New Luxembourger champion Andy Schleck has prepared for his second Tour de France, July 4 to 26, by previewing all of the mountain stages. He warned of danger in the third week when the stage race travels through the Alps.
"Stage number 17 does not look hard but for me it is the hardest day in this year's Tour de France. It is the accumulation of climbs," Schleck told Cyclingnews.
The stage covers the Cormet de Roselend, Col des Saisies, Côte d'Araches, Col de Romme and Col de la Colombière before its finish in Le Grand-Bornand, after 169.5 kilometres.
"The Col de Romme is a real nasty one ... it is going to split the race up." - Schleck on the Tour's 17th stage to Le Grand-Bornand
"Maybe we don't go up to 2000 metres, but they are hard and steep. The Col de Romme is a real nasty one. With the three climbs before you have in your legs, it is going to split the race up."
Schleck's Saxo Bank team won the Tour de France last year with former teammate Carlos Sastre in the Alps. Schleck, 24, used the mountains to secure the maillot blanc of best young rider.
He will lead the team this year with brother Fränk. The two will preview the 39-kilometre team time trial today in Montpellier with their seven teammates: Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Fabian Cancellara, Stuart O'Grady, Gustav Larsson, Chris Anker Sørensen, Nicki Sørensen and Jens Voigt.
Fränk was national champion last year, but for the first time Andy will wear the national road champion jersey at the Tour de France. He won the road race Saturday ahead of Laurent Didier and his elder brother.
"I am proud to go to the Tour with the national colours on my back. I did a good test for myself and I felt good."
Schleck's season also includes a win at the one-day Classic Liège-Bastogne-Liège and stage two of the Tour de Luxembourg. Last week, he finished 24th overall in the Tour de Suisse.
The team won the race's overall and both time trials with Cancellara and Matti Breschel won stage four to Stäfa.
"I put a lot of energy into stage four because I was really trying to get the jersey. I missed a little bit on stage five, but I felt good on Crans-Montana [stage eight]."
The wins and training give Schleck even more confidence than he had going into his first Tour de France last year. He finished 11th overall at 11:32 behind Sastre, but this year he wants to finish better. He said he would be "very happy" with a top five finish.