After the most difficult season of his career so far, Andy Schleck (RadioShack Nissan) sat down with Cyclingnews to discuss growing up, 'chain-gate', Contador’s positive in 2010, Johan Bruyneel, and his aims for 2013.
Cyclingnews: What do you think about when people ask you about the 2010 Tour de France?
Andy Schleck: Many riders say that was the Tour that I was the strongest from my past Tours but I don’t agree. In 2011 when Cadel [Evans] won I actually felt a lot better. Some years you have ten guys who are really strong and five guys who can go for the podium or win and I believe that was the case in 2011. In 2010 there was Contador and me and behind us they were riding for third place. 2011 was quite different. I believe my condition was even stronger in 2011.
CN: But emotionally how do you feel about the 2010 yellow jersey and how you ended up winning the Tour after Contador tested positive?
AS: For me, like I said, it’s on paper now that I won that Tour but I don’t feel myself as a Tour winner.
AS: Because of the circumstances. You win the Tour and the best thing that you have afterwards are the memories. The memories of being on the Champs Elysees and that wasn’t the case. It doesn’t feel like I won that Tour even if it says so on paper.
They gave me the yellow jersey in a ceremony in Luxembourg but it’s not the same. Also because that Tour was quite close between Contador and me, and it was for sure, the nicest Tour I did because I spent 6 days in yellow and in 2011 I only spent a day in a half in yellow. So from the memories 2010 is the best, also because I won two stages but also 2011 was the Galibier stage and that’s something I’ll never forget.
CN: Do you feel angry in way because of the way you won the 2010 Tour, angry with Contador angry with the race?
AS: No I’m not angry. I was angry with Contador when he attacked when my chain came off but it’s not like he’s my enemy. We still talk and he apologised.
CN: In the last 12 months you’ve had a tough time as an individual, as a brother of Frank and with the team. What’s been the toughest part?
AS: There was of course my injury but the whole season started badly. The training camp was good but then I went to Paris-Nice and was sick and I was always behind the others. Every race I entered I was behind. I had a training camp later and started to get my sensations back on the climbs and things started to fall into place but then there was the Dauphine and my crash. The whole Tour was the toughest time for me. For three weeks I couldn’t do anything. I was just a couch potato.
CN: Your persona with the fans is that you’re always happy, positive, a little bit care free. You love and enjoy racing but were there times this year that changed you because of the set backs you were having.
AS: As everyone saw I took my distance at races, I stayed away. There was a moment when I didn’t feel like a bike rider at all. You sit at home and you can’t train or if you can train you can only train one hour. There was a time when I didn’t want to be around cycling, with the riders and the press, but I actually think I needed that break. But now it’s a lesson for me because one door closes and one opens and gives me new opportunities. I really believe that this has made me much stronger mentally. I’ve broken my collar bone before but that takes ten days to recover from but after that you can ride again. Since I started as a pro everything was going up hill, with the results, everything, but last year it all went downhill. It made me realise how much I enjoy cycling and how much I like to be in racing.
CN: Do you think you matured?
AS: Yes definitely. Definitely.
CN: With Frank, you weren’t at the Tour this year, but what do you remember about him testing positive? How did you find out?
AS: He called me [long pause] it was not a positive test though. But we’re confident and we believe in justice and of course at the beginning you’re thinking and thinking about but it didn’t really stop us from training or stopping cycling altogether. Never.
CN: If there’s a ban for Frank. Will you stop racing or carry on because you’re so close to him?
AS: I will never stop. Frank has the support of the whole team. He trains with us and the only thing is that we hope it’s resolved quickly. We have races coming up and we believe in justice and we’ve not thought about a ban or him not racing. He didn’t do anything wrong and think it will be resolved quickly.
CN: One other issue in a difficult year was the relationship between the team, and especially Frank and yourself, and Johan Bruyneel.
AS: It didn’t go well. I would be lying otherwise. Johan had a different way on how to prepare for the Tour with different races and we were all okay with it. It was a new test. He did that race programme with Lance and with Contador for a year but it didn’t work for me. There was a lot of misunderstanding in the press. We tried to pull on the same string, we had the same goal of wining the Tour but we had different approaches and ideas on how to get ready for the Tour and it didn’t work. Last year in January I said I’d like to try something different but it didn’t work and now I’ll go back to something I’m used to and what’s good for me.
CN: Did you talk to Becca [RadioShack Nissan team owner] about Bruyneel possibly leaving the team or was that surprise to you?
AS: It came as a surprise to everyone. When the USADA case came out, his name was mentioned a lot but it came as a blast to everyone when he left. We heard in the morning on one day when racing in Beijing but it came as a surprise to us. It’s not like we knew that it was coming. You knew it at the same time as us.
CN: What was the situation with the Tour and the Giro between you Frank and Johan? From what was written in the press it looked like Bruyneel wanted Frank to target the Giro, and on paper he could have won that, and for you to you have targeted the Tour. Could that not have worked, assuming you were both injury free?
AS: Frank had a crash three days before the finish. He was in a good position, may be not for the victory but I know Frank and he would have tried. At the beginning he was maybe not that happy to do the Giro but his crash was three days to go. His wife flew down for the end but then he had to come home. If he’d not had the crash he would have finished the Giro in a good way. The ideal scenario would have been that he had prepared 100 percent for the Tour. That’s one for the future.
CN: Looking ahead to 2013, what’s the one thing that keeps you going when you’re not racing and what’s the one goal?
AS: One thing is for sure, that I want to show people that I’m still here. That I’m still a good rider. I want to be in a race again and make a difference, to attack, maybe win the race. I have a lot of motivation. Every race I enter I want to do my best and I know I can do well. The first races will be really hard because I’ve missed a lot of races but what keeps me going is that I want to win races.
CN: Getting back to that level, is that your biggest challenge?
AS: Yes. Getting back to that level and then going beyond that level. There’s a long way to go and it’s going to be hard.
CN: Just going back to a previous question: what do you think was worse, Contador attacking you when your chain slipped in 2010 or the fact that he tested positive in the race?
AS: The clenbuterol is still a discussed matter. Some believe him, some don’t. For me, it was worse that he attacked me because that was not sporting. I wouldn’t have done that. For the rest, I’m not a doctor or scientist but there’s a lot of things in his favour and some against but it’s not up to me to judge him. I don’t go there and point a finger at him because the amount was so small and in the end he was banned. But it’s still an open question. You can’t say he doped because it’s not really proven, it’s proven that he had clenbuterol in his system but he has a story about where it came from but I can't tell if it’s true.
CN: But you saw the fact that he was suspended. He broke the rules and broke the WADA code.
AS: Yes he broke the WADA code but he didn’t get caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Honestly, I don’t know what to believe in this case. With or without, he’s still maybe the best rider out there, still. I don’t want to make a judgement because I don’t know enough about it. I don’t point my finger at someone if it’s not clear.
CN: Because of the current climate and because of the USADA report it seems that every rider has to justify themselves. Every rider is asked whether they’ve taken performance enhancing drugs. Do you think that’s a fair question?
AS: No. I mean what can we do more today to show that we don’t dope. The UCI and WADA know every minute of everyday where we are. They know if I sleep in room 120 or 115. We do so much testing and you cant compare now with the time ten years ago with Lance. If you look back at that time no one was caught positive because there wasn’t enough tests. There’s more testing now, the passport. If I hear that that’s there another commission coming, what’s it called, Change Cycling, for me that’s kind of ridiculous.
Of course we have to earn the trust back from the people to believe it but they can’t judge my generation with something that happened ten years ago. We can’t do more now to prove that we don’t dope. We do so much. I think it’s unfair that people point at us and compare us with the era of Armstrong. It was a different time then and everything that they want to do now, we accept but I don’t think there’s more we can do. It’s a lot of publicity, people coming out and saying they want to change cycling but I believe cycling has already changed.
CN: There’s a link between the past and the present within cycling. Kim Andersen is a good example, so is Johan Bruyneel, Jonanthan Vaughters, Matt White, even some of the riders.
AS: today you can learn from the past. Everyone can have a second chance and everyone can change they way they think. I just take an example. David Millar was caught and today he does a lot to help cycling. You have a DS like Aldag who rode with Ullrich and he’s admitted that he used EPO but today he’s standing there helping cycling change. I don’t think you need to ban everyone from cycling from 20 years ago, maybe they’re the people who can make the difference today because they’ve learned from the past. That’s really how I feel. Millar knows the young guys and he can teach them that today is different.