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Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) rarely has the opportunity to catch up on the chit-chat in the latter kilometers of mountain stages. He did Tuesday, however, when a touchy stomach sent him looking for the gruppetto on the four-climb, 182km third stage at the Amgen Tour of California.
Schleck was unavailable after the stage, as the Saxo Bank team was pulled to a sponsor engagement as soon as the last riders reached the team bus. Team technical advisor Bobby Julich confirmed that Schleck was suffering from a combination of a break in racing and a demanding public calendar in California.
“You just don’t feel good some days,” said Julich. “He had a little bit of a bad stomach. Absolutely no alarm bells are going off.”
Julich downplayed the significance of Schleck’s slow ride to Santa Cruz. The 2009 Tour de France runner-up took a long hiatus following Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April and this week began his build up to the Tour.
“We have a long way to go to the Tour. This is Andy’s first race back after taking a little break after the classics and we have a little bit of work to do,” said Julich. “We’ve just begun building up for the Tour. When we get back, we’ll go into training camps and then either the Tour of Luxembourg or the Tour de Suisse, races like that. Andy will be ready for the Tour, no doubt about that.”
Julich said it takes time for some of the Saxo Bank riders to ramp back up to a high level after the team has released the stress of the spring classics. “It’s tough to jump across the pond and have to mimic the motivation and the passion that the other teams have over here,” he said. “We had a big spring season and there has to be a little let down, a little bit of relaxing of the stress level.”
Schleck lost more than 16 minutes Tuesday, one day after Fabian Cancellara dropped off the pace by a similar amount. Joining Schleck in the autobus in stage 3, Cancellara now trails overall leader David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions) by 31:36.
The duo will now turn their attention to stage wins, a priority Julich says the team identified from the start.
“From the beginning of the race, stage wins were our objectives,” said Julich. “We knew we just went through the classics season and there has to be a decompression somewhere. We didn’t come here with…when you have all the guys coming here after a break, it’s hard to jumpstart the motor again. So, hopefully by the end of the race, we’ll go for some stages.”
In the end, as Julich said, when the boss is happy, the boys are happy. “If Bjarne is not worried, I don’t think Andy or the rest of the team should be,” he said. That’s bike racing; some days you have good days, some days you have bad days.”