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“I still have the engine that I had from two years ago. This year I’ve been chasing my form and my shape and at the Tour I was 20th. If I’d forced it could have done 15th but I managed to get in okay shape and I made the b...

Photo: Sirotti

ANDY SCHLECK

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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04.10.2013 @ 18:29 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Andy Schleck has had two horrible seasons but the 2010 Tour de France winner is still convinced that he can find back to the level that allowed him to finish on the Tour podium three times in a row. The Luxembourger has put the difficult times behind him and is now ready to focus on the Tour de France and the Ardennes classics next season.

 

When Andy Schleck crashed in the time trial of the 2012 Criterium du Dauphiné and fractured his sacrum, few would have expected the tumble to have the protracted effects on his shape that have seen him struggle through the last two seasons. The comeback to the top level of the sport has been a hard struggle for the Luxembourger who had to fight hard just to finish races when he returned to the sport.

 

Following several delays, Schleck was back in action at the Binche-Tournai-Binche at this time of the 2012 season and said that he wanted to lay the foundations for a hard winter training that would see him return to his best for the 2013 season. However, he didn't find his best legs during the early part of the season and things looked bleak when he headed across the Atlantic for the Tour of California.

 

The American race gave the first signs of hope for Schleck who managed to build up a condition that allowed him to finish 20th in the Tour de France. That was a far cry from his former results but it indicated that a return to former glory may be in store.

 

On Sunday, Schleck will bring his season to a close by riding Il Lombardia and the race will kick start his winter training for the 2014 season. He is still convinced that he can find back to his former level.

 

“I believe so,” he says when asked by Cyclingnews whether he can compete with the likes of Chris Froome. “I still have the engine that I had from two years ago. This year I’ve been chasing my form and my shape and at the Tour I was 20th. If I’d forced it  I could have done 15th but I managed to get in okay shape and I made the best of the situation I found myself in based off the previous six months but I think I can get back to the level I was at before. In cycling you just need to work hard."

 

The comeback has been much more difficult than originally expected and Schleck had times when he doubted himself.

 

“I was worried last year with my injury because I didn’t think originally that it was that big," he said. "Usually cyclists are pretty tough on themselves and I should have listened more to the doctors but instead I started too early and I had inflammation of the hip and had to take time off. At one stage it had been four months and I was still only able to ride for an hour. You start questioning whether the pain will go away and if you’ll get over the injury but there were only a few points like that. That was maybe a rough time but it was also the time when I realised how much I missed racing and how much I missed being on the bike and being with the team.”

 

Schleck had been heavily criticized for what some thought was a lack of motivation. The Luxemourger refuses the assessment.

 

“From being a Tour contender I disappeared in the space of a day,” he said. “I wasn’t in the media from then. Then when I came back people had this picture of me in their heads and they weren’t used to seeing me riding out the back of the peloton or being dropped and being far back. That was a big part of the speculation. Of course you have more motivation if you’re heading into a race if you know you can do a top five or a top ten."

 

Next year Schleck will be riding for the Trek team which will take over the license from his current Radioshack squad. His brother Frank will be back after his doping suspension and Andy is confident in the future.

 

"I’m really motivated to get going for next year with myself and Frank in the team," he said. "I was motivated at the Tour as well even though it wasn’t easy with the situation with Frank being thrown out of the team. Now we start fresh and I still love the sport."

 

Like always, the Tour de France and the Ardennes classics will be his major objectives. This year he raced more than usual to get back on track but he may scale down the racing a bit in 2014.

 

“The Classics and the Tour de France, they’ll be the goals for next year," he said. "I hope to start the year well, but I don’t know where yet. I might do more training camps and start racing a bit later.”

 

On Sunday, you can follow Schleck's final race, Il Lombardia, on CyclingQuotes.com/live.

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