By Gregor Brown
Andy and Fränk Schleck will attempt to rebound next season after a difficult 2013. Trek Factory Racing general manager, Luca Guercilena put importance on the Schlecks returning to grace in 2014.
Guercilena told Cycling Weekly: "Their return is important for the sponsor and fans expect it, but they should also do it for themselves."
Luxembourg's favourite cyclists travelled a rocky road recently. Andy crashed in the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné, fractured his sacrum and suffered during his return. Fränk led the team in that year's Tour de France but tested positive mid-way for banned diuretic Xipamide. His ban ended this July and he was set to race the Vuelta a España until former team owner, Flavio Becca said no.
Their problems extend further to former manager, Johan Bruyneel. The Belgian, who is a central figure in the Lance Armstrong scandal, put the two on different racing programmes. No one in team RadioShack appeared happy at that time.
The times changed over the past year. Becca replaced Bruyneel with Italian Guercilena when the Armstrong scandal reached its boiling point. RadioShack pulled its sponsorship and Becca sold the team's licence to Trek.
The Schlecks have a clean slate for 2013 and the same racing programme again. Home newspaper, Le Quotidien reported today that they will race the same programme leading to the Tour: Paris-Nice, Critérium International, the Tour of the Basque Country, the Ardennes Classics, the Tour of Luxembourg and the Tour of Switzerland.
Fränk will begin the season in Australia's Tour Down Under, January 21 to 26, and Andy in the Tour of Oman, February 18 to 23. They hope to achieve a result like in the 2011 Tour. Andy placed second and Fränk third that year behind winner Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).
"Fränk will be ready to compete. He wants to come out attacking. He's been training hard to have a good season. For Andy, it's still an important year, trying to be a racer again, so his programme will be very dependent on his condition," Guercilena told CW.
"Andy recovered a lot in 2013 from what he didn't do in 2012 but he is still far off with respect to his 2011 form. So, it's important that he has a good winter and is ready for the start of the season. He doesn't have to win at the start of the season but needs to have better form than in 2013."
They will reach a milestone in April at the Ardennes Classics - Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Fränk won the Amstel Gold in 2006 and Andy Liège in 2009. Both riders always want to perform well in the classics before switching off and returning for the Tour.
"Andy should be able to have good form and compete with his rivals," Guercilena added. "After that milestone, we will see what's possible in the Tour for Andy."
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