When I was a young lad my maths teacher asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I was 14 and thought I knew it all. At that age studying took a back seat and when you're in love with cycling as much I as was back then, there's only one distraction on your mind: Girls.
I digress. So, for whatever reason the teacher pulled me up for misbehaving in class and when he asked, I replied, 'win the Tour de France.'
"Well Andy, you win the Tour and I'll come to Paris to see you in yellow and then walk back to Luxembourg. Until then behave in my class and study hard. Do we have a deal?"
This summer, my old maths teacher was a pretty nervous guy. He still teaches at the same school and everyone there knows about our agreement. 'Got your walking boots ready, sir? Hope you're feeling fit...' He'd been watching the television coverage throughout the race.
Well, in the end my teacher got off and didn't have to walk the 400-plus kilometres back home, but there's always next year and I hope to see him in Paris with his walking shoes!
It was a pretty hard Tour but I hope that everyone who watched it at the side of the road, on the television or the internet, enjoyed the action. Right now I'm sitting on a bed in a hotel room in Eindhoven. Jakob Fulgsang is lying on a bed next to me and we're about to get up and head to a post-Tour criterium.
Tomorrow I'll head home and do a criterium there, too. The post-crit series are almost obligatory for riders who've performed well at the Tour. They're fast and furious but a lot of fun. They're a great way of getting closer to the public, which is something I really enjoy. At the Tour you've got to be totally focussed and can't stop for autographs and photos as much as you'd like to, but at the crits the atmosphere is far more relaxed.
I'll also be riding San Sebastian on the weekend, while I can also confirm that I'll be riding the Vuelta alongside my brother Fränk. I rode part of the race last year but had to pull out through illness. This year I'll go in with a relaxed mood but hope to still have some of my form from the Tour. Fränk could do a very good ride there so I'll be trying to support him as much as I can.
But before I get ready for the Vuelta I'm in desperate need of some me-time. I'm going to take few days off when I get home and shut myself away from the outside world. The Tour is just one big stress-fest with action from start to finish so I'm looking forward to sitting back and doing what I want for a change. Maybe I'll go fishing, maybe I'll just sit around and chill out, I really don't know but the mere thought of kicking back without a plan makes me smile.
I guess I should talk about what happened at the Tour in a bit more detail. You've probably seen me on TV or read my comments in the press enough already but I want to say a couple of things. The first is a big thank you to my team. There was lots of speculation at this year's race with regards to next year, but everyone on the team from the riders, to the cooks, to the management all acted in a really professional way. The team were fantastic in supporting me and I have to say a big thank you to them publicly.
The best moment for me personally at the Tour has to be when I took the yellow jersey. I've won big races before and been on many podium but pulling on that yellow jersey was such a special moment. It brought me to a place I've never been before.
When I was that young kid in school the Tour was all about the yellow jersey. I used to ride home from class pretending I was wearing it, sprinting up climbs as if they were the Tourmalet. The day I pulled on yellow is a day I'll never forget.
Moving to the final time trial before Paris I knew that I could ride a good stage. I think the course suited me in the sense that it was constant, even if it was pancake-flat.
When I heard that I was just a couple of seconds down on the jersey I knew I was close, I gave it everything, thinking about how it felt pulling on yellow, how deflated I felt when I lost it, and my mind flicking back to when I was kid and pretending to race in yellow. In the end Alberto just went fast. He's a lot more aerodynamic than me but I believed in myself until the end.
Next year I can turn the tables and win the Tour. I did a bad prologue this year and I have to admit that, but Fränk crashing out was a big loss. If there were two of us in the mountains it could have been so different. But now I know that I can beat Alberto and that gives me huge confidence and motivation for next year.
Who knows, maybe my maths teacher will have to do the long walk after all...
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Now just 23 years of age, Andy Schleck made a name for himself during the 2007 Giro d'Italia when he won the best young rider classification. The Luxembourger continued to impress in 2008, when he took the same jersey at the Tour de France while helping his squad to win the teams and general classification.
Schleck is the younger brother of Saxo Bank teammate Fränk. The pair's father, Johnny, also contested some of the world's largest cycling races including the Tour de France and Vuelta a España between 1965 and 1974.
The cycling world is expecting more big things from Schleck in 2009, and he'll be keeping you informed of his progress throughout the year on Cyclingnews.com.
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