Tour de France form. Is it too late for Andy?
Is Andy hosed and hopeless?
Depending on who you read, there’s still time left or there’s no time left to build form for the Tour de France. Glass half full, glass half empty kind of thing. Form is the great cycling mystery and while there are roadmaps, human physiology is an enduring mystery.
The mystery: is it too late for RadioShack Nissan-Trek’s Andy Schleck?
Is it conceivably possible for Schleck to pull together enough form in the next three to four weeks to be a podium contender? Plenty of experts would say no — including Sean Yates, the Team Sky director.
After Bradley Wiggins won the Dauphine and Sky dominated the race, Yates said “the riders need to recover from this and keep the legs turning. You’re not going to improve your condition between here and the Tour.” Now, he was talking about his boys but it’s clear he doesn’t think you can accomplish much in the time that remains.
That assessment from Yates isn’t a positive sign for Schleck, who has failed to finish Paris-Nice, the Volta a Catalunya and now the Criterium du Dauphine. His team manager Johan Bruyneel had been guardedly optimistic about Schleck’s form until the most recent abandonment. “Andy’s situation is not a good sign for his Tour preparation, especially if you look now at the level of his competitors,” said Bruyneel. “For the moment there is not much we can do. It is a difficult situation.” Having guided three riders to something like ten grand tour wins, Bruyneel ought to be pretty experienced with tour build-ups.
Nevertheless, Schleck has confounded skeptics in the last few years with his surprising ability to transform himself in the final weeks, regardless of a lack results up to that point. (We might be at the miracle stage — and perhaps Schleck needs to quick trip to Lourdes, the miracle capital of France, for a quick prayer and offering.)
Like most professional athletes, Schleck sticks to the positive story no matter what the dark circumstances. “Some people will say ‘It is only three weeks till the Tour’ but you can also say it is ‘still’ three weeks to the start in Liege. You can do a lot in three weeks. That is my strength. I’ve shown it in the last years. I was not good in the Tour de Suisse but I was in the Tour de France. I won’t stop believing in it. I’ve worked hard for this.” We’re not exactly sure what hard work he is referencing but that’s just us.
His rosy statement reminds Twisted Spoke of something former Garmin and RadioShack physiologist Allen Lim said when we talked to him at the Tour of California. He was discussing Levi Leipheimer’s chances in California while still recovering from a fractured fibula. We’re paraphrasing but what Lim said was that people always think that bike racers can pull out some miracle performance but that just isn’t possible. His point was that you can’t deliver any performance you haven’t already replicated in training.
In other words, Andy’s training in the Pyrenees over the next few weeks better be freakin’ astonishing.