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Jan 3, 2017 – With his retirement from racing at age 36, Luxembourg racer Fränk Schleck has brought to a close a nine-decade-long family history in cycling.
Words: John Wilcockson/Image: Yuzuru Sunada
Schleck’s grandfather Auguste (a.k.a. Gustav) Schleck raced in the 1920s as an independant [a former semi-pro category] and was third in his national road championship. His son Johny Schleck was a full professional who raced as a domestique for the French teams Pelforth-Sauvage-Lejeune (1965–68) and Bic (1969–74), where he assisted Tour de France champions Jan Janssen and Luis Ocaña.
The family cycling tradition continued with Johny’s two younger sons, Andy (who retired in 2014 after a 10-year career that included victories at Liège–Bastogne–Liège and the Tour de France) and Fränk—who turned pro in 2002.
Schleck, who always considered himself less talented than his younger brother, had a slow start to his career. He didn’t win a single race in his first four seasons, though in that fourth year (2005) he showed true signs of his capabilities. After second place at the Tour Méditerranéen, seventh in Paris–Nice and fourth at the Tour de Suisse, he ended the season with a string of podiums in one-day classics: second at the Züri Metzgete and the Giro dell’Emilia, and third at the Giro di Lombardia.
Schleck’s breakthrough year was 2006; after starting it with fifth at Paris–Nice, he scored a brilliant solo victory in the Amstel Gold Race. Three months later, after a solid sixth overall at the Tour de Suisse, Schleck made his Tour de France debut. It was a messy Tour that ended with overall winner Floyd Landis disqualified for doping, but the Luxembourger rode solidly for CSC Team leader Carlos Sastre before taking a prestigious stage win at L’Alpe d’Huez.
Over the remaining 10 years of his career, Schleck would mostly ride for his brother Andy, but he also won a dozen races—notably the Giro dell’Emilia in 2007, a second stage win at the Tour de France in 2009 and a stage win and the overall title at the 2010 Tour de Suisse. But perhaps his best all-around performance came in the 2011 Tour de France, where he was top 10 in seven stages and, after helping brother Andy take second overall (behind winner Cadel Evans), finished third overall—in this image he’s leading Alberto Contador, Samuel Sanchez and brother Andy on the steep Pramartino climb into Pinerolo.