The kind of misfortune you only expect in amateur races — a slipped chain — robbed Andy Schleck of the yellow jersey today on the punishing climb of Port de Bales, one of the steepest in the race. But it was the race etiquette of Alberto Contador that will be remembered in the day’s ledger.
French national champion Thomas Voeckler brought home another stage win for the home country in this year’s Tour, riding off the front of a 10-minute breakaway up the final shark-tooth climb.
But the tragedy of the day, and perhaps the Tour, came when Schleck, just starting to put the hammer down on Alberto Contador, threw his chain and almost front-kicked over the bars. It wasn’t clear exactly what happened — we’re guessing a slack cable left him just enough between gears to throw the chain when Andy put down pressure hard — but by the time Schleck dismounted and got things going again, Contador was nearly 20 seconds up the road. [UPDATE: VeloNews speculates on possible causes for Schleck’s lost chain.]
Benefiting not just from Schleck’s misfortune but the downhilling skills of Sammy Sanchez and a small group of race leaders, Contador finished 8 seconds in the lead, taking 39 seconds from Schleck on the day.
So the debate of the day — and perhaps of the 2010 Tour de France — will be whether Contador should have waited, as is the prerogative of any racer. Waiting is not required by the rules, but has been done in the past as a matter of courtesy and “champion etiquette.” (In 2003 Jan Ullrich waited for Lance Armstrong.)
“My stomach is full of anger, I want to take my revenge,” Schleck told Versus TV after the stage. He acknowledged, “It’s not to me to decide” whether it was fair for Contador to keep riding on, but did add: “It was not something I would do.”
Andy can take comfort in one thing: Contador obviously is scared. If the two-time Tour champion was confident, he would never have ridden away.
One new wrinkle we did get a chuckle out of: Versus is running a commercial where Schleck and Contador get into a playground snit, “Did so, did not!” for Specialized. You can barely understand what they’re saying (both speak in thick accents) but the point is made. Glad to see this comic relief from the “Gladiator” nature of the blow-by-blow commentary.
Although maybe given today’s grim turn of events, the repartee should be, “Should’ve waited!” “Should not!”
Pro-Contador Bikehugger gets plenty of pushback.
VeloNews reports on Lance Armstrong and other pros’ reactions.
CyclingNews full report on Stage 15.