Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) returns to competition at the Critérium du Dauphiné on Sunday as he begins his final build-up to the Tour de France. The Luxembourger has not raced since Liège-Bastogne-Liège in late April and insisted that his main priority in the coming week would be to get back into racing rhythm.
“I’m not necessarily looking for a place on the GC but I’m going to try and test myself on the Col de Joux-Plane [on stage 6 - ed.],” Schleck told Velochrono.fr. “The Dauphiné isn’t an objective in itself.”
Schleck has raced sporadically this season and abandoned both Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya earlier in the season. After spending the month of May away from racing, he admitted that it was difficult to assess his form ahead of the Dauphiné.
“I’ve only done training. I feel good, but I need a race now,” he said. “It’s been a different preparation to other seasons. My form has progressed more slower over the past two years but it’s normal to progress more slowly now than when I was 22. We’ll see what comes of this preparation, which is new for me and gives me fewer references than normal.”
The increasing trend among Tour contenders is to race sparingly – or not at all – in May, and instead undertake a stint of training at altitude. While rivals Bradley Wiggins and Vincenzo Nibali favoured Mount Teide in Tenerife, Schleck held a two-week camp at Sierra Nevada.
“It was a good experience since I’d never done that before,” Schleck said. “I did something between 25,000 and 30,000 metres of climbing in twelve days – around three cols a day. I was able to ride for six hours without any problem there, but we’ll see at the Dauphiné how that transfers over.”
Looking ahead to the Tour de France, Schleck said that he still didn’t know who else would join him in RadioShack-Nissan’s nine-man line-up. “This year, there will be a lot of climbers in the Tour team, even if I don’t know who the nine riders at the start will be,” he said.
Schleck’s brother Fränk stoked the ire of manager Johan Bruyneel when he abandoned the Giro d’Italia with a week to go, and it remains to be seen what impact that will have on Bruyneel’s Tour selection.
In the meantime, the Dauphiné will give Andy Schleck the chance to measure up against the men he believes will be his greatest rivals come July. “I don’t think there’s one who stands out above the others,” he said. “Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins will be strong. Robert Gesink will have to be watched because he has been progressing for a few years. Vincenzo Nibali should be up there too.”
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