Schleck brothers confident as the mountains loom

Fränk and Andy Schleck have managed to avoid the numerous crashes that have wrecked the chances of so many of their rivals at the Tour de France and are optimistic for the outcome of the rest of the race as the peloton enjoys the first rest day of the race.

Fränk Schleck is fourth overall, 2:29 behind new race leader Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) but only four seconds behind main rival Cadel Evans (BMC). Andy Schleck is fifth, eight seconds behind his brother, and is also sitting pretty and able to enjoy the first rest day in the Massif Central.

In comparison Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) is 16th overall, 1:28 down on Frank Schleck and struggling with a bruised knee.

“I think I’ve been good so far,” Frank said during the Leopard Trek press conference on Monday. “On the Mur de Bretagne, I was up there. I was up there two days ago, again yesterday and I’m fourth on GC. I certainly believe I can finish on the podium. I don’t know where I will but I certainly think I can be up there.”

Andy conceded that they had been lucky to avoid the many crashes that have affected so many of their rivals.

“I didn’t think we’d have this advantage, but we’ve had a lot of luck as Well,” he said. “Yesterday the fall was right in front of me, but I missed everything. We had a really good team time trial, too. I haven’t attacked yet but despite that, we’re in very good position.”

“The crashes are bad for the Tour. I mean, not only have there been a lot of crashes, a lot of GC guys have gone down and are either suffering or out. I know Robert Gesink is suffering a lot at the moment. Everyone wants to see a big battle between the best guys, and it’s not good for Tour when they’re taken out by crashes.”

Ready to take on Contador

The Pyrenees are looming on the horizon and begin in earnest on Thursday with stage 12 to Luz Ardiden. The Schlecks are convinced that Leopard Trek has a strong team for the mountains and are ready to take on Contador, Evans and everyone else.

“We’ve raced without making any mistakes so far, and that’s thanks to the team. We’ll need the team in the Alps and the Pyrenees but we’ll tackle the Pyrenees with super motivation,” Frank said.

“Thursday will be the first big test in the high mountains. We want to carry on doing what we’re doing there but again, it’s so hard to make plans. You can have the plan but then you crash, get a bit of bad luck and then what do you do? You might lose time but you have to carry on fighting.”

The Tour de France was expected to be a battle between the Schlecks and Alberto Contador but Frank warned about dismissing other riders.

“Contador is still the guy to look out for but then there’s Cadel, Basso and Cunego, There’s not only Contador,” he said.

Andy has been impressed by Cadel Evans but believes he and his brother have the strongest possible team for the mountain stages, stronger than Contador’s Saxo Bank-SunGard team.

“If you have the legs to win a stage… No rider says 'no' to winning a stage or taking the yellow jersey. Cadel is very good at the moment and has a great team. He’s definitely someone to be reckoned with. He’s stronger than he has been for a while,” he said.

“I think we have a stronger team than Alberto, the best for in the mountains, yes. Fabian (Cancellara) and Stuart (O’Grady) are not the best climbers but, our other riders are guys for the mountains. Alberto has Sorensen and Jesus Hernandez but, I’m very confident in my team.”

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