The last Andy Schleck’s episode reported by a French politician, Pierre-Yves Le Borgn, has lightened which is Andy Schleck’s current state: he is absolutely sunken in the shadows. That politician wrote in his Facebook page that he met a famous rider, classified second in a Tour of France, drunk in a lifter, unable to press the correct button due to his bad condition. When people inquired him who was that cyclist, and some started speculating that could be Andreas Kloden or Jan Ullrich, he clarified that the rider was Andy Schleck.
Some days ago, after giving-up at Tirreno Adriatico’s seventh stage (one of the hardest stages recently held), RadioShack Team’s sources stated that they have failed focussing to improve the rider’s physical condition instead of concentrating in his mental health. And now we have understood the regrets of the team about having paid scant attention to their rider’s psychical recovery, as this seems to be the main hurdle to be back in his best shape. To sum up, his real problem is more psychological than physical.
The fact is that since last year’s Criterium du Dauphiné Schleck is living in a vicious circle. Withdrawals in almost every race that has taken part, his brother’s positive doping test and the consequent ban and so on have not allowed him to demonstrate the great rider he is. Or better to say, he was. Schleck has never been on of those riders that love cycling more than anything in the world, cycling is not his main passion, but a great way to earn his living. He loves money and fame, but happiness and sport success do not depend in either of them. And thus why his recovery will be hard, because he will give up when things will not go well for him. He is mentally very weak.
There is no room for doubt that he is one of the most gifted riders of the peloton. Since his outstanding appearance in the Giro d’Italia in 2007, until them he was a complete unknown rider for most of the cycling fans, he was expected to dominate the world of cycling. If he was able to get a second in such a tough race as the Giro when he was just 22, what was he not able to do?
He then aimed to win the greatest cycling race and in fact he achieved his aim, after Contador’s disqualification gave him the 2010 Tour de France win. He also got two second places in 2009 and 2011 and added a Liege-Bastogne-Liege race to his winner list. But the most remarkable fact that he achieved in those years was that he seemed the only rider capable of beating Alberto Contador, unstoppable until Schleck started shining. Schleck was the only one that dared to attack him in mountain stages and the Spaniard feared him. And in 2011 he played the main role of one of the most memorable days of the modern cycling, when his “all in” attack in Col du Izoard with more than 60 kilometres left recorded the epic cycling that the fans love.
Whether Andy Schleck will have enough strength to get out this vicious circle is a complete enigma. If what the French politician says is true, the key aspect of his recovery will be to make him understand that hard work and mental strength is the only way to be back in his best.
His challenge to come back in his best shape will be for him the tougher hurdle that he has ever faced. It is usually said that for an athlete the most difficult thing is not to get to the top, but to stand there. Schleck reached the top and now has fallen so deep that he seems unlikely to return to the top. Some people have started comparing him with Chava Jimenez or Marco Pantani. I thing that his case is not so extreme, but his team needs to do a great effort to bring him back from the shadows.