Former Tour de France winner Andy Schleck has had to retire from professional cycling after a long struggle with injury and form.
In a career that saw him win the Young Riders Classification of the Tour de France 3 times and a host of second GC finishes in Grand Tours, the Luxembourgian has been forced to retire due to a knee injury sustained in this year’s Tour de France.
The 29 year old crashed in London near Epping Forest on Stage 3 of this year’s Tour de France, suffering a knee injury that would prove to be career-ending. Schleck has been struggling with injury and his form for a while and he has never quite got back to the form that saw him dominate the general classification in the Tour de France for three years between 2009 and 2011.
Andy Schleck turned professional in 2004, after spending a season as a stagiaire (a term used for amateur riders riding with a pro team to get experience before being offered a contract) for the Danish squad Team CSC. Andy’s brother Frank was also on Team CSC and after Andy got his contract he made his professional debut at the 2005 Volta a Catalunya.
In 2005 the Schleck brothers dominated their National Championships, with Andy taking the Individual Time Trial and his brother taking the Road Race title. 2006 saw Schleck receive his first winner’s jersey, taking the KOM jersey in the Tour of Britain. He also took his first professional stage wins, taking two mountain stages at the Sachsen Tour.
Continuing his winning ways Schleck won the Young Rider’s jersey at the 2007 Giro d’Italia where he came second in the GC, finishing 1’55” behind Italian Danilo Di Luca in the first Grand Tour of his career. This was to be the only time he rode the Giro d’Italia, choosing instead to focus on the Tour de France.
In 2008 still riding for CSC which had been rebranded as Team CSC Saxo Bank, he came 4th in the Monumental Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic, and followed up his Giro d’Italia second place the previous year with a 12th GC finish and the Young Rider’s jersey in the Tour de France. He narrowly missed out on a medal in the Olympics in Beijing, finishing with the same time but beaten on the line by Cancellara and Kolobnev.
2009 was where he really came into his own and started to hit his best form for his former CSC team which had now changed it’s name to Team Saxo Bank. He came second in the Fleche-Wallone and improved on that by winning Liege-Bastogne-Liege. His 2nd place finish in the GC at the Tour de France, finishing more than 4 minutes behind Alberto Contador who won the race. Schleck took his second consecutive Young Rider classification as a consolation prize.
Schleck made it clear that he would be targeting the 2010 Tour de France, and he started his last season for Team CSC well by winning his National Time Trial Championships for the second time. The rivalry between Schleck and Contador reached a breaking point when Schleck suffered a mechanical problem after attacking Contador on Stage 15.
He attacked the Spaniard 3km from the finish when his chain fell off. Controversially Contador counter-attacked and took 39 seconds from Schleck – the exact number of seconds which he would go on to win the race by. Contador would later be stripped of his 2010 Yellow Jersey after he tested positive for performance enhancing drug Clenbuterol; Schleck inherited the Jersey at a ceremony in his home town of Mondorf in March 2012.
In the 2010 Tour de France Schleck won his third consecutive Young Rider classification at the race becoming only the second person to do so after Jan Ulrich won it between 1996 and 1998. The Schleck brother’s announced their intention to leave Team Saxo Bank at the end of 2010 and set up the Luxembourg-based team Leopard Trek.
Racing under his new team, Schleck reached the pinnacle of his career by winning Stage 18 of the 2011 Tour de France on the infamous Col Du Galibier with a solo breakaway ride. On Stage 19 he came 9th on the Alp D’Huez to take the Yellow Jersey from Frenchman Thomas Voeckler. The jersey was taken from him on the penultimate stage of the race by Cadel Evans during a time trial, leaving Schleck with his third podium finish on the Tour in as many years.
This win on the Galibier was Schleck’s final professional victory. A smattering of injuries concluded with a bad crash in the 2012 Dauphine at the ITT saw him sustain a broken sacrum and although he recovered for the end of the season he was a shadow of his past form. Throughout 2012 and 2013 he struggled with fitness, injury and confidence; but it was the crash at the 2014 Tour de France that proved decisive.
After suffering with problems with motivation and form, the crash left him unable to cycle for more than a couple of hours without swelling and pain in his knee. Although his ligaments had healed Schleck’s cartilidge in his knee is almost non-existent, leaving him with no option but to hang up his helmet.