TdF10 Story 3: That was the place

... at the team bus. Yes, you can't see much of the race, because you have to go there quite early to take a good place, and then must wait a long while, hours if the bus is parked far away from the arrival. Anyway that is MY place, the place I prefer. I'm too small to like the finish line, where usually I see nothing or, in the best case, am rudely pushed against the barrier by enormous men or hysterical women.

I like a little more the start, where racers are fresh and clean, often smiling – the race is still a promise – sometimes sleepy, specially in a tour – and make a compact multicolor group: joking, chating, posing for a picture. The problem with the arrival is that nothing is decided yet, all is to happen, faces are anonymous in a certain way, even if we know the most of those guys, recognise their expression and behaviour, their typical way to prepare, to wait on the line, and often also their aim in the race or stage. Somebody is nervous because it's an important day, somebody else is too relaxed, because the game is over for him, somebody is angry or sad for some wrong stuff passed in the past days and of course there is somebody who makes difficult to detect his feeling and seems to hide himself in the peloton like a camaleont. Interesting, yeah. But a little too vague to me. The drama is at the arrival, a few meters over the line.

Another option is to watch the race passing on the road. That could be a good choice in a mountain stage with the arrival far from the hardest climb. You have to go early and bring all with you, maybe a tent to sleep in the grass beside the road, something to eat, because there is nothing around: no bars, no toilets, often no trees. Hard but cool: the breackers arrive reasonablely slowly, you can see them suffering on their bikes – sadism for sure is a part of cycling supporting – and 90% important things happen there.

Bordeaux stage was a flat one, nothing special to see if not on the line. But our hotel was booked in Arcachon so the guide wanted us to stop and watch the race passing. No way! We organized a protest and forced the bus to the arrival. Well, a few kms before, but in Bordeaux: then we had to walk and spreaded all long the barriers, looking for our favourite place at races. The mine is at the team bus, but I took the time to have a look to the city, that is impressive. The finish was long the river, with the old palaces and monuments at your left and a nice park at your right. Just before the tribune – I hate tribunes: they aren't democratic at all – there were a big screan and people had a good time siting on the grass and watching the race. Anyway there were people watching everywhere: at the barriers of course, standing on bankets and rubbish baskets and also on the trees – lucky adventurous tall guys who made me definitely envious. I completely snobed the sprint (won by Cav) and followed the signal "Equipes".

The weather was cloudy and a bit rainy, but after a while it got better and finally the sun was as hot as espected in a classic Tour de France. When I reached the team buses area only a Cervelo car and the BMC bus were there, but the show was very interesting: three or four volunteers in yellow jakets waited at the entrance of a narrow street just behinde the arrival, opened and closed a barrier to let pass the team busses and addressed them at their places. Parking a bus isn't easy but in that case was particularly difficult and I couldn't avoid to think to Danny, the Saxo Bank driver, who - unluckly for me - wasn't there. I waited for the Saxo Bank bus to park and went to the big screan, where I found some Luxembourgers of mine.

Only few journalists and supporters were already at the bus when I came back, but in few minutes it got really crowded around there. I found my perfect place: in front of the bus door and behind a barrier, so nobdy could stay between me and the racers who were just arriving. I am very proud of the pictures I took there by my new camera and were happy to meet the Sexy Bankers again. Jens specially! He was all bruised because of the last crash but friendly as usual, ready to make happy journalist and supporters with signatures and interviews. A little girl near me wanted his signature but was so small that Jens couldn't notice her. - Call him – I told, but she was shy and Jens busy with a tv reporter so I touched his side with my hand saying: - Oh! Jens! -. He looked down and the girl had her paper signed. My good action of the day.

However I was there for egoistic reasons. I wanted – ehm! Needed! - to see Andy. Not the right place to chat ok, but to say Ciao it was fine. Unfortunately for me and for all the little fans waiting there – incredible how children love him – Andy didn't come and the team bus left without him. He must attend to the white jersey podium cerimony and probably to many interviews and I guess after that he went straight to the hotel. I instead went straight to my bus, making my personal record in speedy walking: 3 kms in 20 minutes to be there in time and then we left to Arcachon.

I didn't ate that night, took a long long long shower and went to sleep. Andy said to L'Equipe he changed is mind: the Tour wasn't finshed yet and who was in jellow on the Tourmalet wasn't going for sure to wear it in Paris. He didn't give up. Everybody smiled: the next stage was a TT, then the parade to the Champs Elysés. No way for a no-cronomen and no-sprinter to keep an hope. In spite of that Andy said he was going to make the TT of his life. And he did!

Pic by me

TdF10 Story 2: That was the day

It was raining. We were in the middle of a fucking rain storm! I couldn't belive that when I woke up but Lourdes was washed by a furious rain and nothing let hope that it would have got better later. So Andy has to win or loose his Tour in that shit rainy day. I couldn't decide if rain was an advantage or a problem for him, but nobody loves to be all wet three or four hours before a decisive attack on the nastiest climb of the nastier mountain of his almost won or lost Tour de France. Really. Instead I could imagine his face wakeing up and looking through the window: shit! Andy is a cool, relaxed guy so I presumed he has slept at least.

Cycling history says that Gaul used to prefer the bad weather, in mountain stages specially... Who knows if Andy felt a bit of 'Angel of The Mountains spirit' wearing his still – or again – white jersey that morning... For sure I was feeling cold in spite of wearing the warmiest clothes I had in my suitcase. When you leave to the Tour de France you are afraid of the heat usualy. Where in the earth was now the (un)-famous TdF killing hot heat? I'll find out in the TT and wasn't so nice. That morning however it was killing freezing cold.

"She is with the Schlecks" the waitress explained to the waiter pointing to me who were locking for my place in the breackfast room. I already saw my mates in fact: it isn't hard to recognize a Schleck fun when is wearing a fanclub t-shit, a funclub hat and maybe handing a Luxembourgish flag... I introduced myself – in French – and somebody said we already met in Fleche or Liège. Yes, we did. Schleck fans are the nicest people in the world.

Daring the still pourring rain we got on the bus. We were few, less then in the Classics because – they explained – many decided to stay at home after Frankie crash. I can't understand that: I mean, lost his bro Andy needed also more support! But Luxembourgers was shocked by that crash and boycoted the Tour as a kind of protest. On the bus I got some sms by Georges Noesen – the best photographer in the universe, you know! - He was trying to reach the top of the Tourmalet but the street was closed 5 km before, the weather was awful and he has all his stuff to bring up. Nothing can stop a profesional cycling reporter so he did it. I didn't. Our bus was too big to go there and not everybody was ready to climb the Tourmalet walking for 5 kms (or 20) in the rain. We went to Argeles.

I was a little disappointed, you can image, and if it wasn't my first day with the Lux group I'd have tryed to go with Georges. That was possible: we could meet somewhere, go by car and then walk as he did. Ok. I had a great time in Argeles: we avoided to get completely wet – but I had to buy an umbrela in spite of having the funclub waterproof jaket – we comfortablely ate, we watched the race passing and then in tv. Georges took some great pictures at the finish but I'm happy with the mine. Finally he is the photographer, I'm more a writer and living that special day in that crowded pub, among people from everywhere in the world yaling or praying, standing up in front of the tv for hours supporting their cycling heros was special. Moreover because almost everybody was supporting Andy. People didn't like Contador's attack and was amazed be Andy's courage.

So there I was when he flyed away trying in vain to drop out the Spaniard. I wrote a post that night – and it wasn't technically easy - beacuse god! Andy won! He won atop the legendary Tourmalet, where Lapique called "Assassins!" the organizers of the race. He won, yeah! But failed to win. And when he crossed the line I was so sad that forgot to esulte for the won stage. Then I saw he raised an arm and smiled. Aww! Andy smile! So smiled as well. Right. He was relived probably: he gave all, made the race, climbed that mythical climb with all his class, elegance and streghtness. It wasn't enough. But he couldn't have any regrets.

On our way back to Lourdes we felt proud of him on the bus and a little sorry thinking how the story could have been different if only Frank has been there. He would have followed Andy in the hardest climbs and Contador couldn't have responded to the attacks of both. We knew that so, as far as I am concerned, Andy won his Tour de France that day. As he won the Giro in 2007 given that Di Luca was doped. But dudes, Andy doesn't need excuses: he finally found somebody at his level and I think he's happy – chain stuff a part - amused and ready to fight.

Pic by me or G.Noesen


Andy's diary of July

From school renegade to Tour star

When I was a young lad my maths teacher asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I was 14 and thought I knew it all. At that age studying took a back seat and when you're in love with cycling as much I as was back then, there's only one distraction on your mind: Girls.

I digress. So, for whatever reason the teacher pulled me up for misbehaving in class and when he asked, I replied, 'win the Tour de France.'

"Well Andy, you win the Tour and I'll come to Paris to see you in yellow and then walk back to Luxembourg. Until then behave in my class and study hard. Do we have a deal?"

This summer, my old maths teacher was a pretty nervous guy. He still teaches at the same school and everyone there knows about our agreement. 'Got your walking boots ready, sir? Hope you're feeling fit...' He'd been watching the television coverage throughout the race.

Well, in the end my teacher got off and didn't have to walk the 400-plus kilometres back home, but there's always next year and I hope to see him in Paris with his walking shoes!

It was a pretty hard Tour but I hope that everyone who watched it at the side of the road, on the television or the internet, enjoyed the action. Right now I'm sitting on a bed in a hotel room in Eindhoven. Jakob Fulgsang is lying on a bed next to me and we're about to get up and head to a post-Tour criterium.

Tomorrow I'll head home and do a criterium there, too. The post-crit series are almost obligatory for riders who've performed well at the Tour. They're fast and furious but a lot of fun. They're a great way of getting closer to the public, which is something I really enjoy. At the Tour you've got to be totally focussed and can't stop for autographs and photos as much as you'd like to, but at the crits the atmosphere is far more relaxed.

I'll also be riding San Sebastian on the weekend, while I can also confirm that I'll be riding the Vuelta alongside my brother Fränk. I rode part of the race last year but had to pull out through illness. This year I'll go in with a relaxed mood but hope to still have some of my form from the Tour. Fränk could do a very good ride there so I'll be trying to support him as much as I can.

But before I get ready for the Vuelta I'm in desperate need of some me-time. I'm going to take few days off when I get home and shut myself away from the outside world. The Tour is just one big stress-fest with action from start to finish so I'm looking forward to sitting back and doing what I want for a change. Maybe I'll go fishing, maybe I'll just sit around and chill out, I really don't know but the mere thought of kicking back without a plan makes me smile.

I guess I should talk about what happened at the Tour in a bit more detail. You've probably seen me on TV or read my comments in the press enough already but I want to say a couple of things. The first is a big thank you to my team. There was lots of speculation at this year's race with regards to next year, but everyone on the team from the riders, to the cooks, to the management all acted in a really professional way. The team were fantastic in supporting me and I have to say a big thank you to them publicly.

The best moment for me personally at the Tour has to be when I took the yellow jersey. I've won big races before and been on many podium but pulling on that yellow jersey was such a special moment. It brought me to a place I've never been before.

When I was that young kid in school the Tour was all about the yellow jersey. I used to ride home from class pretending I was wearing it, sprinting up climbs as if they were the Tourmalet. The day I pulled on yellow is a day I'll never forget.

Moving to the final time trial before Paris I knew that I could ride a good stage. I think the course suited me in the sense that it was constant, even if it was pancake-flat.

When I heard that I was just a couple of seconds down on the jersey I knew I was close, I gave it everything, thinking about how it felt pulling on yellow, how deflated I felt when I lost it, and my mind flicking back to when I was kid and pretending to race in yellow. In the end Alberto just went fast. He's a lot more aerodynamic than me but I believed in myself until the end.

Next year I can turn the tables and win the Tour. I did a bad prologue this year and I have to admit that, but Fränk crashing out was a big loss. If there were two of us in the mountains it could have been so different. But now I know that I can beat Alberto and that gives me huge confidence and motivation for next year.

Who knows, maybe my maths teacher will have to do the long walk after all...

TdF10 Story 1: On the way for miracles

[Sorry for my bad English: I have no dictionary here.]

I love traveling and as a true traveler I know that every travel is a bit a pilgrimage: you are the way, the start and the end of your travel. Travels change us if we only are open to the experience of traveling, to the places and people we meet. And traveling we are always looking for something, carrying around hopes, dreams, fears, prejudges. The first quality of a true travel is the curiosity: "Mais le vrais voyager toujour parte pour partir" wrote C.Baudelaire. To see, to let happen, to open a way to the miracle. Going to Lourdes it was obvious to me thinking about miracles and hopes and impossible missions. Andy had one this year, didn't he? And the unespected was on my way as it was on his one.

First of all my night train from Florence to Paris was late, somebody was usurping my place so I had to change it, finally was woke up at 3 am by three super cute guys backpacking who got on our train while it was crossing Swizzerland. Ok. But my train was REALLY late so I lost my tgv to Lourdes and had to wait 4 hours for the next one. My idea to stop in Pau and have a look around for the Saxo Bank hotel was prematurely facked off.

To Paris to Lourdes is a long way, 5 hours by the tgv, and thanks god we have the iPod and the smartphone, even if at first I pretended to study Hegel. Well actually I did, but 5 hours of Hegel is killing so a bit of music can help. Friends texting helps for sure. Georges Noesen already was in the Pyrennes and I'd have been better to go with him... but I'll tell you late about the Tourmalet adventure. That long day traveling by train reminded me how large the France is. Italy is long – too long in my opinion – but narrow, even if the Appenini mountains just in the middle make difficult and painfull to go from Tirreno to Adriatico, as racers forced to long transferts well know. France is large in every directions and that is probably way French people invented the tgv. Let me say that it was a good idea but Lourdes is anyway to far. I guess my fanclub mates thought the same traveling from Luxembourg by bus that day: left at 4 am and arrived at 9 pm. Later then me – and I was late.

Now I don't want to tell bad about Hegel's company but was glad to chat a little with the man siting in front of me: he was from Australia, going to Lourdes as well and keen on cycling. We shared taxi and dinner waiting for the Luxembourgers to arrive and met again in the early morning before to go for the race: he to the start in Pau, I to the finish on the Tourmalet.

Going to Lourdes I didn't have thought really about 'Lourdes' as a place but – I'm a philosopher, be patient – to the idea of it: miracles, unespected, visions... and seeing the unvisible... That I do so often, if you understand what I mean... Well, Lourdes as a place is a shit place. Sorry, I'm brutal, but can't stand that commercial use of religious feeling. Lourdes probably was a nice village in the old times, with his respectable castel, his river, his nasty mountains all around. But nowaday it's simply a modern smal town devasted by ugly buildings, full of souvenirs shops where you can find all sizes and prices Marias. There are also some lapdance clubs: for boys scauts?

When the fanclub people arrived I was so tyred that simply said hello and go to sleep. But I layed a long while awake in bed thinking to the Tourmalet stage, to Andy who has promised to attack for the jersey, to him yes... wondering if he was still awake like me or sleeping and how was feeling. I was sure he was going to give all. To winn the Tour at that point required a little miracle and at least we were in right place.

Pics by me, the last one is by Steve Schleck: Didi and Toto on L'Equipe


Gala Tour de France with Andy...and Frankie!!

Pic by Caro' Hermes

Frank Schleck sera de la fête

GALA TOUR DE FRANCE, JEUDI Le champion national effectuera à cette occasion, son retour à la compétition.

On en sait plus sur la liste des coureurs que Marcel Gilles a réussi à réunir pour le gala Tour de France, qui se déroulera jeudi soir.

D'abord, Frank Schleck fera son retour à la compétition à cette occasion. Rappelons qu'il avait quitté le Tour lors de l'étape des pavés, fauché par une chute à 27 kilomètres de l'arrivée. Les nouvelles, ces derniers jours étaient rassurantes pour une reprise rapide. «J'ai commencé à rouler jusqu'à quatre heures et cela va mieux, disait-il. J'espère courir le Tour du Danemark et la Vuelta (NDLR: avec Andy), pourquoi pas pour le général. Dans la tête, ça va aussi. J'ai mis deux-trois jours à accepter. La frustration était là. Et puis, il a fallu tourner la page, être avec Andy et me concentrer sur sa course pour l'aider au maximum.»

Évidemment, samedi, lors du chrono, la tension était à son comble: «J'avais la petite Leea dans les bras. Quand Andy a été à deux secondes du maillot jaune, j'ai demandé à Martine de la prendre parce que j'étais trop nerveux...»

Évidemment, rétrospectivement, Frank pouvait nourrir quelques regrets: «Si on analyse l'étape de Morzine, on voit que Kreuziger, Menchov et Gesink attaquent successivement. À chaque fois, Contador bouche les trous lui-même. C'est là qu'il perd l'énergie nécessaire pour aller chercher Andy dans le dernier kilomètre. Si on avait été à deux, on aurait procédé comme l'année passée. On aurait attaqué chacun notre tour et Contador aurait dû laisser partir soit Andy, soit moi.»
Par contre, dimanche sur les Champs, Frank se disait très fier de son jeune frère. «C'est mon frère, je l'aime... On a une relation très spéciale. D'un côté, ça fait mal au cœur d'être à Paris en supporter. Mais d'un autre côté, je suis ravi de revoir mon frère.» Et Frank a forcément vu de quoi positiver :

«Je ne suis pas homme à me pencher au-delà de la fenêtre mais je pense que si j'avais été là, on aurait pu gagner le Tour. On va revenir, travailler le contre-la-montre, s'entraîner, tout donner et je crois à notre victoire future. Andy et moi pouvons gagner le Tour.»

Rappelons encore que le plateau de ce gala Tour de France sera particulièrement copieux. Philippe Gilbert, vainqueur de l'Amstel au printemps, Alessandro Ballan, l'ancien champion du monde, Maxime Monfort (prochain coéquipier des frères Schleck) ou encore Fabian Wegmann seront là.

Mais la grande vedette de ce gala, on la connaît. Il s'agit bien entendu d'Andy Schleck. Plus besoin de le présenter...

I'm back!!

Hi there! I survived! and as soon as I understand how my new camera works I put here some GREAT pics! But first of all I want to thank you for your nice comments: sometimes I get a bit nuts, be patient (but I know you are).
That wasn't my first time at the Tour but with Andy really fighting for the jellow jersey it was completely different. And that was my first time at the final stage in Paris. I have a lot of fun, saw Andy a few times - but not so close: it was possible, I simply had a bit of bad luck, I'll tell you late - and shared my trip with the amazing people of the Schleck Funclub: they almost adopted me and I hope to see them soon in Luxembourg. After all these days of full immersion I could understand Luxembourgish quite good
and made a lot of exercice speacking French. Finally, don't be so pessimist about Andy! I don't think he'll end with a podium girl! more probably he'll marry a nice girl from Mondorf... or from Miami. But fangirls aren't exluded. He's such a simple and kind guy, not a star at all, I can assure you ;)
Pic by Stephen Farrand: Andy just after the TT was exhausted.


TdF: Andy won sur le Tourmalet...

...after an exciting duel with Contador but couldn't drop him out. It seems that they are strong the same but not in the same way: Andy almost always siting on the sadle and pulling a long gear, Contador en danseuse cycling in agility, Contador ready to an explosive attack, Andy persevering in the endurance. In fact Andy never left him behind, he was glued to his wheel and always responding; Contador did and gained some meters but Andy came back with a strong and calm progression. It was amazing watching them. I was in Argeles with the Schleck fanclub, in frnt of the tv in a crowned pub where everybody, Frenchs, Americans, Australians, Italian (me) and Luxembourgish - of course - were supporting Andy. I saw him passing in that village just before the ascent of the Tourmalet, took some good pics by my new camera - but not of Andy, because as usual I was too busy looking at him, all my soul in my eyes - and then at the tv again, with my heart beating too fast. The weater was simply awful this morning but got better in the afternoon. Atop le Tourmalet anyway it was still wet, cloudy, misty and almost rainy. Cold. Team Saxo Bank made the race hard since the begining and I have to say they were there today, specially Matti Breschel and CA Sorensen. But atop they were alone: Contador and Andy, Andy in front of Contador, Contador always glued to Andy. In the majestic landscape of the King of Pyrennes: a mountain that I'll say is 'sombre', arcigne, unfriendly and makes you feel so small, so nimportant, so weak. But cycling is about that, about weak, nacked, exhausted guys fighting alone against their weakness. In that they are great, and strong, and beautiful. Andy won at the sprint again! raised only one arm with a closed hand. Smiled. He doesn't have back his jersey but he does his smile: large, good, sweet. Contador went to congratulate him and touched his face with one hand but Andy wasn't looking at him and there was no hug. It was a true duel, a mortal one. I saw that Andy told him something in the last kilometers, when it was clear that he couldn't drop him out but nor could he. He told something rude in my opinion. I'll ask him what if don't find it out before. On the podium he was happy. Me too. I'm in Lourdes now, but don't belive in miracles: it's really difficult for Andy winning the Tour with tomorrow flat stage and then a TT. But here everybody agree that he is the moral winner of this Tour de France: he crashed in Spa, lost his brother in Aremberg, had that absurd mechanic and Contador took advantage from it, lost also Jens Voight just before the decisive stage, but is still there fighting with a large, good, sweet smile on his face. That's Andy!! we are proud of him!!


TdF 16: Andy said...

”Today, it was all about taking care of my self and stay with the leader's jersey. If the front group had been closer I would have tried to reach them but the gap was too big. Now, I'm really looking forward to climbing Tourmalet on Thursday. I hope and think I can still win the Tour,” OF COURSE YOU CAN!!
Pic by TdW

So I'm leaving...

... but I feel strange: tyred, exhausted, vaguely sad. Not sad because of Andy's misfortune - I know he'll be great on the Touramalet - but because I'm leaving alone again. It's a long way to the TdF and not easy to me: I still am unemplyed, and a single mum. I spend money and time to be there and wonder if it worth that and why exactly I go. No, that isn't an holyday even if I'll be glad to meet friends. I go to meet Andy. Almost 3 months since the last time by Asport. "Joy when lost is pain" wrote PB Shelley, one of my favourites poets. And I can assure you that memory hurts me so bad that I simply have no choice: must go. Andy reads this blog sometimes but not during this Tour I guess. Maybe he saw some tweets of mine, I think so. But of course I'm nothing and that's hard when he's everything for me. Ok, I said it. But he already knew. So I'm wasting my life. I don't know... if I'll go on with this blog... I'll say if I'll come back from Paris, but I must, I have a son. Sorry dudes I'm a bit desperate at the moment. Hope I'll feel better there. No, I'm sure I'll feel better... while I'll be with him at least... and after we'll see.
That was my face after Andy's victory in Avoriaz....

Andy said...

"I guess we all have different cultures. Personally I wouldn't ride like that. My stomach is full of anger. I'm going to take my revenge on the Tourmalet."
Sorry I would not post here the patetical apology of Contador. But have a look here: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/riis-preaches-calm-in-aftermath-of-schlecks-disappointment I don't like at all Riis' reaction. You know I like him in general and he's right to say that: “[Andy] needs to stay calm, to focus and do the right thing. We’ll talk about it and we’ll make a plan - I think that’s the only thing we can do. There’s a lot of anger right now. I think that's normal and it’s okay. You have the right to let that out. But then he has to settle down again and regain his focus and do the right things.” But in the rest I feel a distance that I can't accept by a team manager, moreover when the team wasn't there to help: no mates no cars no mechanics. Moreover when his leader is almost an ex and newspapers write that Riis is trying to hire Contador. Fortunately Frank is right: “He’s furious with the mistake, from the mechanical but he wont give up and he’s going to carry on fighting. There’s no way he’ll give up. In many ways he’s more dangerous now.” I leave tonight to TdF and I'm as angry as Andy. But not sad at all: yesterday he showed something absolutely great and more will come next days. I still think Andy is going to win that Tour but even if he will not, he has plenty of time.
Pic by Bettini


TdF 15: Andy today you won your Tour

YES. Because your attack was a good one, Contador couldn't respond and you would have left him behind if only that fucking chain would have kept his place. YES. Because he didn't slow down and attacked you just when you had that mechanical problem but you came back in such an amazing way that your gap is only 8 seconds. YES. Because you never give up and the rage for what happened today can be your strenght tomorrow to go and take back your yellow jersey. You are perfectly aware that you can do that.
I think that Contador, Menchov and Sanchez acted really bad. Nobody say they should stop, but they must slow down not attack. You would have lost something anyway but Contador would be ashamed to wear a jersey gained because of a chain.
Don't be sad, Andy. Be angry!! Obviously Contador is so afraid that lost all sense of rightness and fairplay. I heared that you hurted your hand trying to make that chain work: feel that pain and make them cry next days!! ALLEZ!!

Pic by Bettini
Andy just said: "I was feeling strong and determined throughout the stage and the team really everything to put me in the perfect position for the final climb. When I launched my second attack, the chain got stuck and I had to get off the bike to put it back on. Then they attacked. I probably wouldn't have done it like that. I'm just really looking forward to getting another chance of attacking. The jersey deserves honor,”


TdF 14: are you getting nervous, Alberto?

Glued to his wheel, worring about nothing if not him, Andy seemed playing with Contador to make him nervous. No Saxo Boys in front, a super-relaxed Yellow Jersey bringing bottles again just in the hardest climb of the stage. Around 7 km to go Contador tried three times to leave Andy behind but in vain. Why Andy didn't try the same with him? Probably because that was the first of 4 really hard mountain stages. Contador will be more nervous and more tyred next days, will not he? And probably - for sure - that time Andy will attack to win.
An amazing Riblon won the stage. Sanchez and Menchov took advantage from the fight of the top riders, but their GC doesn't change. Is Cunego aiming to the polka jersey? The White one is safe on Gesink shoulders and nobody seems seriously a danger for him. I'm a bit disappointed about Roman Kreuziger...
The true fight is just started. But I'm sure that Andy will be in Yellow in Paris.
BDW I'm on the beach at the moment, enjoying my last days in Italy before I leave to France. It's very hot here, really too hot. And also sur le Tour. Many riders and teams protested because hotels - decided by the organizers - often aren't climatized, rooms are small and too warm to allow a good recover after long hours riding in the sun. Some days ago Kloeden put on fb a pic of his room and commented: We are not football players! - WOT

TdF: 14 Allez allez hop hop!!

Andy said this morning he feels geed so I'm waiting for something nice today!!
Pic by Bettini

TdF 13: Vinos's revenge

Pic 1 by AFP, pic 2 and 3 by Bettini


TdF 12: Andy says...

"The final climb was too short and too explosive for a rider like me and it was obviously a better fit for Alberto (Contador) and at the same time, I wasn't feeling too well and under these circumstances I'm pleased with only losing ten seconds. Now, we are closer to one another in the GC but the war continues and I am content

Old pic from Anne's blog :)
And a vid:

TdF 12: -10 but...

... Andy said this morning that climb was too short for his taste. Contador attacked well, we'll see what Andy will say but for sure he couldn't or didn't want to respond. He limited his lost, that's all. Vino is furious: to gain 10 sec. Contador fucked his stage victory after a long and brave breack. Rodriguez was great. And now it seems that there are some troubles in team Astana... Maybe Alberto made a mistake and will be sorry about today in the Pyrennes... Maybe he's a bit too stressed and affraid. Andy - we know - doesn't have this problem.
Pic by Sirotti
1 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 58:42:01
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 0:00:31
3 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:02:45
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0:02:58
5 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:03:31
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team Radioshack 0:04:06
7 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 0:04:27
8 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:04:58
9 Luis León Sánchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0:05:02
10 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo 0:05:16
11 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 0:05:30
12 Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 0:06:25
13 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Transitions
14 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 0:06:44
15 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 0:07:34
16 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:07:39
17 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team HTC - Columbia 0:07:47
18 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:08:08
19 Thomas Löfkvist (Swe) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:08:24
20 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Team Radioshack 0:09:05

TdF 11: power to moralism?

TdF oraganizers are a bit... ehm... I'd like to avoid a reporting. Man I'm simply expressing my opinion! The right word is: "hypocritical moralists". You say pavé is fine in Tour because makes the stage spectacular, in spite of obvious risk of crashes for riders who are not specialists but you kick out a sprinter because you say: "Renshaw hit [Dean] with his head, much like in a keirin. But we are in the sport of cycling, we're not in combat. They all could have ended up on their backs tonight. We can not accept that." Well, Frankie did ended up on his back and lost all chances to get that fucking podium.
Sprints are for sprinters and I agree with Baden Cook, who tweetted: "Renshaw has been dealt with rather harshly. He did wrong, but going home is too much. Sprinters that dont push don't win." No-sprinters are safe behinde in the last 3 kms of a bunch sprint and sprinters are used to fight for the right place and wheel. They should be correct of course and they are, more or less. But come on!
Another story that got on my nerve it's that one: Fignon didn't like Andy bringing bottles!! Bah!! I was delighted!! BDW Denis Bastien is bacoming my favourite cycling journalist, also better then Marco Pastonesi. I have some nice articles by Pastonesi but no time to translate them
... Maybe I'll do before I leave. Maybe no....
Pic by Bettini

Tour de France - Fignon bidon...

L'image d'Andy Schleck allant chercher lui-même les bidons, alors que le peloton musardait, mercredi, a fait beaucoup jaser les suiveurs.

Denis Bastien

Tout ou presque y est passé. Manque de professionnalisme. Manque de maturité. Erreur de jeunesse. Défaut d'autorité sur ses équipiers. Laurent Fignon, lui-même, n'avait pas été tendre sur France Télévisions. L'explication d'Andy Schleck a été conforme au personnage. Nature. «Laurent Fignon a toujours un autre avis que moi. J'étais dans le peloton, cela me permettait de me soulager. Je suis allé chercher les bidons et Bjarne m'a dit de prendre des bidons, de remercier mes coéquipiers», a répondu Andy, tranquillement.

L'explication, comme toujours avec Andy, avait le mérite de la simplicité. De la sincérité aussi. Comme dans son récit du cadeau offert par lance Armstrong avec son bracelet Livestrong. «En plus c'était gratuit», s'amusait-il pour plaisanter. Du Andy Schleck dans le texte. Rien d'autre. On ne le refera pas. Laurent Fignon, pas plus qu'un autre. Car sous ses airs détachés de tout, Andy Schleck sait pertinemment ce qu'il fait. Et ne fait pas.


Frank by Le Quotidien: and I agree!!

Frank Schleck critique ceux qui jouent "avec la vie des coureurs"
Pic by Bettini

Le Luxembourgeois Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank), obligé d'abandonner le Tour de France après une triple fracture à la clavicule gauche à cause d'une chute, a vivement critiqué jeudi les organisateurs, estimant qu'il jouaient "avec la vie des joueurs".

"Ceux qui planifient la route du Tour n'ont aucun droit de jouer au hasard avec la vie des coureurs pour faire simplement une course spectaculaire", déclare dans un entretien au quotidien danois Ekstra Bladet le coureur, qui a chuté sur les pavés de la 3e étape. "Les chutes font partie du sport cycliste, mais ce n'est pas un divertissement.
Il y a des coureurs qui ne se relèvent jamais et deviennent infirmes pour la vie", a-t-il rappelé. "Personne ne doit tracer un parcours qui invite presque à des chutes, et surtout pas sur le Tour de France", a encore dit le champion du Luxembourg, car "aucun coureur ne serait véritablement heureux de gagner le Tour si sa victoire était due uniquement à une chute d'Alberto Contador ou d'Andy Schleck", les deux favoris de l'édition 2010.
Frank Schleck s'est dit "très en colère et frustré" contre les organisateurs, qui insistent sur la sécurité en obligeant par exemple les coureurs à porter des casques, mais choisissent en même temps un tracé où, selon lui, les chutes sont garanties.
Le coureur blessé, qui s'est classé cinquième des deux derniers Tours de France, espère se remettre en selle au Tour d'Espagne, fin août.

The Yellow Jersey Bringing Bottles? ...and more

[Here one of the many interview with and about Andy http://www.wort.lu/wort/web/sport/artikel/2010/07/102289/andy-schleck-ich-bin-wohl-sehr-beliebt.php]

Pic by Sirotti "Up late last night celebrating the yellow jersey, Andy?"

Yes, that's Andy! "They're not just my teammates, but my real mates and friends. They don't pull in front because Bjarne tells them to do so, or because it's their job but also because they're my friends and that's a key factor I think. That's my trick to be in the front" he said to Cyclingnews He knows what means working hard to help your leader and how important is the team job. So yesterday, in a long, hot average-mountain stage you could enjoy the cool show of the Yellow Jersey going to the team car taking bottles for his team mates and coming back to the front as the last helper. I don't remember to have ever seen the same. Cadel Evans always goes to take bottles but for himself, given that very often he's completely alone in the hardest and longest climbs of the stage.

BDW, respect for that man racing with a fractured elbrow who said nothing to avoid early attacks to the jersey he was going to loose. Andy was a bit brutal about him. Of course you must get your chances when they come and that's cycling (baby), and of course he was too happy to be sorry and couldn't lie. But he showed mach more feeling for poor Sir Lancelot unseat.

Anyway, when I started writing about cycling was much more brutal me too. My aproach was very superficial, I liked to be funny and to make jokes, also cruel, about racers and races. You can do that till when you look from outside and cyclists are to you more characters then persons. But when you begin to know them better and to have friends among them, when you go to many races and share a bit their life then your look must change. You loose your indifference and your judgements are less strict, less cold. You can enjoy a joke, sure. But you feel the passion and seriousness that these guys put in their job and how hard it is. You become weak, vulnerable to their pain. And stop dividing them in 'racers I like' and 'racers I don't like'. I still think that Armstrong acted bad with Contador, but can't say anymore I 'don't like' him: who am I to have the right to judge? He had an hard life and managed to survive, to win all his troubles. He looks arrogant, yes, maybe he is. But I am forced to respect him. The same for Cav: I couldn't stand him, but life is complicated and we are all trying to do our best. Amen.

Yesterday stage was quite boring again – excluded the pleasure to see Andy in yellow – but the final duel between Paulinho and Kyrienka was great. Today there is a super flat itinerary so i am in the country again (without dictionary), enjoying the freshness and the green: Florence is super hot in these days. But tomorrow I'll be there again, I have to prepare my stuff to my trip to the Tour de France!! I'm going to leave by train on the 20 night to be in Paris the next morning, then I'll get a tgv to Lourdes where the Schleck Fanclub booked the hotel. I'm excited and really happy but ready to be your reporter again. I have some problems with my camera at the moment, probably I'll buy a new quicker one. But my friend Georges Noesen will be there too: he's the best photographer in the universe so, don't worry! We'll have fantastic pictures! And you know... I leave with a dream, me too like Andy, and exactly like him I'm determinated to live it, to make him true. I'll tell you if I do. And today I'll just have a look to the sprint: Cav or Ale Jet? I say Cav, lets see!


TdF: Schlecked: The Movie

Thx Maggie!!! You are always the best!!

TdF: vid by Saxo Bank and...

... well, all Luxembourg was on line tonight! It was really strange for me to be alone here, nobody celebrating like me and my friends.
Steve Schleck posted three enthusiastic status on fb. I chated with Jens Voight and he said they were really happy but also really tyred. I can belive that!
"what a great but hard day for our team" he wrote on fb "now we just have to focus on the following days, but a little glas of Champagne wouldn't damage anything I think". Of course no! and you deserve it!
Andy arrived to the hotel only around 9pm and after a while wrote on Twitter
: "Only starts realizing now that today a little dream off me come true!:) since I was a kid I had this in my head thanks saxoboys" So keep living your dream and make us dream as well. We are all YELLOW now and
you can see how DEEPLY YELLOW I am!
Check the vid
: http://www.saxobanktakingthelead.com/?p=3655 and now... lets watch today stage!!

TdF: interview with Andy by Le Quotidien

Pic by Bettini

Tour de France - «Je n'ai plus qu'un adversaire: Contador»

9e ÉTAPE Tout de jaune vêtu, son premier maillot jaune depuis qu'il est professionnel, de surcroît dans le Tour, Andy Schleck s'est confessé.

Le long serpentin de la zone mixte n'a pas désempli hier soir au moment des confessions d'après course, où Andy Schleck apparaissait rayonnant dans son maillot jaune.

De notre envoyé spécial à Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne Denis Bastien

Aucun signe ostensible d'une joie débordante, hier chez Andy Schleck. On l'avait vu presque prostré sur les marches d'escalier menant au podium, loin des regards du public. Il s'était vite ressaisi et rassemblait ses idées. Comme toujours, son discours est limpide, clair…

Andy, ce maillot jaune que vous venez de recevoir, c'était un rêve?
Andy Schleck: Oui, carrément. Je n'en avais jamais eu un depuis que je suis passé professionnel. Le dernier maillot jaune que j'ai eu date. Du Tour de Lorraine juniors (NDLR : en 2002). Je suis forcément content, très heureux. Le but aujourd'hui, c'était d'essayer de lâcher Contador. Cela n'a pas marché. Désormais, j'ai le maillot sur les épaules et c'est à Alberto d'attaquer. La course va se jouer dans les Pyrénées. Nous sommes tous les deux...

Le plan dont vous parliez encore lors de la journée de repos, c'était celui-là?
Oui, l'équipe a fait un super travail dès le pied de la Madeleine. Chris-Anker Sorensen a mené un train d'enfer qui a fait sauter le peloton. Ensuite, l'équipe Astana a pris le relais. Cela roulait très fort. J'ai attaqué alors qu'il restait sept kilomètres d'ascension. Ensuite, j'ai tenté trois autres fois mais à chaque fois, Contador a suivi. Si j'avais essayé une cinquième fois, j'aurais fini par être dans le rouge. Alors avec Alberto, on a fini de s'observer. On a roulé tous les deux.

Si Frank avait été là?
Imaginez-vous qu'il soit là, dans cette étape...

Avez-vous été surpris que Contador ne tente pas un contre sur votre dernière attaque?
À mon avis, il n'avait pas les jambes, car normalement, lui, il contre. C'est un coureur qui roule toujours dans ces conditions. Mais je n'étais pas sûr de moi. Car encore une fois, sur ma dernière attaque, je me suis mis dans le rouge. S'il avait contré, il m'aurait pris quelques mètres. Je serais revenu mais cela n'aurait pas été facile.

Dans la descente, vous n'avez pas semblé très à l'aise...
C'est vrai car j'avais reconnu ce col de la Madeleine, à l'entraînement, sous la pluie. Donc vous avez raison, j'avais peur dans cette descente. J'avais en tête les pièges sur route mouillée. En haut, j'ai vraiment fait attention. J'ai dit à Alberto. Si tu prends des risques, moi, je n'en prends pas. C'est mieux pour moi de perdre dix secondes et être en bas avec la tête sur les épaules. Je ne voulais pas rentrer avec l'ambulance. (Silence, puis il reprend avec un grand sourire). Je sais aussi que ma mère regarde la télé et lorsqu'on est en descente, elle fait les cent pas entre le salon et la cuisine, de peur qu'on tombe. Je sais comment. Au sommet, j'ai même dit à Bjarne d'appeler mon frère pour lui dire que je ne prendrais pas de risque dans cette descente...

Vous aviez prévu de prendre le maillot jaune ici même à Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne?
Oui, je l'avais prévu.

Comment voyez-vous la suite?
Ce ne sera pas facile pour mon équipe. Nous on roule pour défendre le tricot bien sûr. On ne va pas le laisser aller. On a vu quand même une sélection du Tour. Sans être arrogant, il n'y a plus qu'Alberto et moi. On est un peu au-dessus. On s'expliquera dans les Pyrénées. Je dois risquer pour prendre du temps car il ne faut pas que j'attende le contre-la-montre. Je ne dis pas que 41secondes, ce n'est pas suffisant mais bon... Contador le sait aussi, un maillot jaune, ça donne des ailes. Contador le sait aussi, j'en suis sûr et certain. Je vais faire le chrono de ma vie si j'ai le maillot. Mais d'abord, c'est les Pyrénées. Et là, il faut prendre du temps.

Lors d'une interview croisée cet hiver, Contador vous avait dit qu'il vous craignait le plus sur ce Tour cette année. Il avait souligné que vous étiez alors au même niveau que lui, deux ans plus tôt...
Oui, mais je pense que je suis mieux que ça. Je me sens très très bien. La différence par rapport à l'an passé, c'est que c'est moi qui suis devant lui. Il ne me prend pas de temps. Je suis devant lui. Et c'est vrai que cette année, je pense que nous sommes à niveau égal. J'ai l'avantage d'être devant. Là, c'est lui qui va devoir m'attaquer s'il veut reprendre du temps et non l'inverse.

Cette situation de duel rend les choses plus faciles ou plus difficiles?
La situation s'est éclaircie. C'est Alberto et moi qui décidons de la course. Mais les autres peuvent aussi attaquer. Pour le moment, personne ne le fait. Mais je pense qu'ils doivent le faire. Un coureur qui se retrouve à cinq, six minutes doit aussi essayer de renverser la situation. Tout le monde est libre d'attaquer.

Quelle comparaison pouvez-vous établir entre le Contador de dimanche et celui d'aujourd'hui?
Aujourd'hui, il était apparemment plus frais. Je pense qu'en ce début de Tour, il a des hauts et des bas. Par rapport à moi, j'espère le retrouver un jour moins bien et pouvoir en profiter pour gagner du temps sur lui. C'est sûr qu'on peut s'attendre à ce qu'il soit mieux dans les Pyrénées, mais moi aussi, pourquoi pas?

On disait que dans un monde parfait pour vous, ce serait bien que Cadel Evans garde le maillot pour que son équipe vous ôte le poids de la course. Ce n'est pas le cas, faut-il s'inquiéter pour votre équipe qui devra tenir deux semaines?
Écoutez, c'est le maillot jaune, quand on l'occasion de le prendre, il n'y a aucun coureur qui voudrait dire non. Faut prendre le tricot lorsque c'est possible. L'équipe est super motivée pour travailler pour moi. Au départ, on a pris la course en main pour Fabian. Maintenant, c'est pour moi. Par contre le classement a beaucoup changé aujourd'hui. Il y a Contador et moi. Le troisième, Sanchez, est à 2'45". Les autres se retrouvent plus loin. Pour l'équipe, je pense donc que ce sera plus facile de défendre le maillot que lors des premiers jours. Mais ce ne sera pas facile. Revenons à Cadel Evans, je ne suis pas vraiment surpris, car il avait bataillé au Giro. C'est pour ça que j'avais dit que je ne le voyais pas sur le Tour. J'ai été quand même surpris. Je ne savais pas qu'il avait une fracture au bras. C'est dommage pour lui. Mais c'est la course et je suis content de porter ce maillot.

Vous disiez qu'un succès se construisait avec la patience, finalement votre rapidité à prendre le maillot surprend tout le monde...
Oui, c'est vrai mais dans la course, c'est comme ça. Quand il y a des opportunités, il faut les prendre. Mais, je le pense toujours, les Pyrénées décideront. Moi, je n'ai plus qu'un coureur à observer . C'est Contador. Les autres n'étaient pas trop forts aujourd'hui.


TdF: interview with Andy by Cyclingnews and vid

http://nos.nl/video/171838-schleck-blij-met-eerste-geel.html thx Tammy!
Pic by Bettini

Schleck ready to match Contador

By:Brecht Decaluwé
Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) dons the yellow jersey for the first time in his career.

New maillot jaune looking for opportunites to gain time

After ten hard days of racing in the 2010 Tour de France, the general classification is steadily taking shape, and the Alps have seen two young riders rise to the top: Alberto Contador (Astana) and Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank).

Schleck took over the yellow jersey from the injured Cadel Evans after stage nine, and at the finish in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne he reflected on decisive stage which crested the 25.5 kilometre long Col de la Madeleine.

On the illustrious climb Schleck tried several times to shake off his rival, but Contador fenced off all attacks, seemingly without much trouble. Realizing they wouldn't drop each other, the duo worked together to hold off the return of the other GC-contenders and catch the leaders. With Evans many minutes behind, Schleck was presented the yellow jersey and holds a 41 second lead over Contador.

Now the same age as Contador was in 2007 upon the Spaniard's first Tour win, does Schleck now have the maturity and experience needed to keep his yellow jersey through to the end?

"The difference from this year to last year is that I could never drop Contador, but he can't drop me either," said Schleck. "The difference now is that I'm 41 seconds ahead of him and if he wants to win this he has to attack me."

Contador showed some uncharacteristic weakness in the first Alpine stage, where Schleck edged out a few more seconds to add to those gained over the cobbles on stage 3. During the next critical phase, Schleck hopes he will equal or better his Spanish foe. "It looks like he's a little bit up and down. I hope that I can find a way when he's not super so I can gain more time on him. It might be possible that he's better in the Pyrenees, but me too. I really think that I'll be better than him in the Pyrenees."

The one area where Contador clearly looked more comfortable than Schleck was on the high-speed descent of the Madeleine, where Schleck was visibly timid. "Yes, it's true that I was afraid of that descent. I had done it [in training] on wet roads which made it very dangerous on the top and I was riding carefully. I told Alberto that if he would take risks that I wouldn't take them. It's better to lose ten extra seconds than to end up with your head upside down and to descend in an ambulance towards the hospital.

"And I know that my mother is watching the race. I know that she walks into the kitchen and paces back and forth. I told Bjarne on the top to call my brother and say that I wouldn't take any risks in the descent."

The onus is now on the Saxo Bank team to try and control the race, which may be a bit soon considering the number of stages to come and those already controlled by the team during the yellow jersey run of Fabian Cancellara.

"In a perfect world another rider like Cadel Evans would be wearing the yellow jersey to avoid having your team to work too much," Schleck said.

"Not a lot of riders would say no if they could take the jersey. The team is super motivated to work for me. The team already did it at the start of the race when they took the race in hands for Fabian, and now it is for me. The general classification has changed a lot. There's Contador an me, the third is already at two minutes fifty. Behind that the gaps are running up to nine minutes, ten or fifteen minutes. For the upcoming stages it's a bit easier for the team to control the race than how it was during the first week; it won't be easy of course."

Schleck said he expects the former favourites who lost a lot of time on today's stage to go on the attack.

"I expected more riders up in the front today. To be honest I'm not really surprised that [Evans] wasn't there today. I heard now that apparently he has a fracture in his arm and that didn't make things easier. It's unfortunate for him that he lost the jersey but that's the race; I'm happy that I have it.

"It was Alberto and I who decided the race today. The others can attack too, but they don't. If I were in their position and finished today on five, six, eight, nine minutes, I would go tomorrow and go all in and somehow try to turn this game around."

TdF: a little moved, Andy?

...me too!! about to cry? me too!! can't stop smiling? me too!!
Never give up? me too!! we will celebrate together in Paris!!
Pic by Bettini

TdF 10: GIEL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ♥

ÄNDY GIEL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ♥

1 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 43:35:41
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 0:00:41
3 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:02:45
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0:02:58
5 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:03:31
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team Radioshack 0:03:59
7 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 0:04:22
8 Luis León Sánchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0:04:41
9 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:05:08
10 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 0:05:09
11 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo 0:05:11
12 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Transitions 0:05:42
13 Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 0:06:31
14 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team HTC - Columbia 0:07:04
15 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 0:07:13
16 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:07:18
17 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 0:07:44
18 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:07:47