Andy Schleck has withdrawn from this weekend's Tour du Haut Var-Matin in a further blow to his attempts to get a season in which he hopes to challenge for the overall in July's Tour de France under way.
The rider has been suffering from an infection of the respiratory tract, which has already forced him out of the Tour Méditerranéen, and although he says he feels back on form, his team, Radioshack-Leopard Trek, say they don't want to push him.
“We were happy to see Andy doing well in training the last few days,” team manager Luca Guercilena told Eurosport.
“There is however a big difference between training and race situations. We want to prevent a relapse because of the race. Andy’s main goals are situated later in the season. It’s better that we are cautious now instead of taking steps backward.”
It's a further setback in Schleck's ongoing battle to recover full fitness, with his struggles starting in June last year when he fractured his sacrum in a crash during the time trial in the Criterium du Dauphine, forcing him out of last summer's Tour.
Earlier this month, Guercilena expressed concern about the 27-year-old Luxembourg cyclist’s state of mind, which won't have been helped by brother Fränk having received a 12-month ban after testing positive for a diuretic during last year's Tour.
The team is also said to be concerned about Andy's 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.
Schleck returned to racing at the end of last season in the Tour of Beijng but abandoned after struggling on the climbs, and it's now 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 Andy's brother 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!”
<p>After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.</p>