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Andy Schleck predicts seven-way battle for 2011 Tour de France victory

  • By Justin Davis, AFP
  • Published Jun. 15, 2011
  • Updated Jun. 22, 2011 at 3:48 PM EDT
Andy Schleck leads an escape. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com

Schleck leads an escape on stage 3 at the Tour of Switzerland. Photo: Graham Watson | grahamwatson.com

But one thing the Leopard-Trek team climbing specialist wants to avoid is a third consecutive runner-up place.

“I’m going there to win the Tour. I’ve been second twice so this time I want the top step of the podium,” Schleck said at the Tour of Switzerland, where he is topping up his condition for the July 2-25 event.

Contador, the three-time and defending yellow jersey champion, confirmed his participation earlier this week, meaning he could be on for a rare Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double.

Despite a spat with the Spaniard on last year’s race after Contador attacked the Luxemburger when he suffered a mechanical problem, Schleck says he has nothing to avenge.

“There’s no revenge, I’m just really motivated to win this Tour,” said Schleck, who finished only 39 seconds behind the Spaniard last year.

“All of my season is based on the Tour. So far I’ve avoided problems up till now, and I hope it stays that way. I’m ready.”

And he believes a handful of other riders, all of whom competed at the Criterium du Dauphine in France last week, could put any duel with Contador into the shade.

Schleck believes Dutchman Robert Gesink, Australian Cadel Evans and Italian Ivan Basso — both of whom have finished runner-up in the Tour — will be strong come July.

He also mentioned Belgian Jurgen van den Broeck, and his older brother Frank.

“I’m not going to the Tour just to fight Contador,” said Schleck.

“There’s a lot of young riders coming up, young talents, so it’s not just Contador I have to beat, although he’ll be among the favorites.

“I definitely think Gesink will be really good. Cadel will be strong and I believe Ivan (Basso) will come to the Tour in good shape. Van den Broeck also showed good shape in the Dauphine.

“There will be five or six, seven including my brother, who can win the Tour.”

He added: “Frank is in good shape but he’s not in top form yet.

“The Tour starts in three weeks, but the race really starts in four weeks on the climbs. That’s when you’ve got to be 100 percent.”

Although only 157.7 km long, the Tour of Switzerland sixth stage Thursday finishes on the summit of Triesenberg/Malbun in Liechtenstein.

With only one mountain stage remaining on Saturday, Schleck — who is now over six minutes behind Lampre’s race leader Damiano Cunego — is eyeing the stage win that could give him extra confidence for July.

“My goal is not to win (the race),” he added. “But I’m happy where my form is at the moment. If I could win a stage, I wouldn’t say no.”

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