GRENOBLE, France, (Reuters) – They came to win the Tour de France but the Schleck brothers were still happy to settle for less after being humbled by Cadel Evans in yesterday’s final time trial. Andy Schleck is set to finish runner-up for a third successive year while his older brother Frank will be on a grand Tour podium for the first time.
“It’s a dream come true, finishing both on the podium. It’s fantastic,” Frank told reporters after taking 20th place in the 42.5-km time trial around Grenoble.
“I think it’s mission accomplished, I don’t have any regrets,” said Andy, 17th in the time trial now trailing Australian Evans by one minute 34 seconds going into Sunday’s parade to the Champs Elysees in Paris.
“The goal was to reach Paris without regrets and I have no regrets,” added Frank. “We gave everything and finishing second and third in Paris is fantastic for a team that was born only six months ago.” The brothers left Bjarne Riis’s Saxo Bank team at the end of last season to launch their own outfit, Leopard-Trek, taking with them several riders from their previous team. Both promised they would be back next year to win the race. “Everybody is happy but I am still a little bit disappointed because I wanted to win. But I’m only 26, I will be back and I will be back to win,” said Andy, who unsettled Evans and three-times champion Alberto Contador with a long range attack in a gruelling Alpine stage on Thursday.
He took the yellow jersey 24 hours later but time-trial specialist Evans overhauled that advantage yesterday.
Evans checked out the hilly Grenoble course four times, including once in race conditions at last month’s Criterium du Dauphine. In contrast, the Schleck brothers opted to compete in the Tour of Switzerland and laid eyes on the 42.5 km route for the first time on yesterday morning. “We don’t need a lot more to win the Tour,” said Frank.“We are the only ones who have attacked Cadel but he was very strong.”
Contador, though, also attacked Evans on Friday when he jumped from the pack after only 15 kilometres.
The Schleck brothers, however, conceded Evans was the strongest of the field this year. “Today he was the strongest and I think he deserved to win,” said Frank.