By Gregor Brown in Huy, Belgium
Lanky Luxemburger Andy Schleck lived up to his pre-race promise and made the escape of the day at the 72nd Flèche Wallonne. The 22 year-old from Team CSC joined a group of 18 others after 83 kilometres – an effort that continued for a further 80 kilometres before being overhauled by the favourites.
A crash at the Vuelta al País Vasco in Spain two weeks ago set back Schleck's form heading into one of his two season objectives – the Ardennes Classics of Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and this coming Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège. "I expected to be it to be a bit better," he said of his condition. "I crashed in País Vasco, and then I had problems with my hands, my Achilles. I had to take a little break after that."
At the start of the 199.5 kilometre mid-week Classic, the younger of the Schleck brothers indicated that he would try to form part a breakaway group, if one materialised. "If there is group going, we have a good team... I don't think the Huy wil decide the race," he said. You will have to go with an escape? "Yeah."
CSC was one of the best-represented teams with three of its riders – including Nicki Sørensen and Alexandr Kolobnev – in the move of 19. The effort ended after pressure from Caisse d'Epargne and Lampre, but Schleck was satisfied with his day's work after cruising in with brother Frank, five minutes down on the winner.
"I was in the break way and then... Ahh, I think I did a good job today," he noted at the finish. "However, it did not end like I wanted."
CSC's chances for the day could have been brighter if Gustav Erik Larsson (Team CSC) had not come down in a wet and tense finale. Sørensen went on to finish the highest out of the Denmark-based team in 31st. Schleck finished in 76th, but noted that his form is getting better by the day after the setback in Spain. "I think for Sunday [at Liège-Bastogne-Liège] it will be good."