LUXEMBOURG (AFP) — Andy Schleck on Wednesday described his withdrawal from this year’s Tour de France due to injuries suffered in last week’s Critérium du Dauphiné race as “the biggest disappointment” of his career.
The 27-year-old has been ruled out after being diagnosed with a fracture in his sacral body (segment S3) and has now set his sights on competing at the London Olympics next month, as long as he is back to full fitness in time.
“Yesterday, I tried going riding for an hour in the rain but I realized straight away that it would be impossible,” the 2010 Tour winner said at a press conference here.
“When I abandoned the Dauphiné (on Saturday), I was in pain, but that was even worse. After that I knew that I could not go to the Tour.
“It is the biggest disappointment in my life. I would rather have finished last on the Tour than not be able to participate at all.
“I will need to be back to 100 percent before I can start riding again. I hope to be at the Olympics,” Schleck continued, adding that he also hopes to take part in the Vuelta a España, the world championships and the Giro di Lombardia.
He would have been a leading yellow jersey contender for the 98th edition of the Tour, which will begin in Liège, Belgium, on June 30 and end in Paris on July 22.
The RadioShack climbing specialist, who has finished runner-up three times on the world’s premier cycling event, had recently been crowned the 2010 champion following the disqualification of Alberto Contador for doping offenses.
Schleck’s joy at finally securing the yellow jersey was, however, tempered by the injuries he suffered in a crash last Thursday at the Dauphiné, an eight-day race that is a major tune-up for the Tour.
During the 53km time trial a strong gust of wind literally picked Schleck and his bike up off the ground and dumped him at the side of the road.
Schleck continued, but complained of leg and back pain; despite beginning Saturday’s sixth and penultimate stage he pulled out after 63km.
“He couldn’t pedal anymore,” RadioShack director Alain Gallopin told the race’s official website. “Since he crashed during the time trial, the whole right side of his body was hurting.”
Schleck returned to Luxembourg on Saturday and underwent scans at the beginning of the week that revealed the extent of his injuries.
“I was always thinking that it would become better,” said Schleck. “Riders are hard. I remember Cadel Evans finishing the Tour once with broken ribs, but in the end I really had to quit the race. In my career I’ve broken my collarbone twice, but this is the most painful thing I’ve ever had so far.”
It will be the first time Schleck misses the race since he made his debut in 2008 with CSC. However, it will be seen by many as the nadir to a season that has been one of his worst to date.
Schleck, 27, abandoned a number of top stage races, such as Paris-Nice, the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya and the Dauphiné, that would have been key to building his form for the Tour, and he has complained of ill health.
At the end of May he cut short a training camp on some key stages of the Tour de France to have treatment for three days at a clinic in Basel, Switzerland, on a troublesome knee.
Schleck’s older brother Fränk, who finished third overall on last year’s Tour, is currently racing the Tour of Switzerland and is likely to spearhead RadioShack’s yellow jersey bid this summer.