As I get ready to watch my favorite race of the year (The Tour of Flanders), and I prepare to revel in the later April classics, I actually have just one thing on my mind. It is not beer and it is not just the races I am about to watch. After all, those races are the best days of the year. Amazing that I go from bitching about the weather at home right into the best days of the year - no in between. I have always been kinda polar opposites. But seriously, I really have only one piece of wisdom today. Watch out for Andy.
I am going to say this just once, and I am going to own it - Andy Schleck is not done.
Most of the internet experts have decided to write Andy off and look beyond him. It seems that most people feel that Andy has seen his day. He had his brief time at the front and he has lost his way. A combination of mismanaged teams, team managers that he did not get on with, his brothers situation etc... In most peoples mind thats it. He is done. Heading back to Luxembourg to sit around in coffee shops and say, "remember that day at Liege? Or that day on the Galibier? Or that day on the way to Morzine? Or the Giro d'Italia...?" See that is the problem, most people think that his career came and went on one day on the Galibier.
I know Andy. Andy is not done. Andy is singularly capable of ripping apart the Tour de France. Andy has the biggest motor of any athlete I have ever met. He is capable of riding away from everyone else in the biggest race of the year. There is a fire burning inside Andy. I have seen it in his eyes, felt in his text messages and heard it in his voice.
Just before writing this, Andy has finished his first stage race in over a year. He did not do well. He was pack fodder. But most people forget that Andy is never great at this time of the year. But, he is actually way better than at other times at this time of the year. He has been quietly putting in the work and planning. The first step in getting back to where he was 2 years ago, when that photo at the top of the blog was current. On that day, he was absolutely the best rider in the bunch. Sure he got beaten by Cadel in the final TT, but that day above was pure talent and pure passion on Andy's part. It was an explosive day. The world felt right and young. Lots of things that are not great have happened in the sport since then, but when I look at that day on the Galibier, it is pure to me.
I love the sport, I love the classics in Belgium, I love the big mountain stages in the tour, I love watching Andy ride. Andy has had a hard go of it the past couple of years. I just cannot wait to see him show all of us that he still has it. As Jens Voigt says, the TDF is not the same without Andy.
Andy did not win the TDF in 2011. Most people say "He was 2nd, again." But, if you were there on that 18th stage in 2011, it was beyond epic. I was in a pub in Paris watching the TT 2 days later and I was crushed for him. But, Andy and Frank finished on the podium at the end. It was a great race. Andy made it a great race.
Andy is not done making races great.
Out. Going to Flanders. Trappist Ale and bike racing!