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Andy Schleck’s aim of riding the Tour in support of his brother Fränk and teammate Haimar Zubeldia while also building his own form over three weeks has come unravelled today, with the Trek Factory Racing rider forced to withdraw from the race.
The 2010 Tour de France winner hit the deck with approximately 30 kilometres remaining on Monday’s third stage. He remounted slowly and got back on his bike, riding on to the finish. He crossed the line one minute and five seconds behind the main bunch, which was led in by Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano).
His team said afterwards that he was scraped and bruised and had stiffness in his right leg, but was expected to continue in the race.
However Schleck said prior to the start of today’s fourth stage that plans had to be changed as a result of his condition.
Very disappointed to let you know that i will not be able to start. My knee is too damaged from the crash. This is a huge blow for me.
— Andy Schleck (@andy_schleck) July 8, 2014
His team confirmed the news, saying that Schleck would seek rapid medical attention to treat the issue.
“We are sad to announce that Andy Schleck cannot take the start in Le Tour today. The ligaments and meniscus around the right knee are too severely damaged from his crash in yesterday’s final. He will travel to Basel now for examination and a possible operation.”
Schleck finished second in the race in 2009, 2010 and 2011, although the second of those three performances eventually became Tour victory when Alberto Contador was stripped of his title due to a Clenbuterol positive.
Schleck said at the time that he was disappointed not to be able to ride down the Champs Elysees in yellow and that he would try to win the race outright. However things have not gone to plan since; he suffered a bad crash during the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné, falling hard in the time trial and fracturing his pelvis.
That led to a long period away from racing and then a number of withdrawals from races, but he had appeared to be in better form in recent weeks.
It remains to be seen if he will be able to return to racing soon, or if he faces another extended period off the bike.