Defeat likely, Schleck says he’ll be back

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Defeat likely, Schleck says he’ll be back

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Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck reacts after crossing the finish line in Grenoble during the Tour de France, Saturday. [REUTERS/YONHAP]

GRENOBLE, France - Andy Schleck may yet be the first Luxembourger in more than 50 years to win the world’s greatest cycling race. Just not this year.

The 26-year-old rider failed to defend his 57-second advantage over Australian Cadel Evans in Saturday’s race against the clock, most likely losing the Tour de France in the race’s dramatic penultimate stage.

Schleck, who has already finished runner-up in the Tour two years running, now has every chance of standing on the Champs Elysees podium’s second highest step for a third time when the race finishes in Paris today.

Schleck’s postrace comments focused on how happy the team was to get two riders on the podium. The riders’ and team officials’ grim faces told a different story, however.

“I’ll be on the podium with my brother, that’s fantastic, everybody is happy,’’ Schleck said. “Of course I cannot jump in the air, because I was supposed to win the Tour. Congrats to Cadel, he fought until the end, rode a perfect race. So did I but only one can win.”

Schleck’s team manager, Brian Nygaard, said he “absolutely’’ believed before Saturday’s stage that Schleck could hold onto the yellow jersey, despite Evans’ superior time-trial abilities.

“If Evans had done his normal time trial as Andy did his normal time trial, it was within reach,’’ Nygaard said. “Today Evans was absolutely in a class of his own.’’

Evans came in second, finishing the stage in 55 minutes 40 seconds, just seven seconds slower than the winner, Tony Martin of Germany, a former German time-trial champion.

Schleck was 2 minutes 31 seconds slower than Evans, a former world champion who, like Schleck, is also a two-time Tour runner-up.

Frank Schleck, Andy’s teammate and older brother, was slower yet, but managed to keep third place in the overall standings.

“Of course we would have loved to win the Tour de France, but I’m very happy,’’ he said. “For me, one of the first dreams came true today, two brothers on the podium, from the Luxembourg team, a new team, who just came out of nowhere, and we made it happen.’’

Nygaard said he is confident Andy will come back and win the Tour another year.

“If you compare Andy to Cadel, Andy has so many years in front of him still and Evans is at the peak of his career,’’ Nygaard said. “Andy is still a young guy, there are a lot of victories in him still.’’

Schleck insisted that even though he won’t be in yellow today, “I’ll come back next year and win.”


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