In what will certainly be debated for some time, Alberto Contador attacked race leader and his biggest rival Andy Schleck when Schleck threw his chain on the climb up Port de Bales. Schleck ended up loosing 39 seconds to Contador on the day, as well as his yellow jersey, and possibly the Tour de France.
There is an unwritten rule in cycling that you don’t attack the race leader because of a mechanical problem. Everyone remembers the 2003 Tour when Tyler Hamilton slowed the GC favorites group down when Armstrong crashed on the climb up Luz Ardiden and then went on to win the stage and the Tour.
Schleck had attacked Contador and created at least 25 meters of separation before he threw his chain. This allowed Contador and the other GC favorites to catch back on and subsequently launch a counter attack. I see both sides of the argument: it’s a race and it was not Contador’s fault that Schleck had a mechanical problem. That being said, is that the way you really want to win the Tour? Because you launched a cowardly attack when you weren’t able to cover the move in the first place?
Sport is about winning. However, there is something to be said about doing it the right way. I went back and watched the tape because the announcers tried to justify Contador’s behavior by saying that he was covering the move of Menchov and Sanchez. Obviously that was not the case because the first, and only one to respond to Schleck’s move, was Alexander Vinokourov. Alberto Contador had clearly been caught out. After reviewing the tape it was not Menchov or Sanchez who attacked but Contador. If that’s the way he wants to win it so be it, he is the one who will have to live with it and answer the questions until next year’s Tour. But in my opinion, it is a pathetic way to win the Tour if that’s how it plays out.
I really wasn’t rooting for either rider one way or the other, I was routing for Armstrong to add another chapter to his storied career. Now I hope Schleck comes out and kick’s Contador’s butt tomorrow and Thursday. This Tour has certainly been dramatic with crashes and mechanical issues putting an end to several top contenders Tour hopes and that’s the way sport goes. Anyone who rides has thrown a chain or flatted at the wrong time, it just happens.
All this drama certainly takes away from the fact that Thomas Voeckler rode brilliantly to take the stage win. Voeckler is one of those riders who always gives it his best when he is competing, so it is hard not to be happy for a rider like that.
Certainly Andy Schleck and his Saxo Bank teammates will be looking to exact some revenge on Contador, Menchov, and Sanchez for their antics today. Does Saxo have enough in the tank to drop the hammer and put the hurt on?
Time will tell…
The new GC after stage 15:
|1||Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana||72:50:42|
|2||Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank||0:00:08|
|3||Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi||0:02:00|
|4||Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank||0:02:13|