Frank Schleck got a warm round of applause from fans crowding around the Saxo Bank team bus Sunday, but it couldn’t erase his disappointment at not being able to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
He and younger brother Andy Schleck had a secret strategy to blow apart the race, but a mechanical foiled their plans. Defending champion Andy Schleck rode to sixth, with Frank crossing the line ninth.
“My brakes were closing on bike and I had to swap my bike with Nicki Sorensen at the base of the Roche aux Faucons and I had to ride his bike for the rest of the race,” Schleck told VeloNews. “The plan was for Andy and I to attack together full-gas on Faucons, but we had bad luck. I didn’t want to stop Andy from attacking. We felt strong, but just didn’t have the luck today.”
Frank Schleck was forced to get off his bike and swap it with teammate Sorensen right at the base of the steep and decisive Roche aux Faucons. The favorites powered away up the climb, with Andy Schleck taking a deep dig alone.
Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) followed, but Andy Schleck didn’t have the same legs as he did last year when he soloed away from the leaders on the same climb last year en route to winning.
“You have to have luck to win here, too. The race wasn’t as hard as we wanted it to be and there was still a big group at Roche aux Faucons. I went hard, but the others were able to catch me,” Andy Schleck told VeloNews. “Vinokourov was clever when he counter-attacked when Contador grabbed my wheel. It was a good moment to go and I was recovering from my hard effort.”
After roaring through the northern classics, with victory at Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix with Fabian Cancellara, the Ardennes week went flat for the team and they didn’t score one podium in three major races.
“We showed we were strong in each race, but we didn’t have that bit of luck you need to win,” said Saxo Bank team boss Bjarne Riis. “I think Frankie and Andy together on Faucons could have made it much more difficult. It just wasn’t our day. That’s bike racing sometimes. We were strong but we didn’t get the results we deserved.”