Ride the Puddles

Tour de France 2010: Stage 15: Alberto Contador vs Andy Schleck

Posted by bikezilla on July 19, 2010


Saxo Bank’s Andy Schleck’s chain went “pop”. I mean really, “POP”. You could hear it on the video.

Of course, sitting on my sofa watching video I don’t have wind, crowd noise or road noise to deal with while my mind is absorbed by racing vs a guy who is just a good as I am up one of the steepest climbs in the race.

Did Alberto Contador (Astana) hear Andy’s chain go? In the video he doesn’t even glance down, and Andy keeps on pedaling until Alberto is by him. So it would be fair to assume that Alberto, especially in the adrenaline rush of responding to Andy’s attack during the ascent of a brutal climb, honestly did not know exactly why Andy had slowed.

But isn’t there something in your gut that tells you that just based on his years of experience riding and racing, Alberto KNEW. He just had to.

Does it make a difference if he knew or didn’t know?

It’s kind of nice when guys hold back out of respect for other riders who are in difficulty, whether it’s for the wearer of the Yellow Jersey or anyone else; like Alberto did for Andy during the stage to Spa.

But more than that I think, as Andy said post stage, “sh** happens” and you deal with it. It’s not Alberto’s fault that Andy’s chain jumped.

On the other hand, some say that it may have been Andy’s fault, that he may have shifted during a heavy application of power and caused the jump. But that makes it sound like Andy did something stupid.

It’s something he’s likely done many times and gotten away with. It was more of a gamble that didn’t pay off than it was a mistake.

That said, he did know that it was a gamble and when that gamble went bad it was up to him, not Alberto, to pay up.

As Chris Carmichael says in his PEZ article, “Contador didn’t wait – but neither did Sammy Sanchez or Denis Menchov.”

At 2:00 and 2:13 back, and sitting in 3rd and 4th place, both of those guys have to be considered serious contenders. They both took advantage of Andy’s mechanical to put time in on him. Why isn’t anyone crying about them?

Is Alberto more wrong because he took over the Yellow?

Menchov also claims not to have known what Andy’s issue was, and he was behind Alberto.

In addition to all the other stuff that’s already been said, I think it makes a big difference that Andy’s chain dropped while he himself was attacking. That throws the entire sportsmanship protocol out the window, at least in my eyes.

Alberto apologized to Andy via YouTube and he made a great point within it. You can read the whole thing and view the video (with English subtitles) here.

“Many people criticized me for doing that, especially after the stage on the cobbles, when the crash happened and the whole bunch split as a result, and it allowed Andy to take time on me, but I always settle it by saying I’d do it again,” said Contador. “The kind of thing that happened today is not something I like, it’s not my style and I hope my relationship with Andy will remain as good as before.”

So Andy maybe wouldn’t attack under those conditions, but he kind of did already.

Here’s what I think:

1. Alberto (and Menchov and Sanchez) knew damed good and well that Andy had some kind of mechanical problem, even if they didn’t know exactly what.

2. The doctrine of Fair Play is “more guidelines than actual rules” (to again quote Captain Barbosa) and “sh** happens”. It’s racing, not beers and horseshoes during a backyard bbq.

3. It was karmic balance. Andy gained time via Alberto’s issues over the cobbles. Even after that Ablerto held up on the way to Spa, waiting for Andy. Today was merely the Universe reasserting equilibrium.

More simply put, “Turn-about is fair play”.

Andy Schleck, even as angry as he was, somehow managed not to slap the reporter who first asked how much time he lost and then asked “Does it sting?”.

He’s been giving fantastic interviews all Tour long and he’s just the coolest guy in the peloton.

As RaceJunkie said, Alberto isn’t able to drop Andy like he could last year. In fact, Alberto doesn’t seem to have that blazing acceleration on the steepest sections anymore.

But he and Andy seem more closely matched than they were last year.

It’ll be interesting to see how this affects Andy’s aggression in the coming days and how Saxo responds.

But Saxo has been riding to it’s limits and I’m not sure the team can be asked to do any more than it already is.


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