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Schleck previews Pyrenees ahead of Tour

Defending Champion Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank)

Defending Champion Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) (Image credit: Richard Tyler)

Fresh from riding reconnaissance in the French Alps, Andy Schleck has begun previewing the Tour’s Pyrenean stages as he builds up to the biggest goal of his season.

Schleck, joined by his brother Fränk, Fabian Cancellara, Jakob Fuglsang, Matti Breschel and Jens Voigt, will spend two days training over the race’s toughest mountain stages before lining up for their final pre-Tour test at the Tour de Suisse.

“We’re going to be well prepared for the Tour. We do four stages in the Pyrenees and then we’re doing the Tour de Suisse,” Schleck told Cyclingnews.

With the core of the team training together ahead of the Tour, Schleck is confident that Saxo Bank will have one of the, if not the, strongest teams in the race. With a demanding and potentially dangerous first week peppered with cobbles, Cancellara and Breschel will help keep both Schlecks out of trouble, while in the mountains they’ll be supported by Fuglsang.

“There no doubt in my mind that this Tour will be harder than last year. Last year we had a lot of mountains but after the last mountain there was long flat sections so nothing was really decided until the stage where Fränk won and I moved up to second.”

“The first week will be really stressful. Last year we had the time trial in Monaco and then we were already in France. It was relatively calm. This year we have the cobbles, wind and bonus seconds so the race is going to be much more nervous but also exciting.”

Schleck’s biggest challenge is likely to come from Spain’s Alberto Contador, winner of the Tour in 2007 and 2009, and while Schleck admits Contador is the favourite, he doesn’t believe he’s unbeatable.

“The problem is he doesn’t have any weakness but he can have a bad day and we’ve seen that before in Paris-Nice. I know that if I want to win the Tour I have to beat him on the climbs,” Schleck said.

“I believe we have a really strong team. We have riders to win the race, riders for the flat, for the climbs and that’s what needed to win the Tour. RadioShack and us are going to be the strongest teams. Contador has a good team but they’re behind us with Sky.”

While Schleck builds up for the Tour he is still uncertain as to where he’ll be racing in 2011. With Riis still without a replacement title sponsor, a number of teams have begun circling around the team’s stars.

However Schleck, who turned professional with Riis, is willing to give Riis more time before he makes any decision.

“I don’t know anything yet but I’m still hoping that Bjarne will pull something out of the bag. I have some options but for now I have to concentrate 100 per cent on the Tour,” he said.

“Having a good contract is one thing but I need to go to the right team where I have support and the right riders. I’m with the best team right now.”