The team plan for Trek Factory Racing on the final stage of the Criterium International was simple. Fränk Schleck was to get to the final 14km climb of the race as fresh as possible and challenge for the win and overall victory.
The team tactics played out as planned with the team working cohesively but Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling) was the strongest rider on the day, beating Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale) to the win but it was the Frenchman who won the overall. Schleck was fourth on the stage and ended the race sixth overall.
"It was good to see the team work the plan so well," said director Kim Andersen. "Everyone followed the plan 100% that we talked about this morning. Matthew Busche was fantastic - very, very strong on the climb. Andy [Schleck] did a very good pull on a climb early on, to break things up. Everyone did the job they should today."
On the final climb Busche paced the leading group with Bob Jungels and Fränk Schleck sitting in behind the American and the six kilometres to go, the attacks started exploding the front group.
Four riders emerged at the front, including Fränk Schleck, who launched attack after attack trying to shake free of the other three which included Frank, Peruad and Thiago Machado (NetApp Endura).
"I felt I was the strongest in the climb and honestly after the 6th or 7th time attacking I also got tired," said Fränk Schleck. "Fourth is not a bad place. Overall, it was fun, and really good to see the team riding as they did."
As the leaders passed under the flamme rouge, it wasn't long before Frank jumped to create a gap that he held to the finish.
"We wanted to do something special today," said Fränk Schleck. "The boys told me, 'you are going to win on Sunday, we race for you, and then you can take that present home to the family'. So we had a plan for that, and I had the confidence to pull that off. We have a young team, and they worked the plan very well. We did everything possible, and for me it was a lot like Paris-Nice. I attacked many times, but the climb was not quite hard enough in the end."
Fränk Schleck will return home a new father as he wife gave birth to a second daughter on Friday morning.
"Now I am looking forward to travelling home to see my new, little baby girl. The team gave me the option to return home but I chose to stay and do the race. I had a great opportunity today and just missed it. The pressure was big today, and I am confident about my shape. And Bob [Jungels] was great today. There is definitely a lot more to come from him."
While Andy Schleck failed to finish race, Luxumbourg road and time trial champion Jungels was ninth overall to add to Fränk Schleck's sixth place overall.
Kim Andersen, despite the team missing out on a podium, was content with how the day unfolded. "We were going for the stage win today with Fränk. We made a tactic for that, and that went well, but unfortunately in the end three other riders could follow. In the last kilometer it flattened out and it was not looking good that Fränk did not get away. We know if it comes to a sprint it's not something he will win.
"Sure we wanted to win, Fränk wanted to win, but it is promising to see that all our hard work pays off. One day it will be there; you need to try many times, and one day it will work out. But overall to see this teamwork today was super nice. We did a very, very nice race and it was fun to be in the car and follow today."
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