think it was the right decision – I had the surgery and I was five weeks off the bike. Then I started training slowly, just cruising around. Today I am really happy that I did it. On the bike I have no pain so far and it should be all right – it is good.”

The duo have been doing swimming and gym work during the off season, but are now back training on the bike. They don’t have to hit form until April, but don’t be surprised if they crop up in the results earlier than that. Both get into shape relatively quickly and they are also eager to show what they can do in 2010, particularly as there is a chance to make history as the first brothers to finish on the podium of the Tour de France.

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