Frank Schleck: sad to leave the Tour de France, but Andy isn’t alone in bid to win
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Frank Schleck: sad to leave the Tour de France, but Andy isn’t alone in bid to win

by Conal Andrews at 7:12 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Injury
Luxembourg champion confident in his younger brother and team

Frank SchleckSaxo Bank rider Frank Schleck went into this year’s Tour de France with his best-ever chance to win the race, as evidenced by his storming win in the Tour de Suisse, but yesterday that dream ended when he crashed heavily during stage three.

The Luxembourg road race champion hit the cobbles 26 kilometres from the end of the stage, and lay on the left side of the road for quite some time. It was obvious that something was very wrong, and after speaking to the doctors, he left the race with a broken collarbone.

Speaking yesterday evening, he was obviously disappointed with how things turned out. “Let’s put it this way – I have seen better days,” he said, wearing a brace to support a collarbone broken in three places. “I think we have all seen that the team was the strongest by far and all the boys did an amazing job. Yesterday [on stage two], they were all waiting for us, and again today it was great to see everybody committed to helping and supporting us to win this Tour de France.

“Last night I had told them that we owe them a lot and that we are going to do everything possible to win this Tour de France for then,” he continued, explaining his state of mind and his determination to do something big in the race. “Today there was a perfect position and perfect job from everybody, and the team stuck together. Then I went into the pave in position four, but a guy from High Road [HTC Columbia] crashed in front of me and just took me down. But that’s the sport.”

Collarbone injuries are one of the most common in cycling, due partly to the fact that when riders fall, the instinctively put out their arms and the shock of the impact travels up to the shoulder. Many riders have broken theirs multiple times but, for Schleck, this was his first-ever fracture.

He knew immediately that he was out of the race. “I felt it right away – I’ve had some crashes but never broke anything,” he said. “But this was just so much pain and I knew it was broken, straight away.”

“It is a pity, because I seriously think that Andy myself could both have been on the podium and gone for the win. Now Andy has to take over that part himself. He has to do it for me.”

While he was lying in the ditch, his brother heard over the race radio that he was out of the race. Although the news was a huge blow, he kept his head down and carried through on the team’s plan.

Ironically, the crash ensured that a gap opened up between last year’s runner-up and some of his other rivals, boosting his chances.

Schleck junior and team-mate Fabian Cancellara combined with eventual stage winner Thor Hushovd (Cervélo Test Team), Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin Transitions) and world champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) to gain time over the other GC contenders. Cancellara retook the yellow jersey and by and large, it was a mostly positive day for Team Saxo Bank.

Andy Schleck is now sixth overall, and is in a strong position relative to his rivals. While he is 30 seconds behind Cadel Evans, he has gained time over the other riders he will need to beat to win this race. He now holds a 31 second advantage over Alberto Contador (Astana), who took last year’s Tour, and is further ahead of big rivals such as Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas-Doimo), Lance Armstrong (Team RadioShack), Michael Rogers (HTC Columbia), Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and 2008 winner Carlos Sastre (Cervélo Test Team).

The day ensures that he is in a good position heading towards the mountains. However he will undoubtedly miss his brother by his side. Last year they were two of the strongest riders on the climbs, and based their strategy around the fact that they were both going very well.

He spoke to ITV after the stage and was upset about what had happened. “We lost one of our favourites for the race,” he said. “I am happy he only broke his collarbone and that he will be all right and back with the family in the next couple of days. For me personally, I knew the stage was going to be hard, but I felt pretty good on the cobbles. I went well over the stones, my technique was okay.”

Frank Schleck underlined that he will be supporting his brother all the way. “He is not going to be alone. I will be with him, for sure,” he said, although it was unsure if he meant that metaphorically or if he planned to attend several of the stages ahead. “He can count on the team, on the whole squad staying together and being 100% committed to him.”



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