Hi. What do you think of my ideas for my new business card? At the top Andy Schleck in bold, of course. Next line: Professional bike rider, with Tour de France contender in brackets. On the next line: Beach volleyball player and occasional babysitter.
Do you think it works, or is too much?
I know, I'll ask Bjarne Riis and see what he thinks as we're playing cards right now. Perhaps I'll wait as we're in the middle of a tense poker game and he isn't doing to well. He's down to his last few chips and I've got a pair of kings. Frank and the other players are already out. It's just me and you Bjarne. Do you feel lucky punk?
"Call," he says after I push half my chips into the middle of the table. He's on the ropes, surely he can't be bluffing. Then he says "Two aces," as his cards come down and his grin widens with each handful of chips he scoops up. What a nightmare.
Well I'm glad I won't be putting card shark on my business card.
Right now we're in Fuerteventura for our final training camp before the racing season starts. It's a great location with the temperature constantly in the mid twenties. Unlike other teams we don't need scientific analysis to tell us that this or that place is the driest in Europe. We just rely on the weather man and this time he's right on the money.
We've been taking it fairly easy in terms of training. Yesterday we went out for a three hour spin on our road bikes, returned to base camp and then hit the road for an hour on our time trial machines. To put it simply: Perfect weather, perfect roads, and perfect teammates.
It's not all work though. Yesterday we took part in a beach volleyball tournament involving the riders and some of the staff. I'll admit I'm a pretty good player, even if some journalists were laughing from the sidelines. Of course you shouldn't expect to see me playing beach volleyball in Brazil as part of my build-up to the Tour de France. Still, it was a good team bonding exercise and it was great fun.
By now I bet you're probably wondering about the babysitting reference for my business card. Well if you didn't know, my brother Frank and his fiancé are expecting their first child, a baby girl in May. It's amazing news and I'm so, so happy for them. I can't wait to be an uncle and look after my niece.
You probably think I could be a bit unreliable when it comes to looking after kids but you're way off the mark. I love kids and I'm always playing with our next door neighbour Cliff, who is a great six year-old. Whenever I come home from a long training ride he comes round to our house.
On more a more serious note my Tour de France analysis has taken up a lot of my time in recent weeks. I've studied a lot of TV footage from the 2009 race with Kim and Bjarne
We have no regrets about how the race played out but we've looked at other riders' performances. One thing we all agreed on is that next year Alberto Contador will start as the big favourite. He doesn't have to attack to win, so you have to wonder who will be the most aggressive rider.
It'll be up to guys like Lance to drop Contador on the climbs if he wants to win the Tour. I'm perhaps in the same situation but I think I have more chance of success. Last year the difference between Contador and I on the climbs was huge but what I learnt is that when he goes I need to be on his wheel straight away. That was maybe my biggest mistake in 2009. I like to ride at my rhythm but once you give Contador 100 meters, it's difficult to pull it back and he doesn't look back or give it back.
I've said before that Contador and I have a good relationship but it's not like that between me and all my Tour rivals. I'd like to think I'm a happy-go-lucky guy who gets on with anyone but I've read in the press that Carlos Sastre has been critical of our team and me personally. He said he didn't like taking advice from younger riders and to be honest that hurts.
In the 2008 Tour de France Frank and I sacrificed our chances for him. Not just on the stage to Alpe d'Huez but throughout the race. Then after the race he came out and said that we weren't committed. That really wasn't nice to hear. I pulled at the front of the peloton for entire climbs for that guy. I would really like to know what's going on in his head and why he thinks that we weren't committed.
I respect Carlos a lot as a rider and I learnt a lot from him when he was at the team. To be honest it's the first time I've ever experienced this type of problem with another rider and like I said I was really upset. However Frank was even more upset as he takes things a bit more to heart than I do. I'll still talk to Carlos at races, like I said he has my respect but he's gone down in my estimations. I hope our relationship improves in the future as I'm not the type to hold grudges.
Hey, perhaps one day we'll have our own poker game...
P.S Just so you know, I won my chips back off Bjarne.