COMPIÈGNE, France (VN) — In a surprising move, Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard) has announced that he intends to start Paris-Roubaix on April 7 to gain extra race miles and help his teammate Fabian Cancellara fight for a third Roubaix victory.
“Fabian helped guide me through the cobblestones to the front group [on stage 3] at the 2010 Tour [de France]; now, I want to return the favor,” Schleck said.
On that stage, which used 13km (8.1 miles) of cobblestones in seven cobbled sectors over the last 77.5km (48.2 miles), Schleck finished sixth, in the lead group, behind Cancellara, Cadel Evans and stage winner Thor Hushovd. Schleck’s brother Frank, however, went down in a crash on the cobbles and broke his collarbone.
Schleck’s career has gone from bad to worse since he suffered a fracture to his sacrum at the Critérium du Dauphiné last June. He called off his 2012 Tour de France and only returned to racing in October at the Tour of Beijing, but failed to finish. At the Tour Down Under in January, he pulled out early. He caught a cold during his return to Europe and pulled out of the Méditerranéen Tour and the Tour of Oman.
Midway through Tirreno-Adriatico it was clear he was still suffering, and he ended with yet another DNF.
Schleck said he’s aiming to have 60 days of racing before the Tour de France starts in Corsica on June 29. With the number of available race days shrinking rapidly, he has set out on an unorthodox route to reach his goal.
After riding reconnaissance on the fabled cobbles of the Hell of the North for the past week, Schleck is confident that a ride to Roubaix is the key to his return to top form, once and for all.
“The cobbles have helped me rebuild strength in my sacrum,” he said. “It’s made me confident that this is a race I need in my legs to make a full return.”
RadioShack manager Luca Guercilena admits Schleck’s lithe stature may not be the best suited for the pounding pavé of the northern French monument, but insists the team medical staff and team management are fully behind the rider’s decision. In fact, they expect big things from him.
“With all the problems he’s had since his crash, he’s almost lost one year. What has he got to lose at this point?” Guercilena said. “We have to be realistic. We know he can’t win, but Andy is going to surprise some folks on Sunday. When you have the heart of a champion, you want to fight for your position in the peloton under the harshest conditions. We are confident he can usher Fabian to a third title.”