Fränk Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) has no intentions of hanging up his wheels and retiring, telling Cyclingnews that his 12th place finish in this year’s Tour de France proved that he can ride at the highest level. Schleck missed nearly 18 months of racing after he returned a positive test for Xipamide at the Tour in 2012. He returned to racing at the start of this season after a year’s suspension and although his existing one-year deal at Trek is set to terminate at the end of 2014, he wants to carry on racing into 2015.
Schleck started the San Sebastian Classic on Saturday but abandoned the race through illness after 200 kilometres. Speaking to Cyclingnews from the airport during his journey home, Schleck said: “My contract is running down as you probably know but there’s nothing else to say at the moment. It will probably be another week or two before I can say more. So far I can’t tell you anything.”
Asked if there was a chance of calling time in his career, Schleck said: “I missed it for a year and a half. I fought to come back and I’ve been training my arse off that whole time because I didn’t do anything wrong. I fought back and I finished twelfth in the Tour, which shows that I’ve got a really good base. I love it too much to just stop. There’s no chance of that.”
Schleck came into the Tour de France as one of Trek’s protected riders. He suffered in the mountains but was consistent enough to finish twelfth overall. It may have been down on his previous finishes – including his podium place in 2011 – but the Luxembourg national road champion was satisfied with his ride after such a long time away from racing.
“I think the Tour was a good experience. I can be really satisfied with my race and result. To be back at the level of almost where I was, that was very satisfying. I set myself the target of a top ten place before the race, and I only missed that by two spots so I can be happy with that and with how I raced on the climbs. I could almost follow the best in the race. I was consistent throughout the race.”
Once Schleck has recovered from the illness that took him out of San Sebastian he will begin to the final chapter of his season’s racing. It has been a long comeback year and the Vuelta a España is off the cards.
“I started the season very early at the Tour Down Under. I’ve had a hard programme and I’ve raced a lot this year so we’ve decided that I’ll not ride the Vuelta. Instead I’ll go to Colorado and then the races in Canada. Then it’s onto the Worlds and I’d like my last race to be Lombardy. It’s still going to be a long season even without the Vuelta.”
Whenever Schleck’s season does end, the priority over the coming weeks will be to secure a contract for next year. Bauke Mollema has been strongly linked with joining Trek Factory from Belkin in a move that could see Schleck and his brother Andy marginalized. However, one certainty is that Schleck wants to continue racing.
“I missed last year’s racing. Let’s take the Tour de France, where you are suffering every day and you’re hurting so much. You hate every second when you’re racing because you’re suffering like a pig but I missed that so much. I missed it for an entire year and I want to enjoy riding my bike and I still have the passion for it,” he told Cyclingnews.
Asked if he would want to remain at Trek, Schleck replied: “Trek is a great team. It’s a great team so why not. But we don’t know. Right now I can’t say more.”
Fränk Schleck’s younger brother, Andy, is currently recovering from a knee injury sustained in a crash at the Tour de France. Both riders are in the same contractual position and have ridden on the same teams ever since Andy turned professional.
“In terms of his knee he’s okay. He called me this morning and said he had some pain but he’s confident and he is making progress. He has a check up next Tuesday in Basel but lets see where it goes with his progress and how he comes back,” Scheck said of his younger brother.
“It’s too early to say what we’ll do and he has to focus on his knee right now. Everything else will just take energy out of him. We’ll decide where we go in the next couple of weeks.”