Andy Schleck insists that reports last week that he was drunk in a hotel at Munich airport are “ridiculous” and while he believes he is in good physical condition, he concedes that he has struggled to readjust to the mental demands of racing following his return from the injury that blighted his 2012 season.
The RadioShack-Leopard rider was speaking to Luxembourg TV station RTL, and began by saying that he was glad to be back home with his family.
Turning to those claims of inebriation made by a French MP last week which led to team owner Flavio Becca publicly urging him to get his act together, he said: “The Munich story is ridiculous. I forgot pretty fast about it and I don’t want to comment on it any more.”
He confessed that he was disappointed with his start to the 2013 season as he looks to get his career back on track after the fractured sacrum he suffered during the 2013 Critérium du Dauphiné that kept him out of last summer’s Tour de France.
“Of course I hoped for more at the beginning of the season,” admitted the 27-year-old, who has failed to finish four of the five races he has started this year. “After the horrible last year with my fall I thought I would have a good winter practicing with my team mates in Spain and then it would work out.
“But I made a new experience, because my injury kept me from working as hard as I would have hoped to. Then I participated in my first races when I felt like I was doing alright, physically.”
However, he went on: “It isn’t only a physical challenge to be a part of the peloton, but also a mental one. You have to get accustomed again to long races in the rain and fast sprints.
“But I’m working on it and I noticed it went better during the last race [Tirreno-Adriatico] except for the last stage, where I was exhausted.”
Schleck abandoned the race on its final road stage on the penultimate day, which would see the remaining rides tackle climbs of up to 30 per cent gradients amid filthy weather.
While in recent weeks RadioShack Leopard team manager Luca Guercilena has queried Schleck’s fitness, approach in training and even his mental condition, the rider himself says he is positive about the coming months.
“I am optimistic, I’m working hard, harder than before. Since January I’ve only slept six nights in my own bed at home.”
Schleck’s last victory came with that stunning solo ride on the Galibier in Stage 18 of the 2011 Tour de France.
Although he would take the maillot jaune from Thomas Voeckler the following day on Alpe d’Huez, he lost it within 24 hours to Cadel Evans in the Grenoble time trial that preceded the final stage into Paris.
He would however last year get awarded the overall victory for the 2010 edition of the Tour after Alberto Contador was stripped of the win, but has consistently insisted that he won’t see himself as a true Tour de France champion until he has won it on the road.
“I believe that I can be a great cyclist once again,” he insisted to RTL. “I will keep on working hard and I know that the people who believe in me will keep believing in me. I hope it will work out better in the future.
“My goals are still the same,” he added. “The Classics with Liège and the Tour de France. I hope that I can show a high level of skill and we will see how far that will take me.”
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.