Road map to success? Andy Schleck weighs up his options in the woods of the Luxembourg Ardennes.
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Luxembourg rider makes his racing debut with Trek Factory Racing
Andy Schleck made a low-key season debut at the Tour of Oman, finishing 83rd in the peloton behind stage winner Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol), but explained to Cyclingnews that he is confident that his career is back on track after a solid winter of training.
"The first race of the season is always kind of special but I think I'm going to be okay. I'm not nervous about the racing because I've been training good all winter. The early stages are for the sprinters and then it'll be more important to see where I stand," he told Cyclingnews.
Schleck looked lean as he rode in his black Trek Factory Racing kit. He also appears quietly confident that his physical problems and alleged psychological problems of the last two seasons are behind him. Other riders have revealed that Schleck was always motivated during training, convincing his teammates to clock up extra kilometres and miss coffee stops during training rides.
"The weather was pretty good in Luxembourg and so I was able to do more and better training than before," he said.
"We also did some training camps in Spain in December and then in Mallorca in January. We went back to Mallorca for a week before coming here too. We've been training good and I hope we can see the benefits of the work we've done."
Staying with the best 10
Schleck is looking for a performance and result that will further boost his moral and confidence for the rest of the 2104 season. He is curious to test himself against the likes of Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), especially on the mountain finish at Jabal Al Akhdhar (Green Mountain) on Saturday's fifth stage.
"I think it's too early to say now who is going to have a good season and who not. This race is about finding the racing rhythm," he said.
"There are some hard mountain stages coming up but I think the usual guys will be in front: Froome and Purito. We'll find out if I can go with them or not... I'm not specifically looking for a result that looks good on paper but I'd hope that on the climbs I can stay with the 10 best in front."
The Trek Factory Racing team has been built from the ashes of the Radioshack team. Andy Schleck and his brother Frank opted to stay with the team, accepting a lower salary in the hope they can resurrect their careers. The Tour of Oman is the first time the Schleck brothers have raced together since Frank was banned for doping at the 2012 Tour de France.
"It's definitely a new structure and we've had some changes but I'm sure we'll soon be in good shape for the Classics with Fabian (Cancellara) and then me and Frank back together for the stage races. It's nice to be back racing with him here. We didn't have that for a long time," Andy said with family pride.
The Trek Factory Racing team no longer orbits around the Schleck brothers, but Andy is convinced he can return to success in stage races and possible even Grand Tours. He believes he is too young to be written off just yet.
"I'm still young even if this is my ninth professional season," he said when asked if he considers himself part of the younger generation in the team or part of the old guard.
"I've got a few years on my back but I'm only 28. I've got plenty of time ahead of me to do well."