Andy Schleck finished five minutes and thirty seconds behind winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling) at the GP di Camaiore but just making it to the finish was an important moment for the RadioShack Leopard rider.
He had not completed a race since Liège-Bastogne-Liège last April and had struggled to make a comeback since fracturing his pelvis during the time trial stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné in early June. The Luxembourger returned to racing at the Tour of Beijing in October, but dropped out on the fifth stage. In the 2013 season he has failed to finish the Tour Down Under as well as the Tour Méditerranéen.
Before the start of the GP di Camaiore, new team manager Luca Guercilena, who replaced the ousted Johan Bruyneel, indicated that Schleck has been struggling psychologically after his injury, the suspension of brother Fränk for doping, and the consequent lack of motivation and desire to train.
Schleck was never in the thick of the action at the GP di Camaiore and was dropped on the three-kilometre Monte Pitore climb one and a half laps from the finish. However, he received praise and satisfied pats on the back from Guercilena afterwards.
"Honestly I'm quite satisfied. It was a hard race and we worked for the other guys. It's good for my confidence and for the upcoming races," Schleck told Cyclingnews before riding back to his hotel with several teammates.
"Today was harder than everybody expected because we had to chase the break hard after they got a thirteen-minute lead. The finishing circuit is also hard and it was a nervous race."
Barring problems, Schleck will ride the Strade Bianche race on Saturday and then stay in Italy for Tirreno-Adriatico. He is hopeful that his form, his luck and his season are finally turning around.
"I spent ten days in Mallorca getting in the kilometres. I did five, six and six and a half hour rides. I'm missing a bit of freshness now but I've got time to rest up before Strade Bianche and then Tirreno-Adriatico, so my form will come around that bit more."