Schleck slips away silently from torrid tour

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Andy Schleck's visit to Adelaide for the Santos Tour Down Under went from bad to worse and ended in embarrassment during the final stage.

It's the same amount of pain he's having now to stay in the peloton that he probably has in July, trying to win something big.

But it was what the Tour de France champion needed as he continues his comeback from injury.

The Luxembourg star started Sunday's final stage of the Santos Tour Down Under in second-last place, a distant 39min 29sec from the lead.

Before halfway in the Adelaide street race, he suffered a mechanical problem and had to chase the main bunch by himself.

After a couple of fruitless laps, he pulled out and went back to his hotel.

He was nowhere to be seen when his Radioshack Leopard Trek team-mates went on stage after the race to collect the award in the team category.

"I think he just felt uneasy about it and he probably doesn't want to answer questions that I answer now," German team-mate Jens Voigt said of Schleck's no-show at the presentation.

"It is understandable, but then again he should just face it and say 'I'm still working on it, I don't have it yet'."

Nevertheless, this has been the tough week that Scheck had to have.

His season last year was ruined by a serious crash at the Criterium du Dauphine in the lead-up to the Tour de France that left him with a broken pelvis.

Schleck came to Adelaide for the first time as part of a plan to race as often as possible ahead of this year's Tour de France and regain form.

He was always struggling, but Voigt said Schleck was on the right track.

"It's been good here, we've had some good talks," Voigt said.

"He needed a little pep talk and one time I also gave him a little 'kick' talk.

"I have seen him getting better day-by-day."

Voigt said these tough times would ultimately benefit Schleck, the 2010 Tour de France champion.

"He's a very good rider and normally when he suffers, it's for a really good result," he said.

"Here, he just suffers for survival, so that's new for him.

"But maybe that's a lesson he learns for life.

"Afterwards he thinks, 'I know what it's like to be down there and I never want to go back there, so I'd better spice up my game and make sure I stay up there'.

"It's the same amount of pain he's having now to stay in the peloton that he probably has in July, trying to win something big."

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