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ESCH-SUR-ALZETTE, Luxembourg (VN) — At 26, Andy Schleck is still a young rider, but coming into the 2012 season, the younger of the Schleck brothers looks and sounds tougher.
Long assailed as being too soft to win the Tour, Schleck vows to take aim for the highest step this year despite a stiff challenge of nearly 100km of individual time trials.
A runner-up three years in a row, Schleck told VeloNews in an interview Friday that he’s fed up with being the bridesmaid and wants nothing less than to win the Tour.
With trademark candor, Schleck also reacted to recent comments from Bjarne Riis and said he would take a yellow jersey if Alberto Contador is disqualified from the 2010 Tour in his long-running clenbuterol case. Here’s what Schleck had to say:
VN: How is Andy Schleck right now, with this new team, with a challenging Tour ahead of you this season?
AS: I am really excited to start the new season now. I did really good training in the winter. I believe I am in OK condition for now. Now we go to Mallorca. I have a different feeling. Now I have been three times second in the Tour. Yellow in Paris, that’s a different feeling, I want to know what that feels like. I go for that now and see if I can reach it.
VN: Do you have any regrets from last year’s Tour? Many arm-chair quarterbacks say you missed chance in Pyrenees, how do you reflect on it?
AS: I have no regrets. I think we did a great Tour last year. We just ran into a Cadel Evans, who was incredibly strong. People always find something. In Liege, when I won with one and a half minutes, people say you could have won with two minutes if you have sprinted to the line. I let them talk and I do the work.
VN: You describe yourself as young, but do you feel like a young rider? You have been around a long time …
AS: This will be my eighth season, if I think right, so it’s time to win something big now (laughs). Many riders would like to have my palmares as I do. Of course, I didn’t win that many races, but I have always focused on big races. Maybe if I aimed for smaller races, I would have won more wins. I do not have any regrets. A mistake isn’t always something so bad. Out of mistakes, you learn something. I am more experienced.
VN: Three times second in the Tour, what do you need to do to win the Tour that you haven’t done so far?
AS: I need to train bloody hard right to the day before the Tour. You can always do better.
VN: How do you react to recent comments from Bjarne Riis saying you ‘lack the will to win the Tour’?
AS: I don’t know what Bjarne means. Bjarne always gets a lot of … let’s put it this way. I was second in the Giro, there was no Bjarne there, it was Alain Gallopin in the car. All the training I did these years, there was no Bjarne, it was Kim Andersen. He came to races, yes, but in the end, it was another who was there in the car. I read somewhere that I cannot win because I am not a champion, but in the end, I want to win to show him. Of where I am standing today, I don’t have to thank Bjarne for that. Of course, I was on his team and he paid me for a couple of years, but when I had the big results, it was not him in the car. It was more with Kim or Gallopin. I don’t know if it’s justified if he says that.
VN: The Contador case is on the verge of finally being settled, what is your perspective? If Contador loses the case, is it a win for you?
AS: It’s not a win for me. For me, it’s simple. His case is black or white. If they are going to suspend them, then for me, it’s a right decision. It’s not a lunatic sitting there, they are educated people there, making those decisions. On the other hand, if he is free, he didn’t do anything wrong, and I believe it. It’s not up to me to make the decision. I believe that the decision coming out of CAS is the correct one. I think for cycling, it’s finally good that it’s over. Also for him.
VN: The case has been running on for so long, has it been on your mind?
AS: No, it didn’t affect me at all. In the beginning, you think of it. I heard like you did. You knew it before me, because I read it from you. In the beginning, you are wondering, but I haven’t had in my head a single moment, even when I was racing against him.
VN: Would you take a yellow jersey if they wanted to give you one?
AS: If he’s disqualified, yes, then I have said it’s the right decision, then he was doing something wrong. If not, he never did anything wrong.