Andy Schleck sees 2010 Tour route advantages

Andy Schleck, runner-up at the 2009 Tour de France, thinks next year's edition will be harder than this year's. The younger of the two Schleck brothers, who both race for Saxo Bank, got a look at the route when he attended the presentation in Paris on Wednesday morning.

"My first feeling was that it doesn't look too hard, but then looking more at the details, I think it's even harder than 2009," said the 24-year-old Schleck, who was also the Best Young Rider in 2008 and 2009.

The 2010 Tour de France will kick off with a prologue over eight kilometers in Rotterdam, the largest port in Europe. Overall the route seems to favor, even more than last year, riders who excel in the mountains. There will be six tough mountain stages, three of which end atop a climb, and there are fewer climbs.

"The mountains are full of long and tough stages and the Col du Tourmalet and Marie-Blanque stage is going to be hard," predicted Schleck. "The race is going to be decided in the mountains." The race also visits legendary climbs like the Col de Madeleine and the Col de Peyresourde.

"There are some risky elements in the Netherlands and Belgium where we must be careful to not lose unnecessary time. However, it appears that ... I could have a better chance of winning time in the mountains and losing less in the long time trial."

Saxo Bank's Team Manager Bjarne Riis called the overall route "interesting". "I am happy to see that the mountain stages seem harder and the mountains are positioned later on each stage so they can be used for attacks," said Riis. "Obviously, I would like to have a team time trial, but it speaks to our favor that there is only one long time trial. Last but not least, we must be very careful and aware on stage three which passes over the cobblestones."

There are fewer time trials overall - and specifically, no team trials. The time trial of note is 51km on stage 19, before the ceremonial parade to Paris the following, final day.

"I'm happy that there's no team time trial," said Schleck. "There's an individual time trial of 51km, so it's not something that suits a pure climber, but it helps riders like me that it comes at the end. I consider it the last stage of the race and at the end of three weeks, not many riders are fresh. Last year, when we went onto the Ventoux not many riders were left."

"I'm going for the overall victory next year, but it's clear that (Alberto) Contador is the biggest favorite while Lance (Armstrong) may be more motivated than ever," said Schleck.

"To knock Contador off the top spot is going to take a lot of training and that starts now. I need to progress in time trials, and I'm working hard on doing that. I'm on the ball though and ready to go out there and say that I want to win this year."

Schleck isn't limiting his goals to the Tour de France, however. "I'll still focus on the Classics as I think you need to peak once before the Tour. My goals remain the same and I'm going to give it everything."

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