Andy Schleck sees glimmer of hope after disappointing start to the year

The 2010 Tour de France winner said he's feeling more comfortable on the bike following a bad crash last summer

Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard) is starting to see a glimmer of hope after what’s been an annus horribilis for the Luxembourg star.

Finishing 41st at 1:20 back in Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège for a former winner like Schleck would be viewed as nothing less than a disaster, but following a string of DNFs and other embarrassing results, simply reaching the finish line in such a demanding and punishing race as Liège is being viewed as nothing short of a victory inside the RadioShack camp.

“I am feeling progress in my condition and that is a good sign,” Schleck said after the race. “I’ve worked very hard these past few months and now I am feeling the results. It’s good for my mind, too.”

Schleck, 27, has been a shadow of his former self since crashing out of last year’s Critérium du Dauphiné. He fractured his sacrum and has since struggled to regain fitness and finish races, let alone be competitive.

Sunday’s consistent ride, where he was with the front group over the Le Redoute going into the final hour of racing, was quietly celebrated as a sign that Schleck’s turned the corner.

Earlier this month, Schleck admitted to VeloNews that he shouldn’t be counted as a favorite for this year’s Tour de France.

Sport director Kim Andersen, however, said the team hasn’t completely thrown in the towel.

“Andy has been working very hard. Some people do not see it, but he is getting better,” Andersen told VeloNews. “There is still time before the Tour.”

After recovering from the classics, Schleck will race at the Amgen Tour of California, then return to Europe to race the Tour de Suisse ahead of the Tour.

RadioShack is still hopeful Schleck can arrive at the Tour in condition to be a factor in the race.

“Andy is feeling better on the bike. He does not have so much pain now,” Andersen said. “We will see. Andy has a big engine. That doesn’t go away.”

Time is running out for Schleck, however. The Tour starts in two months on June 29, so it will be a sprint all the way to Corsica to chase form.