It was a far cry from his solo victory in the 2009 edition of the race, but after a troubled early season, Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard) was relatively pleased with his 41st place finish at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday, 1:20 down on winner Dan Martin.
Schleck has suffered from injury and struggled with form and motivation over the past eighteen months, and has only finished one stage race – the two-day Critérium International – in that period.
In that context, Schleck’s Liège display was an encouraging one, as he was still part of the large main peloton inside the final 10 kilometres, before he was distanced on the final climb, the Côte de Saint-Nicolas.
“I’ve had some encouraging signs as I’ve worked hard these past few weeks,” Schleck told Le Quotidien. “I finished 41st here, I can’t say that it’s a great result – I clearly don’t have the sensations that I had in 2009, when I won, or in 2010 or 2011, but it’s not too bad all the same.”
As expected, the absence of the Roche aux Faucons climb meant that there were more riders than normal still in contention at the foot of the Côte de Saint-Nicolas. Nonetheless, Schleck believed that the strongest rider still won out and he was fulsome in his praise of Irishman Dan Martin.
“Even though we thought the race would be different without Roche aux Faucons, you can see that it was still the strongest guys who were in front and the strongest man won,” Schleck said of Martin. “He’s a great talent, a great climber. When he is good like he was today, he can do incredible things.”
Liège-Bastogne-Liège brings the curtain down on the opening part of Schleck’s season and his next step ahead of the Tour de France will be the Tour of California, which gets underway on May 12.
“I hope to show something there, I’m not just going there to ride around,” Schleck said. “We’ll have a good team. It’s a hard race even if it’s not WorldTour and I’m happy to go there.”
After California, Schleck’s programme will have a familiar ring: “The Tour de Suisse, the training camp to recon the Tour’s mountain stages and then the Tour de France.