Fränk Schleck’s stage victory at the Tour de Suisse showed that the lanky Saxo Bank rider is on form and ready for next month’s Tour de France.
Last summer Schleck was troubled by a knee problem that also affected his performance in the Tour.
He timed his winning attack perfectly, accelerating just before the final kilometre after other riders went too deep too soon. Schleck won the Amstel Gold race in 2006 and compared the finale of the stage to Schwarzenburg to a major Classic.
”It was an incredibly tough finale which in many ways reminded me of the Ardennes Classics. 300 metres from the top of the climb, I launched the crucial attack and the last kilometre from the top of the climb to the finish line was probably the longest I have ever done,” he said.
“The victory came a little earlier but I’ve been feeling good for a few weeks. The birth of my daughter Lia, on the day of my birthday on April 15, has changed me. And I would like to dedicate my success here and at the Tour of Luxembourg to her.”
Schleck and his younger brother Andy finished fifth and second in the 2009 Tour de France, with Franck winning a stage in Le Grand-Bornand after the two brothers worked together. They will again form a special duo in this year’s Tour to take on Alberto Contador.
"In 2009, I started the Tour with a knee problem. This year, I can’t promise that me and Andy will do as well again but there are two of us and will give it everything to try and win,” he told Swiss newspaper Le Matin.
“Lance Armstrong is the greatest rider of all time and is also in contention, but the number one favourite remains Alberto Contador. Of course that does not mean we won’t try and beat him.”
Teammate Fabian Cancellara lost the overall race lead to Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia) by a single second but Schleck is convinced that someone from Saxo Bank can win the race.
“We are privileged to have a powerful world class line-up and we have several candidates for the overall win in this race,” he said.
Schleck moved up to sixth, at 13 seconds, after his stage victory and so could emerge as Saxo Bank’s best rider at the Tour de Suisse.