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Schleck says Contador signing was no surprise

Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) has claimed that he was neither surprised nor disappointed when Bjarne Riis signed Alberto Contador as his replacement for 2011. Speaking to Luxembourg newspaper Le Quotidien, Schleck also voiced his doubts that Riis and Contador would be capable of working well together.

“No, I wasn’t really surprised [when I heard that Contador had signed] because when Fränk and I met Bjarne to tell him that we were leaving he told us that he wanted to stay at the highest level,” said Schleck. “This might seem pretentious, but I didn’t see any other option than to attract Contador.”

“Everybody wanted Contador as soon as he was free. If Bjarne signed him, it’s because he had the money to pay him, which is good for him…”

However, Schleck is not convinced that Contador will be a natural fit for Riis’ team. “I don’t know if they’re going to work well together in 2011. They’re two very different characters,” he said. “At the same, Contador is Contador, a very strong rider.”

Schleck finished in second place behind Contador at July’s Tour de France, 39 seconds behind. He refused to blame his slipped chain on the Port de Bales for the deficit, simply stating that the incident had “made the Tour even more interesting and more open.”

Andy and Fränk Schleck are set to ride for a newly-formed team based in Luxembourg next season, but the younger Schleck revealed that he would have left Saxo Bank this winter even without the lure of a riding for a home sponsor.

“I wanted to leave and even if the Luxembourg team hadn’t been set up, I would have left anyway,” Schleck explained. “At a certain moment in life, you have to make choices.”

In spite of saying that it was “no great surprise” that he and Fränk were leaving Saxo Bank, Schleck was nonetheless insistent that the move was not precipitated by a falling out with Riis. “I wasn’t always happy with what I had and I wanted other things sometimes but I don’t want to speak badly of Bjarne and I never will,” he said. “I have too much respect for him and I really appreciate him. Our relations will continue to be good. It’s just that I’m convinced that you have to know when to change direction.”

Schleck is currently in Seville ahead of the Vuelta a España, where he will ride in support of his brother Fränk’s assault on the general classification. “I’m here at this Vuelta with no other ambition than to ride for Fränk, that’s clear,” he said. “I’ve already done a lot this season but I’m very pleased to be there to help Fränk, I’ve found my motivation.”

After taking some time out after the Tour de France, Schleck will use the first week of the Vuelta to ease back into action. “It might be a little hard for me in the first week, but afterwards I’ll get back in form,” he explained. “I’m relaxed in this position because I’m not the one aiming for the overall but Fränk. Frankly, in this Vuelta, I’m riding into the unknown.”

In spite of the fact that he will switch teams at the end of the season, Schleck is determined to honour the Saxo Bank colours in his final weeks with the squad and he cites the example of one rider in particular as having made an impression on him. “When our former teammate Christian Vande Velde was leaving for Garmin, I admired his professional attitude,” Schleck said. “I don’t want anybody to say ‘Andy’s going away so he’s not riding at 100%.’ If that were the case, I’d already be on holidays now.”

The title sponsor and finer details of the new Luxembourg team have yet to be revealed, but Schleck is enthusiastic about the project and working with Kim Anderson and Brian Nygaard. “We wouldn’t have switched just to ride for a second division Luxembourg team,” he said. “This is going to be a really good team.”

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Barry Ryan

Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.