Andy Schleck finished his first stage race in almost twelve months when he completed the Critérium International on Sunday and afterwards the RadioShack Leopard rider said that rumours of his demise as a rider were greatly exaggerated.
“I was never dead, just maybe asleep but it was a nice day today,” Schleck said after completing his first stage race since the Circuit de la Sarthe last April.
Although Schleck finished almost 22 minutes down at the summit of the Col de l’Ospedale on Sunday, he did at least play an active part in the racing on the final stage of the Critérium International, briefly joining a mid-stage break in the company of Thomas Voeckler (Europcar). Schleck explained that he was hoping to help his teammates Bob Jungels and Andreas Klöden break Team Sky’s stranglehold on the race.
“We went out there today and had a plan to fight, we didn’t want to let Sky have an easy time of it,” Schleck said on the team website. “We had Laurent [Didier] in the break and then I jumped to the group to try and make the race hard with Jens [Voigt]. In the end, it didn’t work but when you come to the finish and you have done something, or tried to execute a plan, it’s a good day.”
After a troubled start to the season that saw him fail to finish the Tour Down Under, Tour Mediterranéen and Tirreno-Adriatico, Schleck will doubtless have been pleased to have stemmed that steady flow of abandons. By the time Schleck crossed the line, however, Chris Froome was already home, hosed and in the yellow jersey, and he will be mindful that he is still a long way off the level required at the Tour de France in July.
“I can see that the shape in my legs is coming back. I felt good,” Schleck said. “I still miss some power so I knew I couldn’t go with the best at the end, so instead I thought I would try to go from far out and make the race hard. I really enjoyed today even though the weather was so bad. I enjoyed riding my bike.”