Fränk Schleck has raced just once since breaking his collarbone at the Tour de France but believes he still has a chance of victory in the Vuelta a Espana.
Schleck fractured his collarbone in three places as the peloton raced over the cobbles in northern France. He underwent surgery and rode the Vattenfall Cyclassics in Hamburg on August 15 but then got married instead of riding the Tour du Limousin. That irritated Saxo Bank boss Bjarne Riis but Fränk believes having fresh legs will give him an edge in the third week of the Vuelta, when the race hits the mountains.
“The crash could become an advantage because I only did four Tour stages and I’ll be fresher physically than the rest of the riders who did all three weeks,” he told the Marca newspaper.
“It would have been good to ride the Tour du Limousin but that was hardly compatible with my wedding on August 21. There are more important things in life than bike races and that day was wonderful.” The couple was married in a civil ceremony December 31, and this month had the religious ceremony.
“I honestly do want to go for GC. My head is 100% focused on that goal. I’m motivated. I have fully recovered from my crash although my collarbone was broken in three pieces, I’ve done a lot of training behind the scooter. After four or five days of racing, I’ll be ready. If I’ve got the same legs as at the Tour de Suisse, I can win the Vuelta.”
“Climbs in Spain are shorter than at the Tour de France. We haven’t gone and reconnoitred the route of the Vuelta before the race but I know that it’s always up and down.”
Fränk has identified his adversaries, including a possible secret partnership between two overall contenders who will be teammates in 2011.
“Caisse d’Epargne always has a strong team”, he said. “Nibali is a favourite as well as Sastre and Menchov who will ride together with Geox next year,” Schleck said. “The Spanish, too, will be difficult to beat. Spain is a country with a great cycling tradition and great riders. They won’t make it easy for us.”
Fränk will have special support from his younger brother Andy. He finished second in the Tour de France and has made it clear he is riding the Vuelta to help his brother. Even if he joked about a possible place on the podium.
“I’m not sure how good I am because I had a week’s holiday after the Tour de France,” Andy said.
“If I can be up there in the mountains with the top riders, that’s great. “If I’m going well, I’ll stay with Fränk for the third week. But you can only have the kind of form I had in the Tour once a year. Miracles don’t happen.”
“Schleck, Nibali, Menchov will finish in that order. But I’m not giving the first name of the Schleck…” Andy joked.