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Schleck relishes cycling comeback
Roger Vaughan
17:56 AEST Sat Jan 19 2013

The Tour Down Under represents a crucial re-start for Luxembourg cycling star Andy Schleck.

The 27-year-old is best known to Australian fans for his duel with eventual champion Cadel Evans during the 2011 Tour de France.

Schleck was runner-up as Evans made sporting history, becoming the first Australian to win cycling's greatest race.

Last June, Schleck was preparing to go one place better at the Tour when he crashed during the Criterium Dauphine lead-up race.

He suffered a fractured pelvis and barely raced again for the rest of the year.

Schleck views the Adelaide race as the real start of his comeback and is not expecting big results.

He plans to race as much as possible to regain his form ahead of this year's French classic.

The week of racing starts on Sunday with a one-off street circuit event just outside the Adelaide CBD.

"Today in professional cycling, if you (make) small mistakes, it doesn't forgive easily," he said.

"You need to work to get back.

"It's quite crucial to do as many races as possible."

Schleck made a comeback of sorts last October in the Tour of Beijing.

But he was there in body, not in spirit.

He can now cycle pain-free and is eager to test his form.

"It's my first race (when) I go and train, I can ride without any big problems," he said.

"I'm excited, but I'm quite nervous also to start the race because it's been a long time since I was raced.

"It's going to special again to be in the peloton ... I think I need a few days to get used to that.

"I don't have great expectations - it's a new start for me."

Schleck is usually the team leader, but he stressed that next week he will have a support role at Radioshack Leopard Trek.

Veteran team-mate Jens Voigt, a cult figure in the sport and a big favourite with Australian fans, could be one to challenge for the overall win.

"You never know with Jens," Scheck said of the German.

Schleck is also finding that local fans have strong memories of the 2011 Tour, where he lost the lead to Evans in the final time trial.

"On the (training) rides, we meet a lot of bike riders - obviously it's a big bike culture down here," Schleck said.

"They say 'Andy, we hope you win the Tour, but we prefer (that) Cadel wins' - I'm okay with that.

"If Cadel goes training in Luxembourg, for sure he has supporters there, but they will support me more than him."

Schleck was also runner-up in the 2009 and '10 Tours de France to Alberto Contador.

He was retrospectively awarded the '10 title after Contador lost a doping case.

Following Sunday's race, the six-day Tour Down Under will open on Tuesday.

The strong field for the 15th Tour also features Australian defending champion Simon Gerrans and Belgian world road champion Philippe Gilbert.


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