When Andy and Fränk Schleck arrived back at the Leopard Trek team bus after Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the many fans and VIP guests gave them a round of applause. Team owner Flavio Becca praised them for trying to beat Philippe Gilbert but the two brothers admitted that there was nothing they could have done to stop him winning and insisted they rode the best they could.
"He was stronger than us today, there was nothing we could do. He was cool and collected. He's classy," Andy said, sportingly praising Gilbert's performance, despite an altercation with a Belgian cameraman just after the finish as he tried to congratulate Gilbert.
Andy forced the attack on the Cote de la Roche aux Faucons climb with Fränk and Gilbert was the only one able to go with their double attack. They outnumbered Gilbert two to one but he was stronger than both of them.
"I did the move but it wasn't the winning move. The winning move is when you can raise your arms in the air," Andy said with regret.
"Unfortunately I couldn't do that but I'm happy with my day. I'm happy with my condition. This is the first time this year that my form is peaking to a good point. I couldn't beat Gilbert today, he's better but I'm going to the Tour to win the Tour. We're two different kinds of rider. I believe it was a nice (race) for the public and for our team."
Andy insisted Leopard Trek followed the right race strategy throughout in seeking to isolate Philippe Gilbert by making his Omega Pharma-Lotto team work early on.
"I don't think we did any mistakes,” he said. “Lotto had a lot of pressure on them to ride early and they used good riders early. We tried to isolate him. We couldn't do more. It was me and Frank as a team but we couldn't do any more.
"I attacked at the bottom of the Saint-Nicolas. I went at 600 watts and after 240km that's not easy, I can tell you. Maybe Frank could have attacked but Gilbert gave us a pretty good answer by dropping me in the last 300 metres."
"There's nothing more to say," Andy added, answering the question of whether Gilbert could have beaten with a single word: "No."
Fränk Schleck agreed with his younger brother's race analysis and was gracious in his praise of Gilbert.
"All we can say to Philippe is well done. He's true champion and he's the strongest," he said.
"We wanted to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege and so we weren’t afraid to take responsibility for the race and we attacked. But he was the strongest and would have won even if there had been three or four of us.
"We didn’t have to pull today. If we really wanted to Philippe to lose, we wouldn’t have pulled at all. But we wanted to win the race. That was very disappointing in Flanders and Roubaix, a lot of riders raced to make Fabian [Cancellara] lose. We didn’t want to do that. We raced to win it, and that's it."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.