In his first race since the 2012 Tour de France, Fränk Schleck finished safely in 18th place, in the same time as overall favourites Richie Porte (Team Sky) and Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp) on Stage 1 of the Tour Down Under. Schleck was with a large group when he crossed the line which made it over Menglers Hill after Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp) and Team Sky had ramped up the pressure on the peloton to force a selection.
Schleck said that he hadn’t expected the level of racing but enjoyed it nevertheless. He served a one-year ban for doping after testing positive for the banned diuretic Xipamide during the 2012 Tour de France but opted not to race in the final part of the 2013 season. He joined the Trek Factory Racing team with his brother Andy.
"It's good to pin a race number on your back again, and when you do that, you want to win. It was harder than I thought today, but it was nice to race," he said.
On the climb up Menglers Hill, Schleck had made his way to the front but was impeded by a tangle ahead.
"Everyone is fresh, just waiting for that last climb. I am very happy I made it back to the front group. At the base of the climb, I got caught up behind a crash. Then I jumped back on my bike, and I had to put my chain back on. I hit the panic button at that point, but I was able to get back to the group."
Schleck is racing in Adelaide with the intention of building for the Tour de France, which he will ride with Andy. The two brothers, who finished on the podium of the Tour in 2011, will have the same race schedule starting with Paris-Nice in March having been reunited at the Trek Factory Racing team.
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