Could Andy Schleck be about to turn his back on professional cycling? That’s the rumour sweeping cycling circles this evening after Trek Factory Racing announced a press conference with the 29-year-old in Luxembourg this Thursday.
Coming at the end of the season, it’s an unusual time for a rider to want to face the press, and it will happen after another frustrating year for Schleck, who has struggled to get his career back on track after sustaining a fractured sacrum in the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné.
He missed that year’s Tour de France, ending a run of three consecutive years in which he’d finished second in Paris, being awarded the 2010 victory after Alberto Contador was stripped of it by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in early 2012.
Schleck should have gone into the 2012 Tour as one of the favourites, but his injury kept him out of the sport for four months. His older brother Fränk did ride it, but on the second rest day in Pau it was revealed he had tested positive for the diuretic, xipamide.
In October of that year, as Andy continued his recovery from injury and Fränk awaited the result of his disciplinary hearing, their father Jonny – a one-time Vuelta stage winner – urged both to give up cycling.
Since that injury in 2012, Schleck has failed to recapture the form that brought him a Liege-Bastogne-Liege victory in 2009, plus the best young rider’s white jersey for three years in a row at the Tour de France.
Instead, his subsequent performances have been characterised by a string of races that he either did not finish, or in which he ended up well down the general classification.
That fractured sacrum in 2012 is likely to go down as the pivotal moment of his career. Less than 12 months earlier, a barnstorming solo win on Stage 18 of the 2011 Tour set him up to take the yellow jersey from Thomas Voeckler on the Alpe d’Huez 24 hours later.
He would lose it a day later on the penultimate stage to race winner, Cadel Evans, and even though he was awarded the 2010 Tour de France victory seven months later, he insisted he wanted to achieve victory in the race on the road, not in the courtroom.
After finishing 20th overall last year, he returned to the race this July, but while heading through Epping into London on Stage 3, he sustained a knee injury after a number of riders came down after a fan stepped out into the road to take a photo.
Abandoning the race the next morning, he told Cycling News that it was “the worst moment I've ever had in cycling,” and “heartbreaking.”
He said: “I want to carry on. I feel like I still belong in cycling. I don't want to stop because of a crash … I thought for a moment that it might all be over but I don't want to give up like this. I crashed out of the Tour and that's not how I want people to remember me.”
"I believe I can come back. I have to believe that," he added.
Should he confirm his retirement on Thursday – and certainly that seems to be the way things are looking – it will be a sad end to a career that once promised so much.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.