His participation at this year's Tour de France might have come as something of an afterthought and he has been forced to tackle the race without his injured brother Andy at his side, but RadioShack-Nissan's Fränk Schleck has been pleased by his own performance and that of his team as the race approaches its second weekend.
RadioShack have put a season of under-performance, injuries and controversies behind them and have made an excellent start to the Tour. Fabian Cancellara took the yellow jersey after winning the prologue last Saturday and has held it ever since, with Yaroslav Popovych and Jens Voigt doing an excellent collective job in protecting him over these relatively flat opening stages.
Schleck, who finished third at last year's Tour, has also made a solid start to his own bid for the general classification. Ahead of today's fifth stage he lies in 31st position - only 38 seconds behind his teammate Cancellara. He admits that he isn't riding entirely pain free but that he is satisfied and looking forward to the race heading into the mountains, which is where his strengths lie.
"The mountains come closer and I'm placed well in the overall ranking in the race, therefore I must be satisfied," Schleck told wort.lu. "My body hurts in some places - at the knee, shoulder and also the Achilles tendon but this is no reason to worry. Such ailments are not uncommon. On Friday my physiotherapist will arrive at the Luxembourg team hotel to treat me. I should then be better off.
"All the efforts of Popovych and Voigt have paid off. [Yesterday] we were able to defend the leader's jersey for another day. Thus, one can draw a positive conclusion. It looks like we should be able to keep the yellow jersey in our ranks through to Saturday. This is already a great success. The good performance is also reflected in the exemplary harmony within the team."
Schleck also passed comment on the high number of crashes that have occured over the previous two stages, including a particularly heavy one near the end of yesterday's fourth stage, and stated that he believed the race organisers need to give more consideration to rider safety in future.
"The finale [yesterday] was again extremely dangerous and the crash less than 3km from the finish line was the logical consequence," he said. "Fortunately, I did not hit the floor. At the prevailing speeds in the finale of a stage sometimes half a meter determines a crash or an onward journey. As a cyclist you are confronted every day with death, though this may sound crass.
"Sometimes it's just a matter of luck and bad luck. Sometimes the pace is so high that you simply cannot avoid contact. The course designers are apparently not aware of the dangers and take unnecessary risks. Why must we have some very dangerous roads? Several riders have left with broken bones. Is that what the people want to see?"
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