The end of Andy? Without being overly dramatic, it sure feels like Andy Schleck’s hopes for any podium spot at this year’s Tour de France have just been terminated.
His misery, bad luck and cancerous mojo hit a new and perhaps definitive low today as he abandoned the Criterium du Dauphine 65 kilometers into the queen stage to Morzine. He didn’t even bother with the brutal final climb, calling it quits before the Col des Essérieux.
Say all you want about Schleck’s documented ability to disprove critics and get himself into superior climbing shape before Le Tour. The fact is, he’s never had such a disastrous build up — we can officially stop using the word “build-up” — emergency resuscitation might be more appropriate. Andy said after Liege Bastogne Liege that he was “behind schedule.” He’s further behind now.
A month ago team manager Johan Bruyneel said Andy — and the entire RadioShack Nissan Trek squad — needed to regroup and go back to “square one.” We’re talking minus a dozen squares at this point. At the Dauphine, Schleck bruised his ribs and ripped his right side up in a crash during the windy stage four time trial. Before his exit he was already 29 minutes down on Wiggins.
This just looks like a case of “abandon all hope.” Illness forced him out of Paris-Nice, he dropped out of the Volta a Catalunya and now he’s pulled out of the Dauphine. Abandon, abandon, abandon ship.
There’s still an outside chance Schleck could pull his form together for the second and third week of Le Tour. But that’s not the issue. It’s confidence, optimism, positive mojo and team unity that are missing. Even champions need a some sign, proof that the form is coming and that measured against their top rivals in the Dauphine, they’re on track. Schleck has zero positive signs and we’re late in the game.
After the months of public criticism of Schleck from Johan Bruyneel and disputes between the Belgian team manager and the two Schleck brothers, things seemed to have calmed down. Our view is Bruyneel finally gave up on his hard-man “motivational tactics.” He belatedly realized that what Andy needed most was love. Bruyneel has done a total switch of tactics in the last week, suddenly making optimistic statements about Andy’s performance. It was almost a desperation move and perhaps a bit of resignation that his approach had failed.
To win the Tour de France everything has to go perfectly. You need incredible confidence, mental strength, team unity and the form of your life. With all due respect to the recent pro-Andy predictions from teammates Chris Horner and Jurgen Roelandts, we don’t see that happening. The ever-optimistic Horner had a rosy assessment of Schleck’s progress: “What we see is absolutely no concern in terms of what I think he will be prepared to ride like in the Tour de France.” Love Chris, have to vehemently disagree.
A podium at the Tour de France is gone. Twisted Spoke is on record saying that Schleck will not be the runner-up yet again. He won’t even make the top five. We’ll also follow that with a bold prediction: Andy Schleck wins the 2012 Vuelta a Espana.