Next is Nice (and some considerations about Andy Schleck)

The sun is shining, it's still quite cold in the morning but warm at noon. Perfect weather for cycling. Tirreno-Adriatico is crossing my country, not in the rain for a change, but I go to Paris-Nice. 
You know, because I wrote it already, that I didn't expect anything by Andy Schleck in that race but a normal, decent riding in front. You see he's riding at the back instead. I think his shape is good so the problem isn't that. The problem is that he doesn't dare to stay in the peloton. Why? I'd like to know. 
When you are at the back you risk to get involved in a crash, to fall or to have to stop. You risk to lose a lot of time and that's exactly what happened to Andy. 
Before the start of this race he had said: "I must be careful till stage 4, than all can happen". It happened actually that he got a flat: the break-away had just been caught, it was the start of the climb and the peloton was going fast. Ok. But he got 7' in that stage and in my opinion it's too much for a flat tyre. Especially when you are - or you think to be - a Tour de France contender. In Oman DS Kim Andersen said Andy was missing racing days. He wasn't the only one and others in the same condition was racing definitely better. And I'm talking of people who will never - never never - win on the Galibier. 
Now the team says that Andy is here like an helper, nothing more, and in today interview Andy himself repeats that he's here only to get the 'race rhythm'. I say 'repeats' because in that interview Andy 'says' nothing at all, the interviewer suggests the word and he thankfully grabs it. The team also remarks that he has just got a son so 'missed some days of work'. 
Take now Vincenzo Nibali: he wants to win the Tour de France too. But he already won the Vuelta a Espana and the Giro d'Italia. He has just got a little girl. He started racing earlier than Andy, in Argentina. He wasn't as good as other years in the same race and period. He went on racing in Oman and there he was already better, always in the first group and even attacking in the hardest stages. Nothing special, just normal for a big tour contenders. Now he's racing in Paris-Nice, he obviously didn't miss 'days of work' because of his recent fatherhood or didn't get affected by it given that he's riding in front, climbing well and looking strong. last year Nibali won Tirreno-Adriatico and I don't think he's here to train.
Take now Frank Schleck: he started racing in Australia, where he was unimpressive but decent, he went on in Oman and he finished in the top 20. He comes back after more than one year out competition so you can imagine he does lack the race rhythme. He already found it back because in Paris-Nice is racing well and his delay is 1'39'' and he says he's ready to take risks in order to improve his GC in the mountains and maybe to win a stage. All quite normal.
All that considered: why in the earth should Andy Schleck lose from 2 to 9 MINUTES per stage? why is he in the race just as an helper? can you imagine Nibali or Porte or Froome or even Bardet in Paris-Nice as helpers, 15' down in GC? Yes, Porte is sometimes an helper but he uses to finish in the top ten as well.  Many riders has got their babies during the season but I have never seen any using that as an excuse to perform under the expectations. They are profesionals. Andy has been lucky that he was at home when Teo was born and not racing. Many of his collegues had to focus on winning a important race while their wives were giving birth. And if you are just an helper maybe - MAYBE - you are allowed to get distracted but when you are a big tour contender, a top rider... no, you are not alowed and if you do you are strictly judged. It could be sweet to see a rider losing the Yellow Jersey because of his baby's birth but for sure you'll think he isn't a champion fabric.
The obvious question at this point is: why do we keep considering Andy Schleck a top rider? and: are we? I see his name is rarely in the list of the favourites in races' previews now, while it used to be in the past. He doesn't win a race since Galibier stage in Tour de France 2011. Not only: he doesn't get any decent result since that. It's a lot. But he keeps saying his goal is to win the Tour de France. That doesn't sound realistic anymore. I don't say it's impossible but how can we bet on a rider who showed nothing in the last three years? I say three but I could say more: Andy won Liège in 2009, the Tour in 2010 (not on the road) and a stage in 2011. That's all. 
Once he said: "If I had aimed to smaller goals I would have a richer palmares." It's also true that dopers like Di Luca and Rebellin affected his results in Giro d'Italia 2007, Fleche 2008, Olypics 2008. He could have won a stage in Tour de France 2008 if Sastre had not attacked his team mate Frank Schleck. In any case Andy has won less than expected. In my opinion he has been bad managed by his teams, especially after he left Saxo-Bank. But I must add he isn't easy to manage, so you can't say he has no fault.
Take now Roman Kreuziger: he was also expected to win much more. He didn't. He changed several teams. He looked lost - but I don't remember serial disaster performances like Andy's - then by Riis he found  back his motivation, his focus and also his legs. He's doing well. And in my opinion Kreuziger hasn't got half of Andy's talent for cycling.
Talent. Has Andy got it? you can read many saying he was winning when he was doping. That makes no sense because he had won more. Serious cycling commentators have no doubt about the fact that Andy had got an incredible talent. Where is it gone? I'd like to know. Now Andy looks afraid of racing, and careless. He doesn't lack days of work or days of racing, he lacks GRINTA. He can repeat as long as he wants that he's hungry of victory, I don't see it anymore. I see no dignity. 
Do you remember that we used to like the Schleck brothers for their attacking way to interpretate a race? Frank is still doing that, Andy stopped a long time ago. When? After Tour de France 2010 in my opinion. I saw a change in him and even wrote it. I think he was very disappointed and I can understand. Then the crash in the Dauphiné, but consider that in 2012 he was already - or again - racing very bad. In Tour de France 2011 he was definitely sucking in the descents and that was new. He said that he had been very impressed by Wouter Weylandt's tragic death and I think that really has been a turning point in his life and career. It's a risky job, you can't think of death. You must be a bit mad to be a cycling rider, especially to be a top rider. You must accept to suffer a lot and also to make suffer, that's worse. That's easier when you are younger. Anyway you can't be afraid.
I'm sorry and vaguely ashamed to see my rider in such a condition but he's perfectly calm, happy and carefree. Ok, that's your life. You don't care, why should I? but don't get angry with me if I tell the obvious. I have spent years supporting Andy writing and on the road, it has been not always easy. During last Tour de France - after a very VERY hard spring - he said me: "Thank you for you big support. And I mean it." Support is over. At least, till when I don't see back the old Andy Schleck. And I'm not talking of results: I'm talking of ATTITUDE.
I go to Nice to enjoy the race. I leave tomorrow after the stage.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with your comments.H

Anonymous said...

Finally!!You've finally reached the point a lot of us have! Thank you for writing this! To be honest, I don't think the old Andy Schleck is going to be back soon. He hasn't got the love for it anymore nor is he a good professional.