Time is running out on Andy Schleck's preparations for the Ardennes Classics, and the former winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège (2009) is still struggling to overcome a lack of racing kilometers following a troubled start of his season.
Coming into the Brabantse Pijl, Schleck featured as a headliner in the peloton as it readied for the start in Leuven, but he was never able to show himself in the race as he crashed and abandoned. The race was won in heroic fashion by Frenchman Thomas Voeckler (Europcar).
Before the race, Schleck explained that he needed the Brabantse Pijl to know where he was form-wise compared to other Ardennes specialists like Philippe Gilbert. "It's an important test," Schleck said. "I'm here to get good kilometres done. It's a hard race. It's my first Classic. It's going to be a race in a strong peloton so I want to see where I stand today.
"I think I have chances to be in the front. My condition improved a lot in the last weeks. In Paris-Nice I was sick and after that I was training a lot. I did the Circuit de la Sarthe and that was okay so I hope to be good. I'm not sure at all about it (his form) because I haven't raced so much.
"I hope to be at my top in Liège," Schleck added before summing up some of the names he expected to be in the hunt at Liège. "For sure we see the Spanish guys like [Samuel] Sanchez, [Joaquim] Rodriguez and [Alejandro] Valverde too; they'll be strong. Never forget [Philippe] Gilbert. Gilbert is always good."
Schleck's test ended after 126km when he crashed on a wet, slippery roundabout at 69km from the finish line in Overijse, Belgium along with several other riders. The crash didn't seem to have caused a lot of damage and Schleck continued his race. Somehow, though, it took a long time for the RadioShack-Nissan rider to bridge back up to the peloton where the BMC team of Philippe Gilbert as well as Rabobank set a fast pace as the race entered a critical phase.
The Luxembourger drafted behind the team car for a long time, received a couple of pushes and eventually joined the rear of the peloton about six kilometres later, just before the Hagaard climb at 32km from the finish line. On that climb Schleck didn't gain ground and again lost touch with the peloton. Eventually, he sat up and ten kilometres later Schleck crossed the finish line for the first of four local laps more than three minutes behind the peloton. Schleck abandoned the race soon afterwards.
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