Andy Schleck has pinpointed his brother Fränk’s abandon on stage 3 as the moment that ultimately cost him Tour de France victory. The Luxembourg rider also said that he did not understand why his friendship with Alberto Contador draws so much criticism.
“Everybody asks me when and where I lost the Tour,” Schleck told L’Équipe in Curaçao, where he participated in the Amstel race with his brother. “I know when: it was right when [Fränk] abandoned the Tour after four days.
“From then on, I didn’t succeed in sparing myself, in preserving my freshness like I would have done with [him] at my side. It’s hard to think about it again, because I should have won that Tour!”
Another crucial turning point in Andy Schleck’s Tour came on the Port de Bales, when he slipped his chain and was subsequently attacked by Alberto Contador. By that stage Fränk was at home in Luxembourg watching the race, and he said he couldn’t bear to watch his brother lose the yellow jersey in such circumstances.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, I switched it off straight after the top of the Port de Bales,” Fränk Schleck explained. However, he also noted that had he still been on the Tour, he would have cautioned Andy against attacking at that moment.
“It wasn’t very wise to attack at that moment,” Fränk said. “If I had been at [Andy’s] side, [he] would never have acted like that.”
For his part, Fränk Schleck claimed that Andy’s expulsion from the Vuelta a España was ultimately very costly to his own aspirations in the Spanish race. Saxo Bank manager Bjarne Riis sent Andy Schleck and Stuart O’Grady home for breeching the team’s rules on alcohol consumption during the rest day.
“OK, [Riis] is responsible for the image of the team and we’ve always respected him for that,” Fränk said. “But his decision to exclude Andy and Stuart O’Grady wasn’t right in so much as it handicapped me afterwards. I was left without help.”
Schleck and Contador: the special relationship
Andy Schleck reiterated his support of Alberto Contador by underlining their friendship and stating that he would not feel like the winner of the Tour de France if the Spaniard is ultimately sanctioned for his adverse analytical finding for Clenbuterol.
“I don’t understand why our friendship with Alberto Contador has been criticised so much,” Andy said to L’Équipe. “It’s doesn’t change anything about our way of riding, I showed that on the Tour.
“However, after the incident at Bagnères-de-Luchon, I was very taken aback. Alberto spoke to me afterwards but I will never forget that episode.”
In 2009, Contador was in the Caribbean with the Schlecks for the Amstel Curaçao Race, but this time around he is in Spain awaiting a verdict on his Clenbuterol case. Nonetheless, the top two from the Tour de France have remained in close contact.
“A few days ago, he sent us a message with a picture of an enormous fish that he caught near his house,” Andy said. “He challenged us to do better here in Curaçao.”
The younger Schleck has drawn criticism for his statements on the Contador case in recent weeks, but the Luxembourg rider is unapologetic in his defence of the Spaniard.
“I just want to make it known that whatever happens to him, whether he’s found guilty or not, Alberto will always be welcome in Luxembourg to go hunting with us,” Andy said. “And if he is ever declassified from the Tour, I could not in any way feel myself the winner. You win the Tour when you cross the finish line on the Champs-Élysées in yellow. Not in any other way.”
Meanwhile, Fränk Schleck explained that one of the main criteria for signing for the brothers’ new Luxembourg Pro Cycling Project team is the ability to fit into the group.
“It’s for this reason that we didn’t take a guy like [Riccardo] Riccò,” he explained. “His personality doesn’t fit with ours. It’s nothing to do with his past errors; it’s a question of mentality.”
Fabian Cancellara has long been touted as a probable signing for the new team, both Schlecks were adamant that nothing has yet been confirmed.
“It’s true, he’s a friend, but as of today he has not yet signed,” Andy said. “You won’t succeed in getting us to say anything to the contrary.”
“For now…” added his older brother.