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Assessing Andy Schleck's Year.

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More than just saying Fantastic.

Per CN and Twitter comes word that Andy Schelck has called it a year and is not racing Lombardia, a race that he's had some success in the past, placing 4th in '07 but not riding last year. So what can we say about his year? Lots as it turns out:

- Overall this was his most successful year as befits a rider who's just 24. Better years should be ahead of him. To put some numbers to that, he scored at CQ 1242 points. Last year he only earned 699 and in '07, 812. So you can say he took a big step towards fulfilling the promise that he's shown the last couple of years. 

VDS-wise, he made a similar leap, going from 800 points last year to 1467 today, good enough  to be the 6th best rider in '09. (Probably though a couple other riders will pass him with the October races.)  If you want him for your VDS team next year prepare to pay a lot because he's now one of the top riders.

- His highlights were, in order, his 2nd at the Tour, 1st at Liege-Bastohgne-Liege, and 2nd at Fleche Wallonne. Add in his 10th at Amstel Gold and he had a very strong Ardennes campaign. (Which makes me whistful about his declining to race Lombardia.)

So where can he go from here? Can he take another step? Were there any lowlights? Below the jump I take a detailed look at his '09 campaign. 

1. Tour of California, 32nd overall. 1st race of the year and so was a tune-up race. Did not threaten on any stage. 

2. Monte Paschi Eroica- 8th. As the main Saxo threat he and his team were beaten decisively by Columbia (winner Lovkvist, 4th place Boss Hog) and Milram (2nd Wegmann, 5th Gerdemann, 7th Peter Velits). The next best Saxo rider was Breschel in 19th, failing to make the final selection. 

3. Tirreno Adriatico- DNF. Andy made it through the flat stages and the ITT but failed to start the decisive mountain stage.

4. Milan-San Remo- 128th in a race he never expected to contend for the win.

5. Criterium International- 46th overall at the Jens! Invitational. 

6. GP Big Mig- 28th. Was not in the final selection up the hilltop finish.

7. Pais Vasco- 38th overall. Did not seriously contest any stage.

Okay. Stop here for a second as this marks the end of his early season campaign, right before the Ardennes. So far we see Andy just tooling around, not really in the hunt for any of these races other than Eroica.  This differs a bit from his GC peers who tend to take at least one or several of the early races seriously and try for the win. Even brother Frank placed 2nd at Paris-Nice and won the last stage in California. Contador is the most active GC type early but Evans, Cunego, Leipheimer, Menchov, Basso, Nibali, DiLuca, Kloden, Valverde, Gesink, even Samu all announced their intentions by having at least one high placing in a competitive stage race and several of them battled through injuries to do so.

I presume this different approach was designed by Riis, probably with Andy's age a big consideration. Okay let's go on.

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8. Amstel Gold- 10th

9. Fleche Wallonne- 2nd or 1st. Has Tin Tin been disqualified? CQ still has Rebellin winning the race so I am confused.

10. Liege-Bastogne-Liege- 1st.

A sublime Ardennes campaign, the best of any rider this year.  One can imagine Andy winning all three in a year. So if Riis' strategy was to have Andy lie low pre-Ardenees then score big, it certainly worked. To look further you can see how seriously Saxo took the Ardennes classics as their team was the best in each race.  And Andy was the tip of the Saxo spear so to speak. 

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Now comes the Tour build-up:

11. Tour of Luxembourg- 11th overall. He did win stage 2. His brother won the whole thing.

12. Tour de Suisse- 24th overall on that weirdly flat course tailor made for Andy's teammate.

13. Tour de France- 2nd overall, 2nd up Verbier, 3rd Le Grand-Bornand, and 3rd up Ventoux.

The Tour was obviously his biggest goal of the year and even if he didn't win it has to be classified as a big success.  His LBL win announced his presence to the world of cycling; his Tour 2nd announced it to the world. 

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14. San Sebastian- DNF (crash)

15. Vuelta a Espana- DNF stage 8.

16. Worlds RR- DNF

Meh.  The crash messed things up but still there just never seemed like he had much juice for the end of this season. He (and his team outside of Cancellara) were (are) kinda aimless post-Tour.  Of course a big Tour campaign does that to many riders. 

OVERALL- Two big peaks in the Ardennes and Tour with nothing else to speak of.  Established himself as one of the top handful of riders of all types. 

Will this be a trend for Andy or will he branch out to other races? Was Riis holding him back some still because of age? Will he go back to the Giro or Vuelta in a serious way in the near future? How about the one week stage races? The kid has so much talent-should he stay with the same program or broaden it?  To me I look at his March and think he could do better there without sacrificing his April or July. We'll see.