LEEDS, United Kingdom (AFP) — Former Tour de France winner Andy Schleck says he’s a “fighter” and vowed to get back to his best form ahead of Saturday’s Grand Départ in Leeds.
The fall of the younger of the two Schleck brothers has been one of the great cycling mysteries over the last two years.
The Luxemburger, 29, finished in the top-two in the Tour three years in a row from 2009 to 2011 and won the greatest bike race in the world in 2010 after Alberto Contador was stripped of his original victory for doping.
But since then, Schleck’s best result in any race was a 20th place finish in the Grand Boucle last year. Earlier this year he started but failed to finish all three Ardennes Classics.
At this year’s Tour, he has been stripped of the leadership, his Trek Factory Racing team instead charging him with assisting his brother Frank, the new leader, and veteran Spaniard Haimar Zubeldia in the mountains.
Yet Schleck insists his personal ambition has not been dulled.
“I believe I still have a name and I believe I have good capacities and good legs,” he said Thursday at a pre-Tour press conference. “I go into the Tour with lower ambitions than the years before; my first objective is to be there to help Frank and Haimar in the climbs,” he added.
“There’s still a good chance for me to go for a stage. The Tour de France has lots of opportunities.”
He says getting back to his best is a step-by-step process but he insists he is not washed up. “The last two years have been tough, I’ve been struggling and working hard to come back on the level where I am now,” he said.
“I know it’s a long way to come back to the level where I was before but I’m willing to take that step, otherwise I would not be here. I’m motivated for the future,” he added.
“I’m very excited for the Tour de France, I really believe it’s realistic to come back where I was. It’s a long way, it’s a hard way, it won’t be easy but I’m a fighter.”