Andy Schleck's abandon at Tirreno-Adriatico is yet another blow to the rider who has struggled with his return to competition following his crash and broken sacrum suffered at last year's Critérium du Dauphiné. Schleck was one of 56 riders who will not start the final stage at Tirreno and while the atrocious conditions saw nearly one third of the field pull out, the "DNF" tag appears difficult for the RadioShack Leopard rider to shake.
Schleck has progressed slowly since his dismal start to the year in Australia at the Santos Tour Down Under, where he pulled out on the final stage after apparently experiences mechanical issues, but he is still a long way from being competitive.
He started the penultimate day at Tirreno-Adriatico in 84th place but his withdrawal from 'The Race of the Two Seas' marks his third abandon of the year after he also pulled out of stage 1 at Tour Méditerranéen after barely 100km and then skipped the Tour du Haut-Var to train in Mallorca.
RadioShack Leopard team director Luca Guercilena has once again put his faith in the official winner of the 2010 Tour de France, calling for Schleck to rediscover "his old self" while adding that he needs to continue to work hard in order to find the kind of condition that has made him a real Tour contender since winning the young rider classification and finishing second overall at the Giro d'Italia in 2007.
"We were sad to see Andy abandon," said Guercilena on the team site. "He has been improving a lot but in these conditions, he wasn't able to follow today. His condition is coming up but on a physically demanding day like today, it just wasn't enough. We think he still suffers psychologically from last year's crash. We hope he continues to work through this and that it passes soon. This is the most important thing.
"We want our Andy back. We think he can benefit from working with someone in the effort to help him find his old self. This is important to all of us."
The Critérium International had been listed as Schleck's next race appointment. The two-day tour runs from 23-24 March giving Schleck a little more than 10 days to bounce back from his latest disappointment.