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Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) en route to a top-ten finish.
Fränk forced to finish race on Nicki Sørensen's bike after mechanical
Saxo Bank's Andy and Fränk Schleck both recorded top-ten finishes at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday, but were left frustrated with their respective results after Fränk was forced to finish the race on a teammate's bike because of a mechanical problem on the key climb of the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons.
The brothers finished in the same five-man group, more than a minute down on race winner Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and runner-up Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha), and three seconds behind Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team). Andy finished sixth, while Fränk finished one spot ahead of Alberto Contador (Astana) in ninth.
"I wasn't quite satisfied, because we were better than the result," said Andy Schleck after the race. "Today Fränk was really unlucky to have a problem with this bike there at the worst possible moment of the race. Still, he was super strong and he came back; we almost caught the guys in front of us for third. I felt good for the sprint and finished first of my group, but everyone was looking at me today. I tried everything I could; I attacked, but it didn't quite work out."
Fränk had completed the final 20 kilometres of the race on Nicki Sørensen's bike after he realised his brakes were rubbing on the penultimate climb of the race, the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons. Despite his misfortune, he was able to regain contact with the lead group. He admitted he had tried to conceal the mechanical issue from his brother as Andy launched an attack at the base of the climb.
"I had to change the bike, so I swapped with Nicki, but its very difficult to go on another rider's bike," said Fränk after the finish. "I didn't say anything about it on the radio because I wanted Andy to attack anyway, with or without me. So he had to attack and I thought 'okay I've got to go full gas to get up there'. I don't know how I managed to get up there. I had very good legs. I was back up there with the top guys, so then [my brother and I] did what we always do. I think we showed that we were strong, but we were just unlucky today."
Fränk's mechanical incident meant he was still chasing to get back on as Vinokourov and Kolobnev launched their race-winning attack on he descent off the Roche-aux-Faucons. The Schleck brothers were forced to hedge their bets with a number of strong rivals, including Vinokourov's teammate Alberto Contador, still present in their group.
"I thought [Vinokourov] would come back to be honest," Andy Schleck told Cyclingnews. "Everybody was on the limit at the end. Still a big group came together and we went on Saint-Nicholas, but by the time we came to the bottom the race for the victory was already over."
"I'd just changed my bike, so I was a long way away when [Vinokourov] attacked," said Fränk. "It wasn't easy to organise though because Contador was there. On the last climb we saw that Contador was really in trouble. It's a shame because I think we deserve one Classic."
The brothers will now head home to Luxembourg for a short break before commencing their preparations for the Tour de France.
"I'm looking forward to taking care of my daughter, Leea. I'm really looking forward to spending some time with her and enjoying the good times back home," said Fränk. "I'll do the Tour of Luxembourg next, then the Tour of Switzerland to get ready for some action at the Tour de France."
"We can go home now with a good week behind us, and sixth place at Liège is still a place," said Andy. "I'm happy to have a little break now. Of course I'll come back next year to win."