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SAINT VALLIER, France (VN) — Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) suffered a pre-Tour de France blow on the same day his rivals soared. Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) won the first road leg of the Critérium du Dauphiné on Monday and Bradley Wiggins (Sky) took the overall lead, but Schleck lost ground on the final climb and finished three minutes behind.
The loss did little to impress Schleck’s new boss, Johan Bruyneel.
After the 187km stage, from Seyssins to Saint Vallier, Schleck rode straight to the bus and climbed in immediately. Bruyneel arrived minutes later in the team car.
“Everybody has to work for himself,” he told a small group of journalists. “Of course, if Evans wins the stage and Wiggins takes the leader’s jersey, that’s a confirmation. We still need to find that confirmation. That’s what we are here for.”
After winning the Tour de France with Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador, the former Belgian pro cyclist teamed with Schleck and his brother Fränk for 2012. In a merger of two top-level squads, Luxembourg’s Leopard-Trek signed Bruyneel, several of his riders and sponsors RadioShack and Nissan over the winter.
Andy Schleck suffered a virus in the early season and has given the team little to cheer about. On a few occasions, including after Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April, Bruyneel said that he wasn’t happy with the brothers’ performances. That uneasy feeling only seemed to grow after Fränk abandoned the Giro d’Italia last month.
Bruyneel was quoted in one newspaper that no one but Fabian Cancellara had a guaranteed post in the Tour de France team.
“I didn’t say that, but what I said was that based on the results this year, Cancellara would be the only one who could claim a spot on the Tour de France,” Bruyneel explained today. “There are nine riders in every team, right? It would be difficult to not have Andy Schleck at the start of the Tour.”
VeloNews asked Andy Schleck on Monday night about the recent articles surrounding his relationship with Bruyneel. He replied with a grin, “You read too much!” He explained that Bruyneel’s comments might have been an attempt to motivate him and his brother.
“I don’t care, because I know I’m in the Tour. Even if he said that Fabian is the only one who’s sure… The atmosphere is good. We won in the Tour of Luxembourg, which means that they are on track.”
On the recent articles, he added, “That’s why we have two ears, one’s to listen and one’s to let it out.”
Schleck placed 138th, 3:10 behind today in Saint Vallier. He was left behind on the Cat. 3 climb up the Côte de la Sizeranne.
“I didn’t expect to see that scenario,” Bruyneel continued. “I haven’t spoke to Andy yet, but what’s clear is there a lack of race rhythm. The only possible explanation is that it’s been a long time without competition and a lack of rhythm.
“It’s not a disaster, we have to make a balance at the end and see how he gets out of Dauphiné.”