Regardless of the outcome in Alberto Contador’s doping case, Andy Schleck believes that he can line up at the start of next year’s Tour de France as the number one favourite.
Schleck was pushed into second place by Contador for the second year in a row this year but his performance showed vast improvements from his second place in 2009. Along with winning two stages he wore the yellow jersey for several days and pushed Contador all the way to Paris. He finished just 39 seconds down on the Spaniard in the final classification.
“I think I can go to next year’s Tour as the favourite and that gives me confidence to achieve that goal, to win it,” Schleck told Cyclingnews.
“Since I started I’ve progressed every year and if I carry on that progression from this year to next year then I’ll be the favourite this year.”
Schleck’s start to the season was marred by injury. He was hit by a car in the winter and suffered a knee injury that kept him from training in the build up to the Classics.
However despite three weeks on the bike he found enough form to show flashes of class in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Amstel Gold Race before another strong showing in the Tour de Suisse.
“I was out for three weeks because I had to rest, because in cycling if you’re injured you have to rest. There’s no in between. I had to take my time.
“Then in Pays Basque I was actually feeling pretty good and although I was not 100 per cent in the Classics I was still up there for the victory.”
The Tour de France was Schleck’s main focus for the year and the young Luxembourg climber was Contador’s only challenger, however. Since it was announced that Contador tested positive for Clenbuterol, Schleck has made it clear that he does not wish to receive the yellow jersey should the Spaniard be stripped of his title, insisting that he wants to ‘win the Tour de France 'on the road’.
And despite the controversy surrounding the race Schleck is proud of the season he has had. “If I look at the overall season, it’s been pretty good. I reached more or less what I wanted to reach. Of course I wanted to win the Tours but in the end I didn’t but I won two stages which I’m very proud of and second place in the Tour.
"Last year I was second I was two minutes fifty [in arrears] but this year I was up there for the win. It was a big battle until the end and I never stopped believing. In 2009 I got to the final time trial and knew that I wasn’t going to pull any time back but this year was really exciting and so it was a whole different Tour for me.”
Schleck has already started his build up for next year’s race. Along with moving to the new Luxembourg team with his brother Fränk, he has started his training with the Tour de France his main goal for the season.
“I’ve already started training and I plan to have a better preparation than this year. If I look at the profile for the Tour it suits me perfectly and there’s only one goal and that’s to win that race. That’s the main big goal and that’s what I’m working on.”