Fränk Schleck has admitted that he was surprised at his late call-up to lead the RadioShack-Nissan team at the Giro d’Italia, but he has insisted that he will do all he can to finish in the top 5 in Milan. Schleck was only informed of his selection on Saturday afternoon, after previously designated leader Jakob Fuglsang was forced to give best to a knee injury.
“It was a big surprise for me because I didn’t expect to have to replace Jakob,” Schleck told Le Quotidien. “Since 2006, I’ve had the habit of taking a week off after the classics and then preparing for the Tour de France by way of the Tour of Luxembourg and the Tour de Suisse. So before getting the call to replace Jakob on Saturday afternoon, I hadn’t started back training again.”
Schleck resumed training on Sunday, and warned that he might be struggling for form early in the Giro. He aims to use the opening ten days of the Giro to build his condition ahead of the exacting final week in the Dolomites.
“I don’t want to look for excuses, but since I’m replacing Jakob and this frankly wasn’t predicted, it’s not exactly the best preparation,” Schleck said. “Fortunately, the first ten days aren’t very hard and I’ll have to use those opening stages to gradually get into the race. But after ten days, I’ll know how my body is reacting.”
Barring the Tour de France stage to Pinerolo last year, Schleck has remarkably not raced in Italy since the world championships in Varese in 2008, and has not competed in the Giro since he was among Ivan Basso’s lieutenants at CSC in 2005.
While Schleck is aware that he will be bracketed among the podium contenders due his Tour performances, he insisted that his late decision to ride the Giro should not be compared to Alberto Contador’s participation – and victory – in 2008. On that occasion, Contador’s Astana squad received a belated invitation one week before the race began in Palermo.
“I’m being classed among the favourites for this Giro because of my palmares, but I shouldn’t be ranked as a favourite on account of Contador’s success in 2008,” Schleck said. “I think that year he must have been ready all the same. As for me, I really thought I was taking time away from racing after Liège-Bastogne-Liège. But I’m the leader of the team, and like I said, I’ll do everything to figure well in this Giro.”
In spite of his low-key results in the Ardennes classics, Schleck insisted that he had “super legs” at Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but was unsure as to his condition after a week off the bike. “I’m not starting with all the cards in my hands, it all depends on my ability to get back on track,” he said.
For now, Schleck remains on track to race the Tour de France in support of his brother Andy, although he acknowledged that he did not know how much the Giro would take out of him. “If you ride the Giro d’Italia as preparation for the Tour de France, it’s tricky to play a big role at the Giro, but it must be possible,” he said. “I’ll have to see how I come out of this Giro. But in any case, I’ll do all I can to be in the top 5 in Milan, even if, again, I’m well aware that it won’t be easy.”