Riis fully believes in Andy Schleck’s ability to win the Tour de France
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Riis fully believes in Andy Schleck’s ability to win the Tour de France

by Conal Andrews at 11:09 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France

Team Saxo Bank owner Bjarne Riis is convinced that 2009 runner-up Andy Schleck can go on to win the Tour de France. The Dane has spent many long hours with directeur sportif Kim Andersen analysing recordings of last year’s Tour, and feel that they will be able to advise the 24 year old what to do differently.

“He can win, absolutely,” he told Sporten.dk. “He still makes mistakes, but it is a process [that] one needs to take step-by-step to become a better leader. But Andy wants to take responsibility. He still has people to help him, but he knows enough – when he must make a decision, he is not afraid to do so. He knows what he wants.”

One conclusion that Riis and Andersen have made is that the Luxembourger needs to respond immediately when Alberto Contador attacks. The Spaniard has a very strong acceleration and Schleck has found that if he doesn’t take his wheel right away, that it is very difficult to close the gap.

His elder brother Frank Schleck has said on many occasions that he believes his brother has what he needs to win the race, and he reiterated that again. “Each year he has grown bigger, faster and better. That will continue, he can achieve even more.”

He feels that his brother needs to be more assertive, and perhaps not be such a nice guy. “We have repeatedly heard that we must learn to be more aggressive and selfish,” he explained.

“He [Armstrong] is the perfect example. We do the race and he is riding against us without showing any emotion, but when we first get on the bike [at the start of the stages], he shakes our hands. Competition is competition, he is good at separating things.”

However Andy Schleck feels that it’s not necessary for him to give up on all his personality traits. “Winning races is one thing, but you cannot change your personality,” he said. “Perhaps I am the one who crosses the finish line, whose arms go up or who gets onto the Tour podium, but it is a team effort. I get the flowers, but the victory is as much due to the others, and that is not just something I say.

“I turned professional in 2005. I was not born a star. I know everyone has roles depending on their abilities. It is important to respect everyone. Sometimes you must be selfish, but it is about finding balance.

“Nicki Sorensen is one of the best team-mates you could have. He worked hard the whole year – not only in the Tour. He sacrificed everything for me, even in the Classics. I could have said that nobody can go in a break on the Tour, but then we would not have had the stage victory by Nicki,” he said.

However he also points out there are times when he will say no to individual ambitions. “I’m tough enough [when needs be],” he explained. “As a leader you should judge yourself and think your ideas thorough, and I can do that. I did in Flèche Wallonne last year, where I finished second. I told the others that they should not go in the break, that I needed them at the end. I did not win, but it did not mean that the following day I went around and said sorry.”

Schleck had his best-ever season in 2009, finishing second overall in the Tour and winning the young rider classification. He also triumphed in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, soloing to a dominant win, as well as on stage two of the Tour of Luxembourg and in the national road race championship.

High placings included that runner-up slot in Flèche Wallonne, as well as second, third and third on stages of the Tour.

Schleck may well yet be declared the winner of Flèche Wallonne, as Davide Rebellin was announced as positive for CERA in the days after the race. The test in question dated back to the previous summer’s Olympic Games, but if the Italian’s suspension is upheld, he is almost certain to be disqualified as per current anti-doping rules.


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