News of a broken pelvis is the worst episode yet in a season that can be at best described as mixed for the Luxembourg rider (AFP/Getty Images)

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Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) has announced that he will not ride the 2012
Tour de France after he sustained a fracture to his pelvis in his crash during
the Critérium du Dauphiné last week.

In a press conference in Strassen,
Luxembourg on
Wednesday afternoon, it was confirmed that Schleck had fractured the sacral
bone of his pelvis when he fell early on in the stage 4 time trial to

Although Schleck battled through to finish the following day’s stage, he
withdrew on the penultimate day of the race. Still in pain on Monday morning,
Schleck underwent an x-ray and then an MRI scan, which ultimately revealed the
full extent of his injury.

“Yesterday, when I came out of the MRI scan and they told me the news, my
world fell apart,” Schleck said. “I won’t win the 2012 Tour
I won’t even be in it.”

Flanked by his doctor Charles Delagardelle and orthopaedic surgeon Thorsten
Gerich, who said that it would take “between four and six weeks” for the
fracture to heal, a solemn Schleck told reporters that he aimed to return to
competitive action in time for the London 2012 Olympics on July 28.

Schleck’s absence from the Tour means that he is now on course for a
head-to-head battle at with his great rival Alberto Contador at the Vuelta a
España. Contador returns from suspension shortly before his home tour, setting
up an intriguing clash between the pair in August.

“I hope to be back to ride the Olympics and then my main goal will be the Vuelta
a España,” said Schleck. “I’m more motivated than ever before, as people – and
journalists in particular – forget very fast.”

Schleck, who has rarely been a factor in major races outside of the Tour and
the Ardennes classics in recent seasons, also
said that the world championships in Valkenburg and the Tour of Lombardy could
feature on his revised programme. “Since I’m not riding the Tour, I can have
many other goals,” he said.

The state of Schleck’s form had been a source of much media attention in
recent weeks, and he responded tersely when quizzed on his manager Johan Bruyneel’s
thinly-veiled criticism ahead of the Critérium du Dauphiné. “As a pro, you have
to deal with critics. If you can’t, you won’t survive in this business long,”
he said. “I don’t care.”

Schleck refused to hypothesise how he might have fared in this year’s Tour
and called on the eventual winner to be afforded his due respect. “I don’t know
if I would have stood in yellow in Paris
but that was the goal,” he said. “But whether it’s Wiggins or my brother Fränk
or anyone else who wins, I won’t stand there saying, ‘you’re lucky I wasn’t

Four to six weeks to heal

Orthopaedic surgeon Thorsten Gerich informed journalists on the nature of
Schleck’s injury, pulling a plastic model of the pelvic area out from under the
desk to illustrate his description as he spoke.

Schleck was referred to Gerich after contacting his personal doctor Charles
Delagardelle on Monday morning, citing continuing pain in his pelvic area.
While the initial x-ray failed to shed any light on the matter, an MRI scan
taken on Monday afternoon revealed the full extent of the damage.

“We couldn’t see anything on the plain x-ray, but that’s not unusual,”
Gerich said. “On the MRI imaging we could detect that Andy had a fracture on
the sacrum of his pelvis. It’s a fracture which doesn’t compromise the
stability of the pelvis, but which really hurts as it is a fracture between two
nerve roots.”

Gerich estimated that it would take between 4 and 6 weeks for the fracture
to heal, and that Schleck would be unable to ride his bike in that period.
“It’s not possible to ride as he would have direct, constant pressure on the
fracture,” he said. “He can do other sporting activity as long as it doesn’t
affect the pelvis.”

In spite of his disappointment, Schleck looked to sound a defiant note. “I’m
out but I can’t drown in self-pity. I haven to look forward,” he said.

“What doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger. I believe I’ll come back
stronger. I believe I haven’t spoken my last word.”  

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