Schleck has winning ambition

Schleck has winning ambition
By Reuters

28/06/2010 at 16:30Updated 28/06/2010 at 16:34

If discretion is the key to victory, then Andy Schleck should be one of the top favourites for the Tour de France, which starts from Rotterdam on Saturday.

It has always been a sensible Tour strategy to keep a low profile for most of the season and save strength for July, a policy initiated by Spain's five-times champion Miguel Indurain and later emulated by seven-times winner Lance Armstrong.

The younger of the Schleck brothers appears to have taken that to heart this season, without a single major victory or podium placing so far.

It has to be said that last year's runner-up to Alberto Contador had an awful start to the season. He was hit by a car in December and then missed the early races with a cold and stomach problems.

He had another scare in training last week, suffering grazes after coming off the bike.

"Hit a big bump in the road, went down pretty hard, lost quite lot of skin all over my body but I be okay," Schleck said on his Twitter feed.

In the meantime, Contador, Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso, and Andy's brother Frank have taken the opportunity to shine.

"I've sacrificed a lot for the Tour and I feel ready," Schleck said earlier this month.

Schleck's dedication to the Tour led him to shun his home race, the Tour of Luxembourg, which was won by Frank.

Second last year in France and best young rider in 2008, he instead went to check the big mountain passes of the race. His conclusion was the Tour is harder this year and suits him best.

"The route is harder than this year's Tour and I could get a better chance of winning time in the mountains and lose less time on the long time trial," Schleck said when the route was announced last October.

Schleck, 25, has often faltered on the flat and lost precious time in individual time trials, lacking the power of most other Tour favourites.

Yet he has made some progress in this field, winning the Luxembourg time trial title ahead of Frank.

Saxo Bank director Bjarne Riis built a solid team to assist Schleck in all circumstances.

He has Jens Voigt, one of the most experienced riders in the peloton at 38, to ask help and advice of and in the mountains, he can count on the best possible team mate -- his brother.

"There is no jealousy between them. They work like a unit", German Voigt said.

Last year, the Schlecks gave Contador a hard time in the decisive mountain stage to Le Grand Bornand but were unable to topple the Spaniard.

What if they were even stronger this year?