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"In cycling everything you do pays off eventually and now I am seeing the results of my hard work. I never doubted that I could come back to this level and I have no doubts now that I can win a stage or maybe two. The Alps ar...

Photo: Sirotti

ANDY SCHLECK

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JAN BAKELANTS

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MAXIME MONFORT

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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07.07.2013 @ 21:03 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Andy Schleck (Radioshack) appeared to be not too far off his best level in today's second mountain stage of the Tour de France as the 2010 race winner was glued to Chris Froome's wheel when the race leader responded to Nairo Quintana's multiple attacks on the last climb. Feeling a clear improvement from yesterday's stage, the Luxembourger is now confident that he will be ready to make an impression in the Alps.

 

Many had doubted Andy Schleck's ability to perform at his best level at this year's Tour de France as the Luxembourger has had a horrible time ever since he crashed during the time trial at last year's Tour de France. Signs of improvement in the last build-up races saw the Luxembourger start the race with plenty of confidence but his GC ambitions took a beating when he lost 3.34 to Chris Froome's in yesterday's summit finish to Ax-3-Domaines.

 

Nonetheless, the Luxembourger proved today that it is way too early to write off the multiple podium finisher in his favourite race as he appeared to never be in trouble during today's very hard second Pyrenean stage. When Nairo Quintana tested race leader Chris Froome on the final climb with 4 hard accelerations, Schleck was one of only 5 riders that was not too troubled by the aggression, joining Froome, Alejandro Valverde, Cadel Evans and Alberto Contador in that select group.

 

Having seen a great improvement from the previous day's struggles, Schleck feels confident that the upwards trajectory will continue.

 

“I think I did a really good stage today," he said. "I was suffering in the group but so was everyone else. But on the last climb I felt very good. It is a good sign for me for when we go to the Alps. In cycling everything you do pays off eventually and now I am seeing the results of my hard work. I never doubted that I could come back to this level and I have no doubts now that I can win a stage or maybe two. The Alps are coming up.”

 

While the team's other GC rides Haimar Zubeldia and Andreas Klöden both fell out of GC contention, Maxime Monfort managed to stay at Schleck's side all the way to the finish. He was equally encouraged by the performance.

 

“I wasn’t good enough but I had good legs and I was able to do good work for Andy, too," he said. "Andy is getting better and better. By the third week he could be in the top ten or even better if he continues like this. Once we’re in the Alps and has a day like today and has his old legs back, he can surprise everyone.”

 

Sports director Kim Andersen who has always been close to Schleck and been his main discussion partner in his quest to build back up to his former level, was not only impressed by the team captain but by the entire team effort that saw the squad well-represented in the front group throughout most of the day.

 

“It was nice to see Andy in the front today," he said. "It was a good two days for him with good recovery in between. And there was Jan [Bakelants] again on the attack. Jens [Voigt], Maxime and Tony [Gallopin] were all working hard today too. The team is working very well together.”

 

“This was a very hard stage," he continued. "We still have one guy leading who has a wide gap but the rest behind him is wide open. I think it’s very interesting. In the first 20km they were going so fast and immediately Froome was alone.”

 

Bakelants who has already won a stage and worn the yellow jersey for two days, was once again on the attack. Having bridged the gap to the main breakaway of Romain Bardet, Ryder Hesjedal, Pierre Rolland, Bart De Clercq and Thomas De Gendt, he eventually had to let the group go and give up on his stage win ambitions for the time being.

 

“I wanted to go in the breakaway today, that was my plan and I thought that would happen before the first climb," he said. "So I went all in before that climb, really full gas, but Sky kept us close and brought us back at the bottom. Later I almost made it back to the lead group but I could never get back on the downhill. It wasn’t the perfect scenario. It was annoying because I could see them, almost touch them, but I couldn’t quite get there. So I was alone again and just kept my own pace after that. We came back together again and I tried once more, but really no space that time."

 

In the end he felt it had been a waste of energy.

 

"It’s mentally hard to ride like that – you keep trying and trying without results. I wasn’t so motivated after that and second guessed myself wishing I had not gone in the break and used up so much energy. You never know.  We’ll see in the TT in a few days.”

 

The Radioshack team will now enjoy a rest day before the race continues with a mostly flat stage in Bretagne on Tuesday. Starting at 14.00 you can follow the action on CyclingQuotes.com/live.

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