By Hedwig Kröner in Dax
After two weeks filled with bad luck and other difficulties, Amstel Gold race winner Fränk Schleck is looking forward to the last two remaining weeks of the Tour de France, where he hopes he and his team will be able to become real protagonists.
Despite perfect form prior to the Tour, the Luxembourger has been struggling with injuries he suffered in a crash barely one week before the race. "I was training on my time trial bike, and came off a sidewalk," he told Cyclingnews. "Then I heard a cracking noise and looked down to see what it was - and my front wheel just came out of the fork. I didn't stand a chance and fell on my face full on. If someone had seen me after that crash, they never would have thought that I would make it the Tour. I had broken two front teeth, received 12 stitches to my upper lip, broke my nose and right cheekbone. I can still feel my nose - either it's swollen or it is bent, I don't know..." he added, picking up his humour.
It hasn't been easy for Schleck, as he is of course still suffering from his injuries during the first part of the Tour. "Last week, I had a lot of headaches, also during the race," he explained. "I don't know where it comes from, my nose or my cheek. It doesn't get any easier with the heat - I can't breathe through my nose." On top of this, Schleck crashed twice in the early flat stages of the Tour, and is having problems with his back again. "The first week was fast and nervous," he added.
Of course, this also influenced the state of his form. "I rode a very good Tour de Suisse and was very confident, and then there was this crash," Schleck continued. "I couldn't eat for four days, couldn't train for five. I just didn't come to the Tour at 100 percent.
"But that's the way it is at the Tour, it's a roller coaster - it goes downhill, then uphill again. So I'm waiting for the uphill...," he smiled, aware of the ambiguity of his wording.
So what were his personal ambitions at this Tour? Will he have the right to ride on his own account, too, whilst still protecting Carlos Sastre, the new GC leader at CSC?
"If I'm in a breakaway in the mountains, I think I do have my card to play," he replied. "But we have to see how the race evolves. We are here to win the Tour, that's still the same goal. I'm convinced that Carlos can go very far, and we'll be giving a 100 percent of ourselves for that. On a sporting level, the first week of racing wasn't for us, but we are not frustrated or anything like that. We might have been unlucky, but we gave our very best - and that's what we're going to do for the rest of the Tour, too. I don't know how far we'll get and what we'll do, but I know for sure that we'll give everything we've got."