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Andy Schleck talks altitude training, Wiggins and Hesjedal

Schleck says he hasn't seen someone with as much fitness and drive as Wiggins in a long time

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GRENOBLE, France (VN) — Andy Schleck will skip the Tour de France this year due to a pelvis fracture, but just over a week ago, at the start of the Critérium du Dauphiné he was considered a favorite. Before Tuesday’s announcement, before the time losses and before the crash that will keep him out six-to-eight weeks, VeloNews sat down with RadioShack’s star to talk about the team, his training, the 2010 yellow jersey and Ryder Hesjedal.

Schleck talked about his pre-Tour altitude training, receiving the 2010 yellow jersey and Bradley Wiggins, who he pointed to as the Tour’s top favorite.

Schleck was friendly and available with his time in Grenoble, France. As rain came down in buckets outside, the 27-year-old Luxembourger gave interviews to France’s EuroSport and then met with journalists. Only 24 hours later, he was frowning when he rolled into Saint Vallier. He’d lost just over three minutes and signaled something wasn’t right ahead of the Tour de France.

Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported that Schleck crashed in the Sierra Nevada, Spain, and suffered pain in his left knee. The pain caused him to cut short an Alpine training camp ahead of the Dauphiné. He traveled to Basel, Switzerland, to for an exam and lost three days of training, but still started the Dauphiné.

Schleck trained in Sierra Nevada with RadioShack teammates Haimar Zubeldia, Yaroslav Popovych and Tony Gallopin. He’d see pros Carlos Barredo (Rabobank), Rein Taaramäe (Cofidis) and Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) out training, and return, some days, in time to watch TV coverage of his brother racing in the Giro d’Italia.

“I did a lot of kilometers and a lot of altitude meters, as well,” he said. “You sleep at 2400 meters. You don’t recover in those first days and it’s hard to sleep, which is a little bit the meaning of the training and why you go there. The climbs are always hard, always up and down. You go home with high average watts, but it’s not a really intense training.”

Schleck was due to travel to the Pyrénées on Wednesday to train for four days with Hayden Roulston, Haimar Zubeldia and Markel Irizar, travel to the Alps next week and to Liège on June 28 for the Tour de France. He was one of the top favorites, behind Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).

Race director Christian Prudhomme looked forward to seeing him again after officially awarding him the 2010 yellow winner’s jersey on May 29.

“Maybe I’ll sell it before the Tour and make some money on eBay!” Schleck said with a smile. Prudhomme awarded Schleck the 2012 version of the yellow jersey, with the manufacturer Le Coq Sportif’s logos instead of Nike’s. “It’s the one they’ll use this year. I got the first one!”

Schleck said it has no special meaning and won’t occupy a particular place in his home. His home lacks any memorabilia. The only hint that it’s a cyclist’s home is the photo Schleck’s girlfriend Jil gave to him of his Galibier stage win last year.

He threatened Cadel Evans’ advantage with that stage win, but lost time to him in the Grenoble time trial two days later. He place second overall, at 1:34, and Fränk placed third, at 2:30. This year, as with the Giro, he’ll watch Fränk on TV.

“I haven’t seen a rider [Wiggins] in a long time, how strong he is and how good he rides. He goes into the Tour, he wants to win,” Andy said. “I don’t know if Hesjedal will recover well enough from the Giro. Contador couldn’t do it.”