While plenty has been said about uneasy relationship with RadioShack-Nissan team manager Johan Bruyneel, the image of Andy Schleck being dropped on the sixth and final climb, the Côte de la Sizeranne, on stage 1 of the Critérium du Dauphiné still came as quite the shock.
Schleck eventually crossed the finish line of the 187km stage, 3:10 down on Tour de France rival and winner, Cadel Evans (BMC).
"I didn't expect to see that scenario at the end, but I've spoken with Andy," Bruyneel told the team's website post-stage. "What's clear here is that he's had a lack of competition. We know that. We come here with different intentions other than to win. The main goal is to see how Andy is going in the mountains. With a lack of competition in his legs, in theory we will see him getting better this week and by the end of the week we can see where he really is. It's definitely better if things like this don't happen but it isn't a disaster."
Since his last race, Liège - Bastogne – Liège where he finished 50th, Schleck has been preparing for this year's Tour having recently been awarded with the yellow jersey for the 2010 event following Alberto Contador's subsequent disqualification.
Another of Schleck's key rivals for the 2012 grand boucle, Brad Wiggins (Sky), while puzzled at the performance didn't believe that too much could be read into it in relation to the three-week epic.
"For Andy, I don't know," Wiggins said. "I spoke with him this morning, and he seemed quite good. But he has his own system, he'll be up there at the Tour."
It was a theory echoed by Bruyneel.
"Everyone comes here looking for something different. Evans wins the stage, Wiggins takes the jersey, those are confirmations for them. We still need to find our confirmation," he said. "The Tour starts on the 30th of June so there is still awhile to go and the mountains of the Tour are even further away. It's a little bit worrisome but we'll see during the rest of the week."
Bruyneel also attempted to put an end to speculation that the younger Schleck was not necessarily guaranteed a start at the Tour de France.
"Recently it was reported that I said only Fabian Cancellara was guaranteed a spot on the Tour team. That is not what I said. Translations need to be correct. What I said was based on results Cancellara was the only one guaranteed to be on the Tour team," he clarified. "It takes nine riders to ride the Tour. Of course Andy will be there."
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