Photo: Yuzuru Sunada
Andy Schleck kept his rivals guessing Monday by claiming that both he and brother Frank could both sacrifice their victory chances on the Tour de France in a bid to beat Alberto Contador.
After the first mountain stages in the Pyrenees the Luxembourg siblings, as well as Australia's Cadel Evans, are in prime position to end Contador's reign on the world's premier cycling event.
Andy, however, is keeping his cards close to his chest. The runner-up the past two years, the 26-year-old said they will simply do everything they can to make sure one of them finishes on the top step of the podium.
"We know that we both can't win the Tour, at least not in the same year," said Andy, the runner-up in 2009 and 2010. "I only see one of being on the podium, but in the yellow jersey."
Saxo Bank all-rounder Contador has won the past six Grand Tours in which he has participated, including the Giro d'Italia which he secured for the second time in May. But after a brutal first nine days of racing, during which he was among the dozens of crash victims, the Spaniard lost time to key rivals and now faces one of the biggest challenges of his career.
While Contador is four minutes off the pace of French race leader Thomas Voeckler, more crucially he is 2:11 behind Frank Schleck, 1:54 behind Evans and 1:45 behind Andy Schleck.
The Schlecks tried several times, but ultimately failed, to drop Contador on the climb to Plateau de Beille in the Pyrenees on Saturday. Beginning Wednesday Contador has three days in the Alps in which to attack his rivals if he is going to reduce his deficit.
Race logic dictates that if one of the brothers wants overall victory, the other will have to make sacrifices to make that happen, which could mean a drop down the standings.
Frank, 31, who has finished three times in the race's top ten, said that would not be a problem.
"Andy and I understand each other very very well," he said. "If it turns out that one day we have to sacrifice (our chances) for the other, we will do it willingly. We're not going to fight each other."
Andy, who lost the race to Contador by only 39sec last year, is determined to make sure he doesn't play second fiddle to the Spaniard again.
"I said before the Tour that we wanted to be on the podium, but we don't plan to finish second and third," added the Luxemburger. "We'd prefer to have one of us as the champion and the other down in 20th place."
Who will be sacrificed and when, Andy said, has yet to be decided. "Obviously we talk about tactics, and perfect scenarios, but sometimes it's up to one of us to decide on the day," added Andy. "If I get a feeling about something I will make a decision: maybe it will be me, maybe it will be him (Frank)."