BOURG EN BRESSE, France (VN) — Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) was essentially kicked while he was down today in the Critérium du Dauphiné. After a tough first few days of racing, the Tour de France hopeful was blown off the road in the stage 4 time trial.
Schleck’s a fighter. He has fought to second place in the Tour de France three times – one bumped to a first after Alberto Contador was disqualified. However, a crash, not to mention a subsequent puncture, was not what he needed with the Tour de France only 23 days away.
“If I always lost the motivation after a little setback, then I wouldn’t be on my bike anymore,” Schleck said to a group of journalists. “Three more days in the Dauphiné, then the Tour is coming and I’m… Like I said, I’m not worried. I’ve got many critics that say my shape is not good, but I know where I can go and where I need to be now.”
The time trial from Villé Morgon to Bourg en Bresse started well for Schleck. The high winds, though, wreaked havoc for him and the others. Around 10km into the 53.5km test, he lost control in a right-hand corner and hit the ground on his right side.
He rode to RadioShack’s team van after the finish and climbed in without saying a word. The evidence was there, though: ripped shorts, road rash on his rear and blood on both hands.
Fans watched in silent wonder. Journalists noted the injuries. Applause was warranted as he had soldiered on with a bike change and front wheel puncture. And as he was able to calmly explain the incident after the crash.
The van door slid open and microphones neared.
“I was having a hard time,” Schleck added, “I was going a fast speed and then the wind was so strong.”
Schleck used a 50mm profile wheel in the front and a disc wheel in the rear. Moments after he spoke to VeloNews and a handful of other journalists, team manager Johan Bruyneel called to the start line and ordered the mechanics to switch out the disc wheels.
“When we went over the parcours, it was not like this, there was nothing we could do to avoid this,” Schleck continued. “I had a good start, a good feeling, but after the crash… I kept going, but I didn’t have the concentration anymore. My main thing was just to get to the finish. I couldn’t hold position anymore because I lost a lot of skin.
“What can I say? Shit happens. If you crash alone in a time trial, it’s even more frustrating because you can’t blame anyone for that.”
Schleck lost an astounding 10:47 to stage winner and overall leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky). With the final time trial at the Tour de France the same length as Thursday’s stage, but with less elevation change, the time loss did not provide a confidence boost three weeks before the Tour’s grand départ.
Meanwhile, Schleck’s RadioShack teammate Andrea Klöden wrote on Twitter after the stage:
slowly I get afraid of @bradwiggins.He was flying again.Congrats for this TT.. Also to Toni Martin for his second place.
Schleck said he’s going to fight on, but it’s going to be a difficult couple of days even for those riders not suffering road rash. On Friday the race travels into the high mountains, including a trip over the Col du Grand Colombier at 4925 feet.
He already lost three minutes on the first road stage and a minute on the second. The crash today was unwelcomed as Schleck tries to find form ahead of the Tour de France.