Andy Schleck: I will be in top condition at the Tour de France

Fresh from riding Tour de France reconnaissance, Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) has reiterated that he is focused on one thing and one thing only this season – victory in the Tour.

The Luxembourg climber rode several stages in the mountains in the company of his brother and several other teammates who could form the crux of his squad in July’s race.

“I looked at stages 16, 17, 18 and 19, with Frank, Jakob Fuglsang, Maxime Monfort and Linus Gerdemann,” Schleck told Cyclingnews.

Schleck, who will skip this week’s Tour of Luxembourg, has again opted to peak twice in a season, first at this year’s Classics and then at the Tour. Having already had a post-Classics break, he has begun his build-up to the Tour with a block of racing at the Tour of California, where despite a poor showing in the time trial, he was a constant threat in the mountains.

“California was good. My form is coming along and it was better than expected. I had a break after the Classics with about five days off the bike. I started up again and did some good work but I was surprised with how well I went in California. Last year I wasn’t this strong in California.

“I was a little bit sceptical when I came into the race because I didn’t know where I stood. I don’t think you can ever be ahead of where you need to be in terms of training, but I’m happy.”

However Schleck’s performance in California was understandably overshadowed by events in Europe. On stage 3 of this year’s Giro d’Italia, Schleck’s friend and teammate Wouter Weylandt died in a crash. The race was neutralised the next day and the Leopard Trek team led the peloton on an emotional tribute.

Having travelled to California earlier than expected in order to train, Schleck missed the tragic events, along with Weylandt’s funeral, which took place the following week.

“It was really hard. I went to California earlier than the rest of the team so I could do some proper training but when I heard I just wanted to come back home and be at the funeral and support. I had to stay out there and just stay focused and I’m sure that’s what he would have wanted. I didn’t have my family around and I felt alone, if I’m honest.

“You just don’t expect things like this in cycling and although I only raced with Wouter for a few months, he was a good friend.

“I really struggled the day after his death, it was worse in some ways because I saw everything on television and watched the live stream of everyone riding together in the bunch and neutralizing the stage and I was thousands of miles away. We’ve always been good friends and it was really difficult to lose him.”

This year’s Tour is fast approaching and although the Leopard Trek team will always have Weylandt’s memory close by, Schleck admits that he has to focus on racing. The recent news that Alberto Contador will likely ride after his CAS hearing was pushed back until August at the earliest means that Schleck will have to beat the Spaniard in a Grand Tour for the first time – assuming that Contador isn’t found guilty by CAS and loses a Tour title retrospectively.

“He’s strong,” Schleck said. “I know how he can ride and saw him in the mountain time trial at the Giro d’Italia. He’s in top shape.

“Contador has won the Tour a number of times so he’ll be favourite but I was closer to him last year and I’ve got to say that I just know that I’m going to be in top condition at the Tour. I’m not nervous; I know I’m doing all the right things. I’m totally focused on the Tour and I want to be 100 per cent ready.”

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