Schleck’s Amstel birthday party dampened; Horner off-form

Disappointing day for RadioShack-Nissan at Amstel Gold Race, but Fränk Schleck looked ahead to Liège with confidence

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VALKENBURG, Netherlands (VN) — Fränk Schleck hoped to celebrate his 32nd birthday with a win in the Amstel Gold Race yesterday, but only managed 12th. Team RadioShack-Nissan’s leader lost ground ahead of the Cauberg climb behind a crash.

“Considering I’ve won Amstel and I’ve finished almost every year in the top ten,” Schleck told VeloNews, “of course, I’m not happy with it.”

Schleck won the race with a gutsy solo attack from 10 kilometers out in 2006. The race, along with the other Ardennes classics, was his early season goal before shutting down and focusing on the Tour de France with brother Andy.

In the last few years, Fränk has managed a 10th place, second and seventh. Last year, his brother Andy attacked solo ahead of the Cauberg while he defended behind. Philippe Gilbert caught Andy and won, Fränk placed 22nd.

RadioShack ports director Kim Andersen told VeloNews that Chris Horner and Fränk Schleck were the two leaders for Amstel.

“We had a plan for the start, we couldn’t do that, so we changed it and tried to follow,” Andersen said. “We tried to do the best we could for Fränk because he was the only one who was really there. Andy did well, 220 kilometers, he was always there. For the moment, that’s not too bad.”

“I couldn’t do anything. All I could do was follow, maybe be there for Fränk if he flatted or something,” Horner told VeloNews. “My job was to try to be there with the favorites, but that form’s not there.”

Horner lost ground on the Keutenberg, around 12 kilometers ahead of the finish line. Andersen explained that despite winning Tirreno-Adriatico last month, Horner’s form declined racing in the Tour of the Basque Country last week.

“Fränk showed he was there, but when you see that there were still 50 guys after the Keutenberg climb, you know it’s going to be difficult,” Andersen added. “I’m happy with Fränk, he’d worked hard to be here. If the weather was better, he could’ve been better.”

The rain let up as Schleck spoke outside the team’s bus. He stood in cramped quarters with baby Leea in-hand.

“I’m happy how we rode as a team. Laurent Didier was riding the whole day! And Andy, just taking care of me and keeping me out of the wind. It was a big thing,” said Schleck.

“When we started the downhill I was in good position, but then that downhill is so crazy fast and I lost some positions. It went chaotic.”

He handed his baby over to his wife and thought ahead to Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where Andy won in 2009.

“I was there today for one of the goals I’d set for myself. Just for confidence, it was important for me. Liège will suit me.”

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