Schleck won Liège back in 2009 with a devastating solo attack that saw him beat Joaquim Rodríguez by more than a minute. There’s little chance of that happening this year and a crash at Amstel Gold Race last Sunday and the resulting knee injury has hampered his prospects still further.
That doesn’t mean he’s just going to hang on in and hope for the best. “I do not want to stay in the pack and be 20th without having done anything,” Schleck told L’Équipe. “This is my favourite race. In my head I already have a lot of images. Fränk and I are going to attack in anticipation of the action from the favourites. Fränk is very strong. Me, I want to go well. I am going to go well. I hope that my knee will hold.”
A result at Liège could prove crucial for the Luxembourg rider. The pressure is on for Schleck to perform this year as his contract with Trek expires at the end of it. After two years in the wilderness, Schleck has no recent results of note to barter with as he hunts for a contract. In the often cutthroat world of cycling, timing is key. Schleck says he is yet to sit down with the team bosses to talk about his future, but he is not ready to give it all up just yet.
“It is too early to begin discussions. If I won Amstel, perhaps we would be discussing today. I want to stay in the team. I'm not thinking about stopping at the end of this season, but if that were the case, I would look at what I did and I would be proud.
"Today, I still miss things [...] I'm missing some sensations in races. Something to give meaning to all the work I do in training.”
Trying to get back to his best
Schleck’s troubles have been well publicised. Once seen as the wunderkind with his three consecutive second places at the Tour – one of which became a victory after Alberto Contador was disqualified from the 2010 race - Schleck now barely registers on the radar, aside from the abundant jokes on Twitter as to whether he has managed to finish a race or not.
It seems like the Schleck of 2009-2011 is long gone, but the 28-year-old still believes that he is in there somewhere. “I want to succeed again. I won a Tour de France on paper and I have won stages. I was Andy Schleck, I was someone, I want to become that again,” he explains.
“I do everything to succeed, I train a lot and I’m leaner. I cannot do more than my best. I don’t know if I will get back on the podium at the Tour. If I fail, I won’t become depressed. I am happy that I have done everything to get there.”
Schleck’s brother Fränk returned to racing this season after a yearlong ban for the diuretic Xipamide, but Andy denied that he had ever been involved in doping, adding that he believed that anti-doping measures are "more effective" now. “I gave a lot to the Tour and I have never hurt the bike. I’ve never done crap, unlike others,” Schleck said. “Guys like (Riccardo) Riccò and (Danilo) Di Luca did stupid things and they may encounter problems later, because they only have the bike in their lives.”
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