Last year's Tour de France second place feels he's ready to go one better this time
Second place in last year’s Tour de France, Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) believes he has done all that he can to go one better in this year’s race. The younger Schleck brother has just the defence of his Luxembourg champion’s jersey before the Tour starts in Rotterdam, Netherlands on July 3rd.
Like most of the race’s main contenders, Schleck has made the reconnaissance of key stages a big part of his preparation. “I’ve explored the stages in the Alps and the Pyrénées,” Schleck told Sporza, “I’ve missed the tour of my own country [Luxembourg] to work on my time trialing.
“I’ve sacrificed a lot for the Tour and I feel ready,” he continued. “I’m very happy with my form; my form is better than last year’s level.”
As one of the big favourites to win the race this year, and hoping to become the first rider from the Grand Duchy to win since Charly Gaul in 1958, there is a lot of expectation riding on Schleck’s 25-year-old shoulders. This is something that he can handle though, he says. “There is a lot of pressure on me,” he confirmed, “but that’s just extra motivation. I’ve done everything; I know I’m good; that should be enough.”
There are no revelations as to whom Schleck sees as his main rival for the Tour this year; unsurprisingly it’s the one man who was able to beat him last time around. “Alberto Contador is the man to beat,” he said. “Alberto has won the Tour twice; he will be strong again. I met him at the Ardennes classics and I felt that I was as good [as he was].”
As well as the defending champion, Schleck sees a certain seven-time winner as one to watch also. “Armstrong will peak for the Tour,” he said. “In 2009 he was good but this year he will be even better.”
These two former teammates are not the only ones that Schleck is wary of though. Major stage races leading up to the Tour, like the Giro d’Italia, the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de Suisse, have thrown up a number of other names to look out for. “We are now also faced with Cadel Evans and Ivan Basso,” he added, “and Robert Gesink has impressed me. He will be a dangerous tandem with Denis Menchov.”
Schleck will lead a powerful Saxo Bank team alongside elder brother Fränk when the Tour starts in 10 days time.