Andy Schleck says he doesn’t want to win the Tour de France by default if Alberto Contador is disqualified from the 2010 edition. He wants to beat him straight up on the roads of France.
Though Schleck stands to inherit Contador’s Tour crown if the Spanish rider is sanctioned in the ongoing clenbuterol case, it’s something the Tour runner-up says he doesn’t want nor something he thinks about.
“To me, Alberto is the winner of the Tour and everything that has happened is in the past for me,” Schleck said. “I am focused on this season and what’s happening with this new team.”
Schleck’s comments came during the Leopard-Trek presentation earlier this month when he reiterated his posture on the long-running Contador doping case. The team didn’t want the messy business of the Contador case to spoil their big rollout in front of 4,000 people in Luxembourg.
The younger of the Schleck brothers insists he doesn’t want to win the Tour by default and he would prefer that Contador is the start line for the 2011 Tour, if the Spaniard can prove his innocence.
Contador is facing a possible two-year ban and disqualification of the 2010 Tour after he tested positive for traces of clenbuterol, which he claims came from eating meat laced with the banned product. Spanish officials suggested a decision is pending by the middle of February, but an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport is likely, meaning the case could drag on for months.
With so much at stake in the 2011 season at the start-up Leopard-Trek team, everyone on the squad says they are not looking in the rear-view mirror as they stride into their debut season.
Sport director Kim Andersen said that the Schleck brothers are focused on trying to win the 2011 Tour de France and not wasting energy worrying about what might happen to Contador.
“No, we’re not talking about it. I don’t want to think about it. We’ll take it how it is. It doesn’t change anything until we’re at the start of the Tour,” Andersen told VeloNews. “We’ll do what we have to do with our planning and preparation.”
The Contador factor will certainly grow in the coming months, especially if the case remains unresolved going into the 2011 Tour. Not only will there be growing media pressure, there will be speculation on who will take control of the race.
If Contador is cleared to race, Bjarne Riis will bring a strong Saxo Bank-Sungard team loaded with climbers and workhorses to try to take the reins of the course. If Contador is already serving some sort of racing ban, then all the pressure will fall on Leopard-Trek as the team to beat.
“Of course, if he’s not there, then that changes a lot. But we are planning as if he’ll be there,” Andersen said. “We hope he’s there.”
Either way, it should be interesting showdown between the two teams as more than a dozen riders and staff left Saxo Bank to help create Leopard-Trek going into the 2011 season.
Fränk Schleck says Leopard-Trek is ready to handle the responsibility of carrying the Tour with or without Contador.
“We don’t talk about (the Contador case) much. That’s not up to us. We believe 100 percent that the people who are taking the decision will make the right decision,” Schleck told VeloNews. “We will be ready for the Tour. Whether or not Contador is there, we don’t know. We cannot control that. We know we will be ready.”
The elder Schleck says the brothers are still smarting about the close call Andy had in the Tour in 2010 and want to do everything to win this season. The brothers claim there’s no sort of competition between them and insist that either could win the Tour, though Andy is best-poised to stake claim for victory after finishing runner-up the past two editions.
When the Schleck brothers speak of the Tour, they speak in the plural.
“We hope that Alberto will be there next year (2011). We want to beat him. We want to show the cycling world we’re the best,” Fränk continued. “We don’t just want to beat Contador. We’re there to win the Tour.”
Other members of the Leopard-Trek team say while Andy Schleck might not be dwelling on the past, but say that he hasn’t forgotten his bitter, hard-fought battle. Contador’s attack when Schleck’s chain slipped in the Pyrenees remains a point of contention, says Jakob Fuglsang.
“You could feel that anger was there. When it happened, he was pretty angry. You could feel it was burning inside him,” Fuglsang said. “(Andy) got over it pretty fast, but he doesn’t forget it.”