Both Schleck brothers were eager to repeatedly emphasize their will to return right to the top of the professional peloton before the 2014 season kicked off, as they were finally reunited under the banner of the American Trek Factory Racing team. However it was difficult to treat those words differently than with a polite nod, first months of 2014 provided cycling enthusiasts with some insights on where exactly two Luxembourgers are standing..
The possibility to reunite with the older brother in the same World Tour outfit was rumored to be one of Andy’s main requests concerning his contract with Trek Factory Racing just after the change of RadioShack-Leopard title sponsor and planned transformation of its roster have been announced last year.
This way, Frank has finally returned to competition in 2014 edition of Santos Tour Down Under following his reduced one-year ban for testing positive during the 2012 Tour the France, while his 28-year old brother struggled hard to replicate his past performances after the dramatic crash in the Criterium du Dauphine the same year.
However, it was Frank who has showed some signs of life. First, during his participation in the mountainous Omani affair where he quite surprisingly managed to hang on in the favorites’ group on the decisive climbs to finish within top twenty in general classification, and recently by his aggressive attitude meant to underline his return to the professional racing in the Paris-Nice.
“I am optimistic they can be there in the Tour,” Trek sport director Kim Andersen told VeloNews. “They are both working hard. We can hope. That’s what we are working for.”
While 33-year old Frank was attacking over the Col d’Eze to announce his return and came extremely close to held of the reduced peloton down to the finish line at the Promenade des Anglais, racing to the sun didn’t seem to be equally entertaining for Andy, whose anonymous appearance in the event has been noticeable only thanks to a cruel camera operator, very vigilantly tracking his struggles at the very back of the peloton. Enough to say that he has finished the French race 66th in general classification, over 40 minutes behind the slightly overweight but still wily Carlos Betancur (AG2R La Mondiale).
Seemingly more motivated to recapture his former position in the peloton, Frank confirmed the main purpose of his recent aggressive showing.
“Once in a while you have to show people that you are back,” Frank said on the team’s website.
“I think I did that this week, and I believe that I still have room for improvement over the next couple of weeks.”
Even though he was caught with no more than 20 meters to go, Frank was still contented with his effort and apparently the more general signal sent to his rivals meant more to him than an eventual stage victory. Or appeared to be a satisfying enough consolation prize.
“I really thought I had [it]. I give it all I had, but they passed me with 20 meters to go,” he said.
“No matter what, I come out a winner here. It was important for myself, my confidence, and for my team that they can count on me.”
With an overwhelming feeling that the world of cycling has left the Schleck brother in the rearview mirror, it was even difficult to be disappointed by last Andy’s performances, since the 28-year old Luxembourger struggled to resemble even the shadow of his former self for a long time. In addition, even though he claims to have undergone a solid block of training during last winter break, apparently his recently grown family slightly distracted his attention.
“It’s something really new in the life,” Andy told VeloNews of his new child.
“I was training quite hard over the winter, but I have been suffering here. I am out [of the] GC, it’s more for me to get the kilometers, and then it’s 12 days at home, Basque Country, and the classics.”
“I know he has the first number of our team, but he is not our captain. Andy was never part of our plan,” Andersen said of Paris-Nice.
“For sure I hope that he’s back to a good level for the Tour. Things could be better, but he’s better than he was at this time last year. I am still optimistic.”
Claiming he had no GC ambitions concerning the Paris-Nice, Andy still expects himself to be well prepared to Ardennes classics despite other, more punchy riders apparently looking more ready for a challenge. Provided with a huge support from Trek Factory Racing team, he also hopes to have a high ambitions towards the Tour de France 101st edition, certainly having a repeat of best performances at the back of his mind.
“The ambitions are big for the Tour,” Andy told VeloNews.
“The last two years I have not been up there for a top result, but it’s a new team, a new start. The ambitions are high.”
“I’ve been on the podium four times already, I believe it’s a reality,” he states flatly.
“The dream, of course, is to step on the podium. We have to take it from the start, but the sensations are good.”
According to team mates both brothers produced rather encouraging numbers from power meters during Trek Factory Racing training camp held in January and one of the team’s figureheads, Fabian Cancellara, confirmed the possibility of having Schlecks at the top of the game again.
“With his brother, they can go back to this good level,” Cancellara told journalists Monday night.
“It’s going to be hard for them. The level of the Tour has grown a lot. There are young riders coming up. There are teams that are working just for [the Tour]. They also must work.”
The first major goal is the upcoming Ardennes classics. With the major one-day classics, there is no hiding in the bunch.
“We are quite happy with Frank, and Andy is better than the first days, coming around slowly,” Andersen concluded. “I am quite sure we will be very happy later on in the year.”
|01.05: Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste - Team...|
|01.05: Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste - Youn...|
|01.05: Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste - Moun...|
|01.05: Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste - Poin...|
|01.05: Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste - Gene...|
|30.04: Tour de Romandie - General classifi...|
|29.04: Tour du Sénégal - Team classificati...|
|29.04: Tour du Sénégal - Young rider class...|
|29.04: Tour du Sénégal - Point classificat...|
|29.04: Tour du Sénégal - General classific...|
|28.04: General classification tilmelding Ø...|
|28.04: GP Himmerland Rundt|
|28.04: Rosh Haayin XCO|
|22.04 - 29.04: Tour du Sénégal|
|29.04: Tour de Yorkshire Women's Race|
|29.04: Grand Prix Lviv|
|29.04: GP Viborg|
|29.04: ZODC Zuidenveld Tour|
|29.04: Beograd - Banjaluka I|
|29.04: Øresunds Cup 1. afdeling|
41 years | today
34 years | today
|Albert TORRES BARCELO|
27 years | today
19 years | today
22 years | today