After missing the 2013 season because of a doping suspension, Fränk Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) returns to Amstel Gold Race confident that he has prepared adequately but unsure as to what result he can expect on Sunday.
Schleck claimed his first major international win when he landed victory at the Dutch race in 2006, and he was narrowly defeated by Damiano Cunego atop the Cauberg two years later.
Schleck’s best result since the end of his ban for a positive test for the diuretic Xipamide was 4th place on the final stage of the Critérium International last month, and he is not certain what he can achieve over the longer distance at Amstel Gold Race.
“I’m going to try to do the best possible, that’s not news. But I won’t know myself what that [the best possible] is until I’m in the race,” Schleck told Le Quotidien. “I can’t make predictions but I’m in a favourable position. I feel good. I’ve worked a lot, maybe even too much.”
Schleck abandoned the recent Tour of the Basque Country on the final day, citing illness, and he acknowledged that he may have taken on too heavy a workload in training beforehand.
“I had so much motivation after Paris-Nice and Critérium International that I rode a lot before the Tour of the Basque Country. Without doubt, too much… I worked full on and I felt it in the Basque Country. But the coaches, Kim [Andersen] and I agreed that it would pay off during these classics.
“The motivation is there and the team is behind me. After that, we’ll have to see how the races go and how my legs are. The human body isn’t something you can just adjust like a car.”
Although Schleck expects the winner of Amstel Gold Race to have participated at the Tour of the Basque Country, he believes the list of potential winners in Limburg is longer than the roll call of favourites for Liège-Bastogne-Liège next weekend.
“At Amstel, everything is open. I still think it’s the hardest of the three races [Ardennes classics] to win. You need to have the legs, you need to have the luck, and you need everything to go well,” he said. “In Liège, you need to be the strongest, which isn’t always necessarily the case at Amstel, which is more open.”
While Fränk Schleck has shown flashes of form this spring – he finished 6th overall at Critérium International and 6th on the final stage of Paris-Nice – his younger brother Andy has again struggled for results, placing a lowly 66th overall at both Paris-Nice and the Tour of the Basque Country.
“He’s going well but not to the point of being a leader yet,” Fränk Schleck said. “I think Andy will be better for Liège.”