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Schleck admits Tour defeat, promises to come back

Updated: July 23, 2011, 15:25


GRENOBLE, France (AP) Andy Schleck may yet become the first Luxembourg rider in more than 50 years to win the world's greatest cycling race. Just not this year.

The 26-year-old failed to defend his 57-second advantage over Australian Cadel Evans in Saturday's race against the clock, most likely losing the Tour de France in the race's dramatic penultimate stage.

Schleck, who has already finished runner-up two years running, now has every chance of standing on the Champs Elysees podium's second highest step for a third time when the race finishes in Paris on Sunday.

Schleck's post-race comments focused on how happy the team was to get two riders on the podium. The riders' and team officials' grim faces told a different story, however.

"I'll be on the podium with my brother, that's fantastic, everybody is happy,'' Schleck said. "Of course I cannot jump in the air, because I was supposed to win the Tour. Congrats to Cadel, he fought until the end, rode a perfect race. So did I but only one can win,'' Schleck said.

Schleck's team manager, Brian Nygaard, said he "absolutely'' believed before Saturday's stage that Andy could hold on to the yellow jersey, despite Evans' superior time-trial abilities.

"If Evans had done his normal time trial as Andy did his normal time trial, it was within reach,'' Nygaard said. "Today Evans was absolutely in a class of his own.''

Evans came in second, finishing the stage in 55 minutes and 40 seconds, just 7 seconds slower than the winner, Tony Martin of Germany, a former German time-trial champion.

Schleck was 2:31 slower than Evans, a former world champion who, like Schleck, is also a two-time Tour runner-up.

Frank Schleck, Andy's teammate and older brother, was slower yet, but managed to maintain third place in the overall standings.

"Of course we would have loved to win the Tour de France, but I'm very happy,'' he said. "For me, one of the first dreams came true today, two brothers on the podium, from the Luxembourg team, a new team, who just came out of nowhere, and we made it happen.''

Nygaard said he is confident Andy will come back and win the Tour another year.

"If you compare Andy to Cadel, Andy has so many years in front of him still and Evans is at the peak of his career,'' Nygaard said. "Andy is still a young guy, there are a lot of victories in him still.''

Andy was even in a joking mood after the race, posting a message to his followers on Twitter that said he'd lost a bet with Dutch teammate Joost Posthuma.

"He won a bet against me now I need to eat 20 cheeseburger in 2 h can I do that of course in wintertime,'' Schleck wrote.

Schleck insisted that even though he won't be in yellow on Sunday, this has been a good Tour.

"I had again the experience of yellow, I won a stage, it's been a good tour,'' Schleck said. "I go home with my head high, I don't go home as a loser.''

And he made a promise, similar to the pledge he made after losing the 2010 Tour by just 39 seconds to Alberto Contador.

"I'll come back next year and win,'' Schleck said.

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Greg Keller can be reached at http://twitter.com/Greg-Keller

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