While Andy Schleck’s RadioShack-Leopard team has played down his chances of mounting a serious overall challenge at the Tour de France, the Luxembourger has said that he is hoping to spring a surprise or two in July.
Schleck has struggled since he finished second in the 2011 Tour and his problems were exacerbated when he missed last year’s race after fracturing his pelvis at the Critérium du Dauphiné. He showed some signs of form at the Tour de Suisse, however, when he followed the leaders most of the way up to the Albulapass on the étape reine.
“You were surprised? Not me,” Schleck told L’Équipe. “I just needed a confirmation that my work was going to pay off. I even wanted to follow when [Michele Scarponi] attacked but I had already been in two breakaways, and in a stage like that, I was afraid to do too much. For all that, it doesn’t make me a favourite for the Tour! I have my ideas and I’m keeping them to myself, but perhaps I will be the surprise of July…”
Schleck’s difficult spring on the bike gave rise to speculation that all was not well off it, and a number of sources close to the RadioShack-Leopard team suggested that he was struggling with his motivation as he attempted to regain his condition.
“I read everywhere that I had mental problems. I read that even when I was at home peacefully with my family. I wasn’t and I am not a depressive or unhappy person. On the bike, it’s true, things weren’t going too well, but one day, I’m going to be riding on the front again,” Schleck said.
Schleck admitted that he perhaps returned from injury too quickly. Eager to race before the end of 2012, Schleck lined up at the Tour of Beijing in October, describing it as his first race of 2013, and then continued to train through the winter.
“Before the Tour of Beijing, I was still hurting and I don’t know if it was wise to go there,” he said. “Afterwards, it wasn’t just training rides of four, five, six hours, but also exercises with a physiotherapist, so days of eight hours and more. With Kim Andersen, who I consider like a member of my family, we did training camps in Mallorca, just him and me.”
Without a victory since he won atop the Galibier at the 2011 Tour, Schleck has endured two trying years in which he has made headlines simply for finishing races but he is confident that he has ample time to turn things around.
“I’m turned 28 in June. I still consider myself a young rider, maybe even a rider in his best years, and I still have a future in front of me,” he said.