Was 2010 the pinnacle for Andy Schleck?

Sean Lee Columnist

By Sean Lee, Sean Lee is a Roar Expert

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    What's become of Andy Schleck? AFP PHOTO / Mark Gunter

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    In 2010 Andy Schleck was at the height of his powers. He looked like a bike racer – lean, fit and capable of tearing a mountain apart.

    He’d had the better of arch rival Alberto Contador throughout the Tour de France and was looking to distance the Spaniard once again until a dropped chain brought all his good work undone on the stage 15 climb of Port de Bales.

    That incident allowed ‘El Pistolero’ back in the game and nullified the much anticipated showdown on the Col du Tourmalet three days later. While both riders tried to shake the other as they ascended through the mist, eventually a truce was called with Contador content to sit on Schleck’s wheel and gift him the stage.

    Imagine what might have been if Contador had been chasing a significant time gap!

    It was only two and a half years ago but it seems more like a lifetime.

    For Andy Schleck, the 2010 Tour should have been a springboard to further success, but instead it marks a point of demise.

    History shows he went on to win the general classification, but he was not the one who arrived in Paris wearing yellow. That honour fell to Contador, who had once again exposed Schleck’s inadequate time trialling. Contador, of course, later lost the title because of a doping infringement.

    Schleck’s follow up in 2011 wasn’t bad, although inexplicably brother Frank looked to be the stronger rider during the early parts of the Tour. Andy’s second place overall was achieved on the back of a cheeky solo attack over the mountains on stage 18, rather than by any consistency of performance.

    Beginning on the slopes of the Col d’Izoard and ending atop the Galibier, Schleck’s memorable 60 kilometre attack gave him the overall lead going into the final individual time trial. But once again he was found wanting, this time to a rampaging Cadel Evans.

    Less than a year later his confidence was shot and his career in a shambles. 2012 started poorly for Schleck and failed to improve.

    The merger between his Leopard-Trek dream team and the troubled RadioShack put Schleck on a collision course with new team boss Johan Bruyneel.

    Bruyneel had built his reputation around Lance Armstrong’s now unrecognised Tour victories and he placed Schleck on a Lance-like program. It didn’t sit well with the Luxembourger, who preferred racing over training.

    Schleck’s performances began to suffer and motivation appeared to be at an all-time low. When he was blown from his bike and severely injured during the individual time trial at the Criterium du Dauphine, Schleck faced an uphill battle to salvage anything from his season.

    A fractured sacrum (the triangular bone at the base of the spine which separates the hip bones) put paid to any chance of competing at that year’s Tour de France, and in fact, Schleck only made it back for the season ending Tour of Beijing, from which he withdrew after finishing last in a stage.

    2013 hasn’t begun any better. Bruyneel might be gone, but the poor results aren’t.

    He made it through until the final stage of the Tour Down Under before withdrawing, with his best performance an underwhelming 98th place on stage two. He followed that up with a first stage withdrawal from the Tour Mediterranean.

    So is 2010 going to be as good as it gets for Andy Schleck? Will it be considered the peak of his cycling career?

    For a rider whose primary focus is the Tour de France, perhaps it will be the pinnacle. But it must be remembered that Andy Schleck is still just 27 years old and should be entering his prime. However, while acknowledging the serious nature of last year’s injury, many questions still need to be asked of the younger Schleck.

    Can he overcome his limitations against the clock? Does he lack the killer instinct needed to bury an opponent? Does he really fear the big descents? Can he ever return to the level that saw him match Contador on some of cycling’s biggest climbs?

    The jury is still out. It is too soon to tell, but his early season results have not been flattering.

    How much of that we can put down to lack of conditioning due to the injury or just a plain lack of confidence is uncertain. Either way he has a lot of work to do.

    What is certain is that cycling is all the better when Andy Schleck is on song. Will he win another Tour de France? Maybe not, but at least, at 27, time is on his side.

    Whether he can apply himself sufficiently to overcome his obvious deficiencies is another thing all together.

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    The Crowd Says (23)

    • March 1st 2013 @ 5:34am
      Tenash said | March 1st 2013 @ 5:34am | ! Report

      That showdown on the Col du Tourmalet between Contador & Schleck as they
      ascended through the mist was epic.

      It seemed even Mother Nature had taken a front row seat to watch that historic showdown

      • Columnist

        March 1st 2013 @ 5:39am
        Felix Lowe said | March 1st 2013 @ 5:39am | ! Report

        The misty Tourmalet ascent was more attritional than epic. Contador had no interest in winning the stage and in the end gifted it to Schleck, sealed with a wink. That point kind of marked Andy’s demise…

        • Columnist

          March 1st 2013 @ 1:24pm
          Sean Lee said | March 1st 2013 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

          I agree with Felix on this. The Tourmalet stage promised so much more than it delivered. For Contador, gaining time did not matter. He knew that he would have Andy’s measure in the ITT.

        • March 1st 2013 @ 1:59pm
          Tenash said | March 1st 2013 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

          Sport isn’t always just about attack,attack,attack ! The beauty of sport is just as much in defense

          Andy Schleck did everything humanly possible to break Contador (maybe shld’ve tried an actual kitchen sink) but Alberto stuck to him like a leech

          both of them left the rest of the field so behind that they had the time & audacity to play around & have mind games with each other

    • Roar Guru

      March 1st 2013 @ 10:37am
      delbeato said | March 1st 2013 @ 10:37am | ! Report

      To me, Schleck is a classic example of a mentally weak rider who was surfing on a wave of success. As much as Lance is a pariah now and it’s desperately unfashionable to say anything positive about him, I retain deep respect for Lance’s fighting spirit. This is a guy who stared death in the face and said “Screw you, I will flipping beat you down and win the Tour.” Ok so i’m probably exagerrating, but Andy has few of those qualities. When he faced adversity, he fell apart.

      In truth, I’d have to concede I’m more like Andy than Lance. I don’t have that fire burning deep inside of me. Of course, I’m not a pro either. But you can train yourself to be more like that and Andy should go hire a sports psychologist, if he doesn’t already have one.

      • Columnist

        March 1st 2013 @ 1:28pm
        Sean Lee said | March 1st 2013 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

        I think confidence has a huge part to play for Andy. Success breeds success as they say and at the moment success is about as far away from Schleck as it has ever been. Lance did have a never say die attitude and was consumed by his competitive streak. Andy’s laid back attitude certainly comes from the other end of the spectrum.

      • March 1st 2013 @ 11:32pm
        Duncan Gering said | March 1st 2013 @ 11:32pm | ! Report

        Wow, I really can’t let the comment “This is a guy who stared death in the face and said “Screw you, I will flipping beat you down and win the Tour.” ” go without a response of my own. Granted you do add “Ok so i’m probably exaggerating” but still.

        Lance did beat cancer, but the kind he beat has a 95% 5 year survival rate and even a 72% rate if it’s spread to the lymph system (here’s a link – http://www.cancer.org/cancer/testicularcancer/overviewguide/testicular-cancer-overview-survival-rates).

        So basically Lance was probably going to beat it anyway. Given what we know now I guess I’m just a little tired of people still giving him credit where there is none due.

        Sure he had an incredible iron will to win bike races, but I don’t really think he faced down death.

    • Columnist

      March 1st 2013 @ 10:51am
      Kate Smart said | March 1st 2013 @ 10:51am | ! Report

      Sean, great article and spot on. I’d hate to see the best behind Schleck, as he is still so young. Remember Cadel was in his mid 30s when he won the TdF and Wiggins not much younger.
      I think so much of Andy’s problems are in his head. He needs to sort that out because if he can get fit he is a real contender.
      I guess the other question mark is this, if you’re a poor time trialler and one of the world’s best is a team mate (Cancellara), what have you done to learn from him?
      I hope to see Andy hit some good form soon.

      • Roar Guru

        March 1st 2013 @ 11:22am
        delbeato said | March 1st 2013 @ 11:22am | ! Report

        Andy’s poor TTing just reflects his slack attitude. He undeniably has the legs to do respectable times, but refuses to put the time into his position and setup.

      • Columnist

        March 1st 2013 @ 1:32pm
        Sean Lee said | March 1st 2013 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

        Good point about Cancellara Kate. Surely you would be seeking him out for some tips. Maybe Andy’s not all that interested? Although he did say in this month’s Cyclesport magazine that early last year he was spending more time trying to tweak his TT position in the wind tunnel than actually racing! Bruyneel’s influence no doubt – but we all know how well those two got along!

    • Columnist

      March 1st 2013 @ 12:18pm
      Tim Renowden said | March 1st 2013 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

      Considering Andy just finished a race for the first time since last year’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege – 10 months ago – and he was more than five minutes behind Peter Sagan, he’s not looking like having a great 2013, either.

      He’s not the same rider since his brother and chief lieutenant Frank was busted.

      • Columnist

        March 1st 2013 @ 1:36pm
        Sean Lee said | March 1st 2013 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

        Naturally Andy thinks Frank is innocent, but it must play on his mind. Could be good for Andy though to go into this year’s Tour knowing that big brother is not there to lead the way. The way things are going though, Andy’s participation in the Tour would not be a sure thing!

        • Columnist

          March 1st 2013 @ 2:05pm
          Tim Renowden said | March 1st 2013 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

          On his current form, he’s miles away from selection.

    • Columnist

      March 1st 2013 @ 2:40pm
      Lee Rodgers said | March 1st 2013 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

      I read an interesting little quote about 2-3 years ago, it was Andy and Frank’s soigneur-cum-trainer, talking about the pair and chiding them for training their strengths (climbing) and not their weakness (flats).

      He said something like ‘Andy gets by on his natural ability’, which was telling, because at the pro level that is not enough. Even someone known as a true natural like Greg Lemond would still have to go out and do 120km behind a car at 60km/hr for days on end, to get that suffering in his thighs.

      Now that Frank’s been busted and Andy’s ‘game head’ has deserted him, I just can’t see a way back for him.

      • Columnist

        March 1st 2013 @ 3:04pm
        Sean Lee said | March 1st 2013 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

        Another interesting quote came from Schleck’s father. He said that he thought Andy was ‘too nice’ to win the Tour. In other words, he lacked that killer instinct that most champions have in spades.

    • Roar Guru

      March 1st 2013 @ 2:46pm
      Bones506 said | March 1st 2013 @ 2:46pm | ! Report

      I think Schlek is done.

      Contador is mentally tough and will be a real force to reckon with this year.

      He is a one man wrecking ball in the mountains. Now through Sorensen and Rogers in with him and that Saxo team has a real edge to it.

      I watched a Year in Yellow the other day, the doco on Wiggins. Pretty good. Highlighted to me that Froome is highly suspect.

      • Columnist

        March 1st 2013 @ 3:09pm
        Sean Lee said | March 1st 2013 @ 3:09pm | ! Report

        As if Contador needs any help! A couple of very handy pick ups for Saxo. Will make them very hard to beat. I’m not totally giving up on A. Schleck just yet, but he has a long hard road ahead of him and it is hard to see how he is going to make up all that lost ground! If he is still riding like a bag of spanners next year however……!

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