Having said that he was willing to ride the race as a domestique rather than a co-leader due to a lack of top end form, Andy Schleck had a relatively respectable performance on a very tough second stage of the Tour de France.

The Trek Factory Racing rider rolled across the line one minute 19 seconds behind the stage winner Vincenzo Nibali. The ride might not seem like much for a former winner of the race, but Schleck said that he was satisfied with the outcome and that he would have been closer had he not had issues on the way towards the finish.

“I felt okay but I had cramps in the end so I could not really follow in the last steep climb ,” he told CyclingTips at the finish in Sheffield. “I had to find my rhythm going up. I didn’t feel bad, but I was just really cramping in both legs. But yeah, it is the start of the Tour and I didn’t lose so much. There is no drama.”

Schleck finished second in 2009 and 2011 and inherited the race victory in 2010 after Alberto Contador was stripped of the title due to a clenbuterol positive.

However his career had a setback in June 2012 when he crashed badly in the Critérium du Dauphiné and fractured his pelvis.

He didn’t finish races for a long time after that but had a relatively solid performance in last year’s Tour, netting 20th place. That led to expectations that he would continue building, but he was a non-finisher in the GP Ouest France, the GP de Québec, the GP de Montréal and Il Lombardia.

This year has been another quiet one. Placing 29th in the Tour de Suisse was a solid enough performance, though. According to Trek Factory Racing directeur sportif Kim Andersen, his talent is still there, and he can come back to his old level if he is prepared to remain focussed and to work hard.

“I am convinced, as he always said, if he wants to come back, if he really wants to, he can. I’m convinced of that,” Andersen told CyclingTips in recent days. “Sometimes when you are always on the skies, you need to go really deep [low].

“Okay, he has been a long time deep, but mostly after time you want to come back. Hopefully he realises that before it is too late.”

Schleck said before the race that he hoped to gain form as the Tour progressed, and reiterated that today. “Normally in the three week stage races, the last week is my strong week. So I am looking forward to this. I am quite satisfied with my feelings today.”

As for his brother, the older Schleck finished in the second group containing riders such as Chris Horner (Lampre Merida), Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff Saxo) and Laurens Ten Dam (Belkin). He placed 27th, sixteen seconds behind the winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).

“Frank was looking really, really good,” said his younger brother. “I tried to bring him up and help him and Haimar as much as I could.

“For me I just missed a little bit in the end but like I said, I lost one minute 20 – it is not a drama.”