Andy Schleck: “I won’t know what my real level is until the Tour”

Following his problems of 2012, Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard) says he is slowly but surely getting back on track.

Currently racing the Vuelta al Páis Vasco, Schleck lost just 23 seconds on Tuesday’s tricky finale, and prior to the start of the crunch stages of the six-day race, he is lying 81st overall at 1:24. Schleck seems to have turned corner after struggling to finish races and alleged personal problems. However he says he won’t know what his top level will be prior to the Tour de France, where he hopes to be at 100 percent.

“I can’t keep on thinking about what happened last year,” Schleck told Basque newspaper Gara. “Here I want to keep building on my form, I already felt stronger in the Criterium [International] and even if I’m not yet ready to fight with the top names, I want to get to the Ardennes in the best condition possible.”

“My big goal is to be the rider I once was again,” he said. “I want to reach the Tour in top condition and that’s only when I’ll know if I’ve got the same level that I had before being injured.”

“With Andy the problem is that people are looking so hard at what he does that anything that happens gets over-exaggerated,” RadioShack coach Josu Larrazabal told Gara.

“They say he can’t finish a race and in the Tour Down Under, he didn’t complete the course, because he had a mechanical on the final circuit and the team cars couldn’t stop. Then he got sick at the Tour of the Med. But people forget that a hip injury is hard to recover from. I’ve been with him since the Tour of the Med. and everything is going as it should do, it’s progressing.”

The 167.7km third stage of the Vuelta al País Vasco on Wednesday should provide a real test for Schleck's form and decide the overall contenders for final victory. It features the first summit finish of La Lezana with its 21% slopes and preceded by another unclassified ascent, Las Calizas, which also has segments at 21 percent.

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.