This week Andy Schleck, my longtime team leader, announced he wouldn’t ride the Tour de France because of injuries sustained in a crash at the Dauphiné. I’ve been asked what it’s like to lose my leader and what it means for my RadioShack team.
But my very first thought was, “What the hell! Forget about losing our leader! I only care about Andy — my friend.”
I’ll just plain miss Andy, for being Andy.
I’ll miss Andy, the man who went ballistic on the stage up the Galibier in last year’s Tour. We talked about that attack before the stage, and he agreed to it, knowing full well that if he failed the fans and the media would butcher him for making such a “stupid” move.
But he straightened his back, took responsibility like a true champ, and went along with our beautiful and risky plan. And he went out there and ignited the fireworks.
I love Andy’s devil-may-care attitude.
I’ll miss the man who, after his dropping chain and then was attacked by Contador, got back on his bike and chased all alone. And after the stage, when the press asked him about what happened, he said not one bad word. He took that hit like a man.
Andy showed character beyond his age. He acted with class, even though I knew he was furious about what had happened.
I’ll miss Andy the boy too. The boy who comes through the team bus 20 minutes before the start of a stage in the Tour saying, “Have you seen my cycling shoes?” Generally he is joking, but he loves our shocked faces, not to mention those of our sport directors.
He can do that because we all know that every now and then Andy is not joking. Once in a while somebody has to race back to the hotel Formula 1 style to get his shoes …
I’ll miss Andy in the Tour for being relaxed on the rest days. Like last year, when he came with me to chill out by the river and watch some locals fishing. Andy’s a great outdoorsman. At the Tour he’s always coming up to me asking if I brought a new fishing magazine or a diving or hunting magazine, and then we talk about our latest fishing experiences. It was Andy who showed me how to catch big pike. He explained where to put the knots and where to place the hooks.
Tour de France (June 30-July 22, NBC)
Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France by protecting the yellow jersey during Sunday's final processional ride into Paris.
I’ll miss Andy, the little brother in the Tour, who always has these discussions with his big brother Franky in Luxembourgish. Franky still feels responsible for his little brother, and the little brother tries to tell his older brother, “I’m OK. I’m grown up now.”
If nothing else, it’s a very entertaining part of our long bus transfers.
I’ll miss Andy the great bicycle racer, the racer who saved our asses in so many Tours with stage wins, white jerseys, podiums—the Andy who won a Tour for us.
I’ll miss one of our leaders, miss his positive attitude, and how he says with total calmness and self-confidence before some killer hard stage in the Pyrenees or Alps, “No worries, boys. Today’s gonna be a good day for us!”
So yes, Andy’s absence is going to change our plans in the Tour quite a bit. But I believe that Franky and Klöden are both hitting their form perfectly about now, so I think we still have two great chances to go for the podium. OK, maybe we won’t start as top favorites, but such a situation has advantages too. Like this, we can hide and wait a little, maybe surprise a few people one day.
This situation may force us to ride with more improvised tactics than in previous years. And if somebody would come up to me and ask, “Hey, Jens. Feel like going into the break today?” Well, you know the answer I’ll give.
“Does a bear shit in the woods?”
But mostly I love Andy, and it hurts me to see him suffering. All I can say to him is what older and wiser men have said. “Shape comes and goes, but class always stays with you.”
And there’s no arguing whether Andy has class.
A series of small but challenging climbs late on Friday's stage of the 2012 Giro d'Italia could not stop Britain's Mark Cavendish taking his fourth stage win and second in two days.
BUSSETO, Italy (Reuters) - Defending Giro d'Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal has withdrawn from this year's race, the Canadian's Garmin-Sharp team announced before the start of Friday's stage 13.
The road to Paris
The best images from the 2012 Tour de France.
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Crashes of the Tour de France
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