Andy Schleck and his doctor showing the extent of his injury.
Andy Schleck described his withdrawal from this year's Tour de France due to injuries suffered in the Criterium du Dauphine race as "the biggest disappointment" of his career.
The 27-year-old has been ruled out after being diagnosed with a fractured pelvis and has now set his sights on competing at the London Olympics next month, as long as he is back to full fitness in time.
"Yesterday, I tried going riding for an hour in the rain but I realized straight away that it would be impossible," the 2010 Tour winner said at a press conference here."When I abandoned the Dauphine (on Saturday), I was in pain, but that was even worse. After that I knew that I could not go to the Tour."It is the biggest disappointment of my career. I would rather have finished last on the Tour than not be able to participate at all."I will need to be back to 100 percent before I can start riding again. I hope to be at the Olympics," Schleck continued, adding that he also hopes to take part in the Tour of Spain, the Road Race World Championships and the Tour of Lombardy.
He would have been a leading yellow jersey contender for the 98th edition of the Tour, which will begin in Liege, Belgium on June 30 and end in Paris on July 22. The RadioShack climbing specialist, who has finished runner-up three times on the world's premier cycling event, had recently been crowned the 2010 champion following the disqualification of Spain's Alberto Contador for doping offenses.
Schleck's joy at finally securing the yellow jersey was, however, tempered by the injuries he suffered in a crash last Thursday at the Criterium, an eight-day race which is a major tune-up for the Tour.
During a 53 km time trial a strong gust of wind literally picked Schleck and his bike up off the ground and dumped him at the side of the road. Schleck continued, but complained of leg and back pain and despite beginning Saturday's sixth and penultimate stage he pulled out after 63 km.
"He couldn't pedal anymore," RadioShack sporting director Alain Gallopin told the race's official website."Since he crashed during the time trial, the whole right side of his body was hurting."
Schleck returned to Luxembourg on Saturday and underwent scans at the beginning of the week which revealed the extent of his injuries.It will be the first time Schleck misses the race since he made his debut in 2008 with CSC. However it will be seen by many as the nadir to a season which has been one of his worst to date.
Schleck, 27, abandoned a number of top stage races, such as Paris-Nice, the Tour of Catalunya and the Dauphine, that would have been key to building his form for the Tour, and he has complained of ill health. At the end of May he cut short a training camp on some key stages of the Tour de France to have treatment for three days at a clinic in Basel, Switzerland on a troublesome knee.
Schleck's older brother Frank, who finished third overall on last year's Tour, is currently racing the Tour of Switzerland and is likely to spearhead RadioShack's yellow jersey bid this summer. The overall favorite, however, is Bradley Wiggins. He will aim to succeed Australia's Cadel Evans and become the first Briton to win the prestigious yellow jersey.
The sacrum (highlighted in gray) is what Schleck's personal medical doctor stated he injured, in the S3 region.
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At a press conference in La Maison des Sports in Luxembourg, Andy Schleck, accompanied by his personal medical doctor Charles Delagardelle and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Torsten Gerich from the Centre Hospitalier of Luxembourg, explained how a strong gust of wind picked his bike up off the ground during the time trial of June 7. Schleck continued the stage and finished with pain on Friday’s stage, but pulled out after 63 K in the Saturday stage.
“This is the biggest disappointment in my life,” said the three-time Tour de France podium finisher. “The Tour is the most important race. I feel sad for my dedicated teammates. I would have been ready to perform. I wanted to give an answer to my critics. As a bike rider you never stop believing in goals, in dreams. That’s why I also continued on the bike after my crash. I wanted to go on as I had the Tour in my head. I was always thinking that it would become better. Riders are hard. I remember Cadel Evans finishing the Tour once with broken ribs but in the end I really had to quit the race. In my career I’ve broken my collar bone twice but this is the most painful thing I’ve ever had so far.”
“It was immediately clear that Andy suffered a severe injury,” said Dr. Gerich. “A regular X-ray didn’t give us any information, but a MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging) revealed the fracture in segment S3 of the sacral body (scan images on www.radioshacknissantrek.com). This is a bone bruise. There is no dislocation, it will not compromise the stability of the pelvis, but it hurts terribly. We were more than surprised to see that Andy still raced with it.”
“I was there when Andy came to the car in that Saturday stage and it was obvious that there was something wrong,” said Team manager Johan Bruyneel. “Andy suffered a lot but put the pain aside. He knew he had to go through the Dauphiné to be ready for the Tour de France. The fact that he went on for two stages really showed that he was determined to be as good as possible at the start of the Tour. Andy was supposed to be our designated leader for the Tour de France. This is a big blow for the morale of the entire team.”
The injury should take 4 to 6 weeks to heal. Andy hopes to resume his training rides earlier than that. “In three weeks, I hope to ride,” continued Andy Schleck. “I need to stay fit. I am now at my Tour de France weight and I don’t want to gain weight as I am still ambitious for the end of the season. I hope to race the Olympics and I will go for the win in the Tour of Spain. Yesterday evening, two hours after I heard the verdict, I already studied the course of the Vuelta… The course suits me very well.”
Schleck will have to train hard in order to battle the bulge.
Johan Bruyneel added: “Andy is a Grand Tour rider. The Vuelta course is better suited to him than the Tour de France course this year. There are a lot of mountaintop finishes and less time trial kilometers in the Spanish tour.”
“I will find there my friend Alberto Contador,” smiled Andy Schleck. “It’s going to be a nice race there. I am more motivated than ever before. After the Vuelta we also have the World Championships in Valkenburg. That profile suits me too, just as Lombardy does. After all my bad luck of this year I will come back stronger. I am 27 years old. I still have a lot of years in front of me. You haven’t heard the last of me yet.”