Andy Schleck’s Leopard Trek team insist the Luxemburger will emerge from a mitigated nine days of racing on the Tour of Switzerland primed for a far more crucial yellow-jersey battle next month.
Schleck has finished runner-up to Alberto Contador on the Tour de France the past two years and, despite insisting it could be a seven-way battle for the yellow jersey next month, he remains the Spaniard’s biggest rival.
A thrilling end to the nine-day race on Sunday saw American Levi Leipheimer, who was 1 minute, 59 seconds behind Italian Damiano Cunego before the final time trial over 32.1km, snatch overall victory from the Lampre all-rounder by just four seconds.
As Cunego licked his wounds, and Leiphimer celebrated a win that came largely thanks to his time-trial expertise, there were arguably more questions than answers about Schleck’s form ahead of the Tour de France from July 2 through July 25.
Older brother Frank was the defending champion, but he was virtually anonymous for most of the week while younger brother Andy showed only glimpses of the climbing skill that will go a long way in deciding the winner of this year’s yellow jersey.
Andy failed to win a stage and on stage six the Luxemburger was surprisingly left trailing early on the climb to the summit of Malbun in Liechtenstein where 24-year-old Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk took the win.
“In the first couple of mountain stages I felt much better,” admitted Schleck, who had already trailed in 1 minute, 39 seconds behind Colombia’s Juan Mauricio Soler on the first summit finish to Crans-Montana on stage two.
His pride apparently dented, the next day Schleck bounced back in style, battling to join the breakaway that put him in contention for a stage win and allowed him to pull on the king of the mountains’ green jersey.
In the end, Schleck was upstaged by Belgian Thomas De Gendt, who started the final 10km climb with a lead of 1 minute 30 seconds on the Luxemburger.
“Winning today’s stage was the goal, and I felt really good going full gas up the final climb,” said Schleck who, after finishing 35 seconds behind the unheralded Belgian, claimed he had put in some valuable training miles.
“Going all-out on that climb felt good. Yesterday was a bad day, and although I wasn’t worried, it was reassuring today to see that my form is there,” he said. “I still have two weeks to add to my fitness level and I had confirmation today that I am in a good spot in my final build-up to peak condition.”
Although the Tour de France starts in less than two weeks, for Schleck and Contador their first big rendez-vous is on July 14, the first of three straight days in the Pyrenees.
Traditionally, however, the third week of the tour — in this case the Alps, starting on July 20 — is the decider.
“There’s no panic,” added Schleck, who was beaten to the yellow jersey by only 39 seconds last year. “The first stage of the tour is still more than two weeks away and the real race will begin in four weeks in the mountains.”
While Contador spent last week reconnoitering key stages in the Alps, where he was stopped by French police for not having enough lights on his bike while riding through dark tunnels, Schleck was trying to convince observers he will be ready.
Whoever has had the right approach will only be known on July 25, although observers, such as HTC-Highroad sporting director Allan Peiper, suggest Schleck’s apparently relaxed approach could be a winner.
“Obviously, you have to come into the Tour de France with all guns firing, but I think it may come down to how much you still have left in the tank near the end of the race and not how much you’ve done before [it],” he said.
The NBA said was re-evaluating its training program in China following allegations of abuse of young players by local staff and harassment of foreign staffers at a facility in Xinjiang. The comments come after a report by ESPN that quoted unnamed American coaches as saying that Chinese coaches hit young players. One American coach who worked at a camp in Xinjiang complained of harassment by local police, the sports network said. “The allegations in the ESPN article are disturbing,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said in an e-mail statement on Thursday. “We ended our involvement with the basketball academy in Xinjiang in June
Coming from the business world, New York Liberty owner Joe Tsai (蔡崇信) did not understand why his WNBA franchise did not have a chief executive officer similar to the team’s NBA counterpart the Brooklyn Nets, which Tsai also owns. For Tsai, it was about equality, so he did something about it. The 56-year-old Taipei-born billionaire businessman and philanthropist promoted Keia Clarke to the position last week — making her the first chief executive officer in the team’s history. The WNBA veteran became the third black woman to currently be in charge of a franchise in the league, joining Los Angeles Sparks president
LEAVING IT LATE: Rakuten added late runs last night to add to wins on Wednesday against the Brothers and the Lions on Friday that went down to the last batter The Rakuten Monkeys rallied to post three late runs for another close win, prevailing 5-3 over the Uni-President Lions yesterday as Taiwan’s second-half CPBL season got started with lower scoring output, but exciting finishes. It was Rakuten’s third win in a row. In two games this week, they seized victory in dramatic fashion with their last at-bat and have drawn level with the CTBC Brothers on top of the table after yesterday’s results, 0.5 games in front of the Fubon Guardians and 1.5 games ahead of the Lions. It was tied at 1-1 early, with Rakuten hosting the Lions at the Taoyuan Intenational
MONEY MATTERS: While COVID-19 played a major role in the decision, the CTBA also found it hard to secure sponsorship, and ticket sales would have been affected The Yonex Taipei Open badminton tournament has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a funding shortfall, the CTBA said yesterday. This was the first time that the tournament, a Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Tour Super 300-level competition, has been canceled since it began in 1980. The Taipei Open has been held annually since 1980. The tournament was to be played at the Taipei Arena from Sept. 1 to Sept. 6, with total prize money of US$500,000. The CTBA said that it was deeply concerned about whether the Taipei Open would proceed as scheduled after the BWF announced changes