Andy Schleck’s manager at RadioShack-Leopard, Luca Guercilena, has expressed concern about the Luxembourg cyclist’s state of mind after the 27-year-old pulled out of the Tour Méditerranéen citing respiratory problems. The team is also said to be concerned about his work ethic and attitude towards training.
"There's more to it than that respiratory problems,” said Guercilena, who was promoted to his current role after Johan Bruyneel was sacked last autumn following the United States Anti-Doping Agency's publication of its Reasoned Decision in the Lance Armstrong case.
“Andy’s problems are bigger. The mental side is also important for a cyclist,” added the Italian, who was speaking to Belgian TV channel Sporza.
Besides Schelck's battle with injury and fitness, his brother Fränk’s one-year doping ban handed down last week won’t have helped Andy’s state of mind at all from a personal point of view, and at the same time it puts additional pressure on him to recover his form and fitness in the coming months so he can lead the team in the Tour de France.
The Tour Méditerranéen is the third race that Schleck has started but failed to finish in what is turning out to be a stuttering comeback from the fracture of the sacrum that he suffered during last June’s Critérium du Dauphiné, which kept him out of the Tour de France.
In September, Schleck, runner-up in the Tour de France each year from 2009 to 2011 and awarded the 2010 win after Alberto Contador’s disqualification, started his return to the sport in October's Tour of Beijing.
However, he found himself in the unfamiliar situation of lanterne rouge after struggling on climbs that wouldn’t have taxed him in the slightest had he been fully fit, and he abandoned the race.
Last month, in the Santos Tour Down Under, Schleck was largely anonymous - he compared the experience of riding way back in the bunch as making him feel like a neo-pro again - and he packed in the race due to a puncture on the very last stage.
It’s around ten months since he last finished a stage race, last year’s Circuit de la Sarthe, and his last one-day race was Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a race he’s always placed highly in during the past – indeed, he won it in 2009 – but in which he finished 50th in last April.
Last October, as Fränk awaited his disciplinary hearing and Andy struggled with his return from injury, their father Johny, himself an ex-pro, urged them both to give up cycling, saying, “This is no life!”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.