LIMOGES, France, July 14, 2009 (AFP) – Luxemburger Frank Schleck admitted he struggled to cope with media focusing on his younger brother Andy during the first days of the Tour de France, a report said Tuesday.
The Schlecks both race for the Saxo Bank team (formerly CSC) which last year helped Spaniard Carlos Sastre win the race.
Despite Frank’s obvious talent, though, younger brother Andy is considered the team’s best hope of triumphing this year having won the Tour’s white jersey in 2008 for the top placed rider under 25.
And Frank admitted the constant questions, over his status in the team and whether he would work as a ‘domestique’ for 24-year-old Andy, left him perturbed.
“It’s true I suffered a little bit at the start of the Tour, although now I’m starting to feel more myself again,” Frank said in Luxembourg newspaper Le Quotidien.
“We’re brothers and we are very close to each other. Very close …. but I admit I found it hard to cope with all the questions at the start of the Tour about who was the team’s leader and whether I would become his helper.
“It all really got to me, but that’s the way I am. I can’t change my nature overnight,” added Schleck.
Schleck finished sixth at least year’s race but considers himself a fifth place finisher following a positive test for the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) by Bernard Kohl, who finished third.
But ahead of this year’s Tour, he said the media pressure made him feel as though efforts were being made to drive them apart.
“I got the impression that people wanted to drive a wedge between us, which I don’t appreciate at all,” added Schleck, who hinted that he is not finished as a possible contender himself.
“I still finished fifth in Paris last year and going into the penultimate stage time trial in Saint-Amant-Monrond, I was still second in the overall standings.
“Obviously, if I have to help Andy I won’t hesitate because I know if the shoe was on the other foot he would do the same.
“There’s never a problem between us.”
Looking ahead to a crucial six stages, five in the mountains and one time trial, Schleck already has a plan to try and beat the dominant Astana team of Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong.
“Our only hope of beating the three riders in Astana that can win it,
(Lance) Armstrong, (Alberto) Contador and (Levi) Leipheimer – because apparently (Andreas) Kloden is working too much to try and hope to win himself – is to have a three-minute lead on them before the final time trial in Annecy,” he said.