PARIS (VN) — Trailed by a gaggle of kids asking for autographs, Andy Schleck was in a hurry to get out of the Palais des Congrès on Wednesday after the presentation of the route for the 2013 Tour de France.
“Walk with me and I will talk to you,” Schleck told VeloNews. “I am heading home.”
Schleck was also in a hurry to forget his tumultuous, injury-plagued 2012 season, which saw him miss racing a grand tour for the first time since he finished second in his debut at the 2007 Giro d’Italia.
On top of that, his brother, Frank, tested positive for a diuretic at this year’s Tour, and RadioShack-Nissan manager Johan Bruyneel left the squad after an uneven merger between RadioShack and Leopard-Trek. The Armstrong Affair has only heightened the tension.
Things have gotten so bad that his father, ex-pro Jonny Schleck, even suggested in an interview last week that his sons might be better off simply walking away from the sport for good.
But Andy Schleck said that while he understands his father’s frustration, he’s not considering early retirement.
“Don’t worry. I will be racing next year,” Schleck said. “He didn’t say it quite like that. He was saying, with all the bullshit that’s going on, maybe we should just live an easy life without so many worries. He didn’t mean it like it sounded.”
Schleck continued to walk as he answered questions, saying he liked the look of the centenary Tour.
While it’s not quite as hard as some expected, the final week is packed with climbs, including Mont Ventoux, a double ascent of L’Alpe d’Huez and a hilly second time trial that tips the balance away from the pure specialists.
“After being here, I am fucking motivated about this Tour,” he said. “I think it’s a hard Tour. If you’re a climber, you can win this Tour.”
Overcoming his debilitating back injury is Schleck’s most pressing priority. His crash at the Dauphiné continues to cause him pain. After racing at the Tour of Beijing, when he was getting dropped on third-category climbs and eventually abandoned, he clearly needs to get back into top shape if he hopes to be a contender in July.
“First I have to get my injury fixed and get back to my level,” he said. “I am still suffering pain. It’s not super, but what I can say? I am working on it. I do my physio and my exercises. My doctors are confident by January I will be completely healed. I hope to have a normal racing schedule next year and be good in time for the Tour.”
The 27-year-old stopped walking when the subject of doping came up. Other journalists crowded in as Schleck, who inherited the 2010 Tour crown in the wake of Alberto Contador’s positive, offered his views on the Armstrong doping scandal.
“We are talking about the past. It’s hard after what’s happened, if everything is true. We need to draw a line, but we cannot forget the past. We can learn from the past. I believe that’s what we’re already doing,” he said.
“Now the young generation is suffering for what the older generation did. We need another chance for the new generation, that we can ride clean. We’ve seen that in the last couple of years in the Tour.”
Schleck wondered if a talked-about amnesty program would work and questioned the logic of raising up all of cycling’s ghosts.
“How far do you go back? Do you go back to Charly Gaul? He died a few years ago. Did he take anything? I don’t know, he never told me,” Schleck said. “How far do you want to go back?”
Schleck got defensive when asked by a journalist what more cycling can do to convince skeptical fans that the sport is credible and that people should believe what they see on the road.
“I cannot do more. I am 100 percent transparent, with my biological passport, with my controls. I can show it to anyone,” he said. “What more can I do? I cannot do more to prove that I do not dope. If that’s not enough, then they should not support me.”
VeloNews asked him about the recent revelations from Italian investigators about notorious Italian doctor Michele Ferrari, who was evidently working with riders from 20 top pro teams over the past few seasons.
“Shocking. It’s completely shocking. I do not understand a rider who can go to Dr. Ferrari today. I do not understand who could go see him even three, four years ago,” Schleck said, before adding with a laugh. “I believe at the moment Ferrari is pretty un-active.”
With that, Schleck turned to walk out of the Palais des Congrès, with a string of autograph-seekers still tugging at his arm.