Three years on from last wearing the maillot jaune, Andy Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) has acknowledged that it is "logical" that he does not feature among the list of favourites for the Tour de France due to his results in the intervening period.
"I agree with that. I don’t have any problem with that," Schleck told Le Quotidien. "I was 20th last year and I wasn't up there in the spring classics. That’s all logical. If it was the opposite, I'd be worried! If I'd read or heard somewhere that I was still a favourite for the Tour, I’d have picked up the phone and asked them if they were mad…"
After missing the 2012 Tour through injury, Schleck finished 20th on his return to the race last year and has struggled for form so far this season. A recent Tour reconnaissance camp in the company of his brother Fränk did, however, bring back memories of his past achievements on the race, where he finished on the podium three years in succession from 2009 to 2011.
"When I came over the Izoard, I said to myself: 'That's where you attacked on the Galibier stage [in 2011].' At the bottom of the Tourmalet, I said to myself: 'Up there in 2010, I won the stage ahead of Contador. When we came by Port de Balès, I said to myself: 'That's where you attacked and then slipped your chain.'
"I thought of all of that again, obviously. It's true that at those moments, I felt very strong. Of course I want to be so again. I want become the same as I was before."
Schleck's 2014 classics campaign was upset when he hurt a knee in a crash during Amstel Gold Race, and he said that it was something of a relief when a scan on the injury showed that the damage was real. "It's a bit funny to say it, but yes, I was glad that they showed I was suffering from tendinitis," he said. "I said to myself: ‘I’m not mad after all!’ It reassured me."
Schleck was speaking ahead of the Tour of Luxembourg, which got underway on Wednesday night with a 2.5km prologue time trial, won by his Trek teammate Danny van Poppel. Schleck finished 27 seconds down in 41st.
"I want to help Fränk to try and win the overall, that's my ambition," he said. "That what I want to do above all. After that, we'll see…"
After the Tour of Luxembourg, which concludes on Sunday, Schleck continues his build-up to July with the Tour de Suisse and his national championships.