ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — Fränk Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) returns to competition this week for the first time since his controversial positive during the 2012 Tour de France.
Now 33, Schleck vows to make up for lost time following his one-year ban and the cancellation of his contract with RadioShack-Leopard, which prevented him from racing last year.
“I still have a lot to show in cycling,” Schleck told journalists Sunday before racing in the People’s Choice Classic criterium, finishing 57th. He’ll start the Santos Tour Down Under on Tuesday.
“I don’t have to win this race, but I want to ride myself back into confidence,” Schleck said. “It doesn’t matter if I finish 25th or 50th or maybe even win. What’s important is that I will take my flight back home next week and have a smile on my face.”
In July 2012, Schleck tested positive for xipamide, a banned diuretic. He vowed that he never knowingly took the product, and while the Luxembourg Anti-Doping Agency agreed, it handed him a 12-month ban that ended July, 2013.
On Sunday, Schleck sat down with a handful of journalists and recounted what he described as a “nightmare.”
“I want to turn the page,” he said. “It’s very frustrating when everyone has acknowledged that it had nothing to do with doping. It was frustrating to spend a year at home, but I want to turn that page, and I am looking forward.”
Looking fit and trim, Schleck said he kept training and working throughout his ban, with the idea of returning last year to race the Vuelta a España. Former team owner Flavio Becca, however, abruptly canceled Schleck’s contract, and he did not compete during the remainder of the season.
Now a member of the new Trek Factory Racing team for 2014, Schleck said he intends to return to the top level of the peloton.
“Everyone is asking us, ‘What are your goals? Do you think you can win the Tour?’ Of course, we believe we can. Andy was second three times, and I was third,” he said.
“We have to believe we can come back. We are ready to go there. I might not happen, but it would be stupid not to believe it’s not possible. I am ready to race.”
Schleck admitted he will be missing race speed in his legs this week in Australia, but hopes to hit stride for the Ardennes classics and the Tour.
Schleck said he is motivated to prove to himself that he can rejoin the elites.
“Revenge is not in my character. I don’t have to show anything to anybody,” he said. “I want to show myself what I know I can do. I owe that to myself, for all the training and sacrifices I’ve made.”
Schleck said younger brother Andy, who’s been dogged with injury since 2012, is also on the comeback trail.
“I just chatted with him [Sunday] morning. He did a 210km ride, had some tests, and he was very proud,” he said. “I could hear his voice shaking, ‘Fränk, I think it’s going to work. I might be proud.’ I am very proud of him.”
A lot has changed in the cycling world since the Schlecks reached the Tour podium in 2011 behind winner Cadel Evans. But Schleck said they have nothing to fear from the powerhouse Team Sky, which has won back-to-back yellow jerseys with Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.
“Everyone talks about Team Sky, but cycling is not rocket science. Sky is not much different from any other team,” he said. “Our project is very well organized. Now it’s time for us riders to show that we are a unit. So far in team camps, we are working very well together.”