Fränk Schleck has admitted that his brother Andy still needs time to come to terms with his retirement from cycling but added that the former Tour de France winner hopes to remain in the sport.
Andy Schleck was forced to call time on his career due a knee injury, and announced the news at a press conference convened in his home country of Luxembourg, in October. The news ended months of speculation after Schleck damaged the cartilage in his right knee in a crash at the Tour de France. Despite an extended rehabilitation period, medical advice forced the rider into a rather premature retirement at the age of 29.
The two brothers recently returned from a holiday in Mallorca where they, and their respective families, were able to privately come to terms with the development.
"When Andy first retired I didn't want to come out and say that much because I felt like I would just be repeating things," his brother Fränk told Cyclingnews.
"Obviously I knew that the news was coming. For about two or three weeks he'd already decided and we talked through everything. We understood that there was no way back and that, because of the damage to his knee, it was all over. It was a very hard moment but everyone has to slow down at some point. The wheels stop for every rider. You can't ride forever and for Andy that moment is now. If he could change it he would have but that's how it is."
The brothers - who have been virtually inseparable during their racing careers – used their trip to Spain as a chance to digest Andy's retirement, and Fränk admitted that there have been tough moments in the weeks since the formal announcement.
"There's been some time to understand the news and I've personally come to accept it but it was like a punch in the stomach when he first told me. Since then, I have to say thank you to everyone who has reached out to us, and especially to Andy, because a lot of fans, riders, and our friends have said a lot of nice things. They've reminded us that the memories we shared and created on the road, they will last forever."
Despite the well-wishers and the nostalgic trips down memory lane, the emotional wounds are still visible. Andy Schleck was understandably upset during his press conference, regularly having to compose himself as he answered questions from the media surrounding several injuries he picked up in the latter stages of his career and his legacy. In Mallorca the brothers' conversation would automatically turn to cycling but Fränk would shift the topic depending on his brother's response.
"I'd be lying if I said that everything for him has been good. He's had a hard time and at moments he has been miserable. Maybe what people didn't see is that he tried everything to come back. He was out in Mallorca for three weeks before the decision was taken, and he was there with a medical team and was riding to try and come back. Everyday he tried.
"So he's been down and he's needed this recent break in order to try and get over these feelings. Still, even today when we were together, when we start talking about cycling it's tough. We automatically start talking about it because it's our passion, it's our life, and you can see straight away that it's a tough thing to talk about. He is coming to terms with the situation and he is coming around to the fact that one chapter has closed but that another can begin. He's looking forward to that future."
Fränk trained sporadically in Mallorca but in the coming week he will head to Trek Factory Racing's winter training camp, and within a few months he will be back in full race mode. At that point he believes his brother may face another difficult patch but he is adamant that he can overcome it.
"There are moments when he's okay but I think the second wave will come. I'll start going to training camps and then the races, and I think it's going to hit him again. It's not going to be easy but there has to be acceptance. That's how it is and we just have to rally around him."
"It's like when we were back in races. We can read each other really well so I can tell from just one look if he wants to talk about cycling or not. Sometimes it was good to talk about the sport but there were other moments when it was just better to talk about family or fishing, anything but cycling."
At the end of his press conference Andy spoke about a possible return to cycling in a non-competitive role.
"I'd love for him to stay in cycling but it's too early to talk about that. He still has to fight the emotions he's going through before anything can be decided. He wants to stay in the sport and we're going to see him around, he just needs more time."