Frank Schleck was selected to take part in the 2012 Giro d’Italia at the last minute to replace injured RadioShack-Nissan team-mate Jakob Fuglsang. The team called him up while he was enjoying time off with his daughter in the park.
“I was off my bike for seven to eight days after the classics,” Schleck said in a press conference yesterday. “Once they called me, I went out right away on my bike. I’ll need to get the race rhythm in the first weeks, to find the form I had in the classics, but at least I’m fresh!”
Schleck typically races the Tour de France and maybe the Vuelta a España during the season. In fact, he has only taken part in the Giro once before: in 2005, the year he debuted in the Grand Tours. That year, he helped team CSC team-mate Ivan Basso win two stages. The next year, he raced the Tour de France for the first time, won the Alpe d’Huez stage and placed 10th overall.
The 2005 Giro and Tour were the only two occasions that he started a Grand Tour without his younger brother, Andy. He looked uncomfortable without him in Herning.
They’ve both matured together, going from team CSC to Leopard-Trek, now RadioShack-Nissan. Frank has placed fifth twice and third once in the Tour de France. His brother has placed second three times, one of which, 2010, became a win when Alberto Contador was disqualified.
“Without Andy, it is harder, yes,” Frank responded to Cycling Weekly. “We do have a relationship that is unique, a lot of people criticise us and say we are together too much. We are not trying to sell it; it’s just how we are. We live 200 metres apart, we see each other two times a day, we train together, we go fishing together. Now, in fact, I live below him in the same building with Jakob Fuglsang. We are a very strong combo.”
Before the surprise decision to include Frank in the Giro last Friday, RadioShack-Nissan’s new manager Johan Bruyneel was already making changes. Bruyneel told their long-term sports director, Kim Andersen that he would stay home for the Tour. He wasn’t satisfied with the Ardennes Classics, and afterwards said that they’d work in the wind tunnel and train at altitude in Sierra Nevada. He scheduled the Schleck brothers separately, Frank to the Tour of Luxembourg and Switzerland; Andy to the Critérium du Dauphine. With Fuglsang suffering knee pains, he decided to send Frank to Italy.
Bruyneel last won the Giro d’Italia in 2008 with Alberto Contador, who he called just ahead of the race after his Astana team received an invitation. He hopes for the same with Schleck.
“I’ve never started a Grand Tour with this [little] preparation,” Schleck said. “I’ll be able to tell more about my ambitions in seven or eight days.”