The RadioShack-Nissan-Trek team may not be in full panic mode ahead of the 2012 Tour de France later this month, but there has to be some cause for concern.
Andy Schleck, the team’s overall contender for the yellow jersey, abandoned during the sixth stage of the Criterium du Dauphine. The younger brother of Frank Schleck decided to call it quits just 63km into a difficult 176.km mountain stage won by Team Movistar’s Nairo Quintana.
Uncharacteristically, Schleck found himself in 129th place, more than 29 minutes down on the race leader, Bradley Wiggins, a Tour rival in France. The first few days saw high mountains, and a lingering knee issue from last month caused Schleck to lose big chunks of time to his rivals.
In addition to a sore knee that made it difficult for him to climb, the GC hopeful suffered a heavy crash during the stage 4 individual time trial, which left him with heavy road rash and a sore body, making it hurt when he tried to ride with the peloton.
The crash made it hard for Schleck to sleep, and he even had a difficult time sitting at the breakfast table, according to Team Manager Johan Bruyneel.
“I hope it is just muscular,” Schleck optimistically posted on the team website. “Today, it looked like a sciatic nerve causing the pain in the lower back and in my leg. I still believe that physically, without any injury, I am good.
"I am skinny. I just have bad luck. I’ve had so many injuries like I never had in the previous years. But I cannot lose morale as I have to focus on the Tour. I hope I can solve this as soon as possible.”
Schleck finished second in the 2011 Tour de France, losing his yellow jersey lead to Cadel Evans, again proving the individual time trial is his Achilles’ heel.
After abandoning the race, Schleck will head back to his native Luxembourg and have an MRI scan and rest. He’ll still log miles in the saddle leading up to the start of the Tour de France, which begins on Saturday, June 30.