Andy Schleck is behind compared to this point last year ahead of Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the run to the Tour de France. So far, he has dropped out of two important stage races, Paris-Nice and the Tour of Catalonia.
"This year's been different. My preparation has been different than in the years before," he explained. "I'll have training camps between now an the Tour. I'm confident I'll be good for July."
The Luxembourger of RadioShack-Nissan challenged Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) all the way to Paris and placed second overall last year. This year, he inherited the 2010 title from Alberto Contador, who lost the race for doping.
He has his eyes on the title in July once again. One of his key rivals, Bradley Wiggins (Sky) has already won the Paris-Nice stage race this season. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) won Tirreno-Adriatico. Evans is fine tuning next week in the Tour of Romandy.
Schleck had a virus ahead of Paris-Nice. He felt tired, but ignored it. As the race went on, he felt worse and abandoned before the third leg.
"My season has not been good, dropping out of Paris-Nice, missed kilometres. I had to take antibiotics, I was in bed for five days. After that I was down in Nice and rode in the mountains a lot. But Catalonia went bad... I'm not super, but I'm not bad either."
He also had to deal with new team management. After last year's Tour, his Leopard-Trek team announced it reached a deal with Johan Bruyneel's RadioShack team. It took on sponsors RadioShack and Nissan, and 12 of Bruyneel's riders.
"It changed a lot," Schleck said. "The years before I did País Vasco, scooter training, intensity in the climbs, intervals... This year, it's different, more kilometres... I was in Nice for eight days for really long mountain climbs, to get better in that domain..."
Bruyneel won Tour de France nine times, seven with Lance Armstrong and two with Contador. He made changes when he joined Schleck's team, including deciding not to take long-time sports director, Kim Andersen to the Tour. Andy and his brother Fränk don't seem too happy about the decision.
"He will be in Paris, maybe not every day in the car, but he'll still be around," Andy said. "In 2010 he wasn't there, but still kept in contact."
Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2012: The Big Preview
Andy Schleck: Rider Profile
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