Andy Schleck is determined to be a factor in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, even if the 2009 winner acknowledged that his brother Fränk and Chris Horner will be the natural leaders of the RadioShack-Nissan team on Sunday.
The Luxembourger insisted that his programme in 2012 is once again tailored specifically around the Tour de France, but he was still on the attack at Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, and is keen to make an impact at La Doyenne.
“I’d like to be better than I am right now, even if I’m not bad,” said Schleck, according to Le Quotidien. “For Sunday, it’s clear that I’m hoping to be up there in front. I’ll repeat what I said before Amstel and Flèche: I’m not the favourite, but I’m starting to feel good. I think I can play an important role, especially at Liège because it’s the one classic that suits a guy aiming for the Tour de France as much as it does a classics rider.”
Whereas Philippe Gilbert was in all-conquering form this week last year, the 2012 edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège promises to be an altogether more open affair, with a whole host of potential winners.
“We have two leaders, Fränk and Chris Horner, and then if I have an opportunity, I’ll take it,” Schleck said. “You can see that there isn’t a big dominant leader as was the case with Philippe Gilbert last year. In previous years, Valverde was the man to beat. This year, we don’t really know.”
Last season, the Schleck brothers found themselves over-powered and outwitted by Gilbert as part of the decisive three-man break. If they were to find themselves in the same situation on Sunday, Andy Schleck said that their tactic would be a simple one: “We’d attack him from the Côte de Saint-Nicolas until the finish, there’s nothing else to do.”
Fränk Schleck, meanwhile, was reluctant to give too much away about his plans for getting clear on the road to Liège, but he is confident that he has the form to be in contention for the win. “We’ll have to see how the race unfolds. We have a plan, but it would be ridiculous to tell it to you now, and according to how the race goes, we can adapt and change it,” he said. “You can come up with 110 scenarios and not one of them might happen. The race can be different to how you think.”
The Schleck brothers’ long-time confidant and mentor Kim Andersen will be in the team car on Sunday afternoon, but it was confirmed during the week that the Dane will not be at the Tour de France this July. Following the merger of the RadioShack and Leopard Trek squads in the off-season, manager Johan Bruyneel has opted to name Alain Gallopin as his lead directeur sportif for the Tour.
“If Kim isn’t on the race, he’ll still be close to us,” Andy Schleck said, according to L’Équipe. “We’ll have him on the phone three times a day.”
Andersen, who has been with the Schlecks since their time at CSC, also missed the 2010 Tour de France, following his decision to leave Saxo Bank and join the new Leopard Trek squad. He said that he had known since the winter that he would not be at the Tour.
“Of course it’s hard to live with it, but I understand this decision because it’s the best way to avoid conflicts,” Andersen told L’Équipe. “You can’t have two chefs on the same team.”