Chaingate

This was a moment that has been coming for a long, long time. Were we to take a trip with Sherman in the Way Back Machine to visit any of the editions of the Tour de France prior to, say, the ascendancy of Ken Kesey, we’d find a peloton made up of working class men who operated by the Code of the Road, a set of rules granite hard, literal as a genie and without loophole.

These men shared work, bidons, pee-breaks and more. They preyed upon weaknesses of flesh and will, but never the machine. There’s plenty of footage showing guys waiting for everyone involved in a crash to get up and remount. Just like the start of your local group ride.

We remember these times because many of us think of these riders as honorable, as guys we’d like to ride with, a set of friends who will wait for us should we flat.

Lance Armstrong was asked why he waited for Jan Ullrich after he ran off the road during the 2001 Tour de France, endo-ing his way past a guardrail. While I can’t find his exact response, the point was that he didn’t want to win based on a crash, but rather by beating the athlete.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? A true champion wins on a level playing field so that their performance bears no asterisks, no footnotes, no abiding questions.

So should we call Contador names for squeezing by Schleck while pedaling out-of-the-saddle furiously?

Nope.

This is a day that has been a long time coming. For all those of you who think I’ve had it in for Contador for more than a year, this is where I nearly give the guy a by. He’s simply a product of his time.

In 2001 Armstrong waited for Ullrich following his crash, but he was only able to sit up for so long before being passed by Virenque and others who would have gladly gutted Ullrich like a deer to climb another spot in the G.C. Faced with the prospect of giving up time to an opportunist like Virenque, Armstrong marked his rival but sat at the back of the group, waiting for Der Kaiser.

In 2003 Armstrong went down on the climb to Luz Ardiden after hooking his handlebar on the bag of a clueless spectator, taking Iban Mayo with him. Inexplicably, Ullrich kept riding. The leaders kept the bellows to the coals until Tyler Hamilton (yes, everyone’s next-to-most hated doper ever in the history of the known universe)—yes Tyler “Vanishing Twin” Hamilton, went to the front and gave the universal bro’ sign for chill—palm down waving … pretty much the same hand signal that some folks didn’t like coming from Fabian Cancellara a few stages back.

What’s significant isn’t that the riders waited for their brothers in arms on either of those occasions, but that they had to be reminded it was the right thing to do.

The evaporation of the Code of the Road within the peloton shouldn’t surprise us. The mob’s abandonment of its omerta and the obscene greed we read about on Wall Street are simply bellwethers of change in society.

Alberto Contador signaled last year that winning was far more important to him than listening to his team director. Those who dislike him will seize upon this and dislike him more. Those who see him as a great champion will see this as an example where a man with a destiny simply rose to the occasion.

Was there a double standard at work when Frank Shleck was left for dead on the cobbles in stage 3? Well, because Schleck was left by his teammates more than his competitors, it’s hard to make that charge. Regardless, one of the hallmarks of Paris-Roubaix (which served as the spiritual forefather to stage 3) is the reality that mechanicals are a legitimate and unavoidable challenge within the race. If you race Paris-Roubaix, you had better be prepared for the fact that if you flat, no rider contracted to another team will ease up by a single pedal stroke for you. Period. Tough.

Whether you agree with Contador’s counter attack or not, one troubling detail remains. In quotes to l’Equipe, the AFP and others, Contador claims not to have had any knowledge that Shleck was in trouble. The Saxo Bank rider was nearly at a standstill as Contador passed him, so he had to know something was up, even if he didn’t understand it was a mechanical. Comprehension and understanding aside, Contador was aware that something was wrong with Schleck and was curious enough to look around on more than one occasion. All we can derive from his looks back is that he was concerned that the gap wasn’t being shut down.

Contador’s denial strikes me as an issue of integrity. I’d rather he be honest and say, ‘Yeah when Schleck dropped his chain I knew I needed to hit it full gas. I was au bloc to the top of the climb to keep him from coming back.’

To say he didn’t know Schleck had a problem is BS. That may explain why Pistolero received as many boos as cheers at the podium ceremony. Again, don’t blame Contador; he’s a product of his time. Many schools of thought hold that all that matters is victory. It’s the same attitude that begets doping and books like The Prince, but the history of the Tour de France is full of guys who are remembered less for being jerks than winning.

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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38 comments

  1. Sophrosune

    This might be described as damning with faint praise, if there were any praise at all. Interesting to explain this incident in some sort of grand societal zeitgeist of uncontrolled greed and selfishness. But I think we need to bring it back within the framework of the race.

    Contador was pedaling furiously as you describe it not because he saw Schleck had a mechanical but because Schelck had attacked and he was trying to get back on his wheel. We all acknowledge that, correct? Then you conclude rather definitively that Contador is lying when he says that he didn’t know that Schleck had a mechanical when he went by him. This could be true and a small benefit of the doubt doesn’t seem to be too large a gesture considering the circumstance.

    From my viewing of the incident it appeared as though Schleck started to have his problems when Contador was about 10 meters behind and Vinokurov was in the line of site between him and Schleck. Vinokurov moved to the right of Schleck when he started to slow down and Vinokurov seemed to soft pedal a little. Contador still about 5 meters behind kept his pace that he had been building up in trying to catch Schleck’s wheel and passed Schleck on his left, before Schleck had stopped or gotten off his bike. Contador kept that pace for another 100-150 meters but obviously slowed down as Sanchez and Menchov were able to get his wheel. Even Riis acknowledges this slow down. Once Schleck is back on his bike, it’s race on, and so it was. This btw is all much more sportsmanship than what Schleck offered his rivals in Stage 3.

    While I agree that a coarseness may have entered into our lives that sometimes seems to have not existed previously, I think I am more troubled by a hypocrisy that seems to be at work here along with incitements to revenge and possibly violence to one of the competitors.

    Contador has offered a public apology and I’m sure will try to give Schleck a personal apology. But I am also sure it will be a cold day in hell before Schleck filled with his self-righteous indignation will offer an apology for calling for revenge on a act that he was more than guilty of himself in his his attack on Stage 3

  2. randomactsofcycling

    Wow, it’s all bubbling over now! AC knew what he was doing and regardless of ‘the times’ he was absolutely justified in putting the hammer down. I for one would have put it in ‘the dog’ and smashed it if I was the one that saw Ullrich go over the guard rails (only after I had received confirmation that he was not injured, I’m not that callous).
    Bike racing is not only about being the fittest and strongest athlete. It is about skill and bike handling and the operational excellence of the riders’ equipment. I am quite surprised that SRAM/Specialized have yet to pipe up with an excuse as to how the Maillot Jaune could possibly drop his chain on a seemingly decent piece of road. Surely there’s an opportunistic Marketing Manager out there from K-Edge that is buying advertising space as we type.
    I never saw Ayrton Senna slow down when Alain Prost missed a gear change. When we add the adjective ‘Professional’ to Sport, all paradigms shift.

  3. j

    It seems to me that it would be impossible for Contador to not have realized something was up with Schleck for Alberto was in another time zone when Andy’s chain checked out. That this all happened in the midst of an attack blurs the ability to clearly define what happened or who was right or wrong. Suffice it to say that Contador’s profession that he knew not of the mechanical is dishonest and immature to say the least.

    We cannot fault Contador for charging up to Schleck and Vino in an attempt to crawl out of the hole in which he was dropped when Schleck pressed the Big Red Button. Contador’s tour was being sucked out of his bloodshot eyeballs and he knew it. It’s what happened after he passed a wax-statue Schleck that presents the most trouble. That contador continued to attack repeatedly both on the final meters of the uphill and throughout the downhill, certainly after his radio went abuzz with the news that Schleck, the man who was surgically removing Contador’s Tour victory was off his bike, standing in the road fiddling with his chain, points to a knowing strike on an opponent who is down due to the fault of his machine, not abilities.

    Contador made a decision to pull his dagger with back turned, he calculated that this was his opportunity to perhaps snuff out his only true rival in his sleep. But this is war, there aren’t many rules if any when it comes to LeTour. Contador didn’t break any code, for none exists. Contador needn’t have waited for any number of rivals would have gutted him on a similar occasion. That is a truth that those who prefer Schleck to Contador find hard to swallow, but a truth none the less.

    In making his move Contador chose his fate and for better or worse (I feel worse) if Contador does in fact win this running of the Tour (and even more so if it’s by a margin of 8 seconds or less) it will be forever remembered that he did so in a less than honorable way. Contador’s a young man who in his time has made many moves to benefit himself short term yet to the detriment of his long term success. And in a peloton where riders and teams shuffle in a constant game of musical chairs, it seems near impossible that this choice made by Contador won’t somehow come back as a fly in his ointment.

    I certainly hope Contador enjoys this moment for he’s made his bed and noting he does from here on out will be viewed anyway but through the new prism he has defined for himself on Stage 15; All of our suspicions about Alberto Contador being Mercenary #1 are true- he will stop at nothing, he will yield to no one, and will not fail to use any tool at his disposal to rid his path of challengers. And in his wake he will leave a growing animosity and hatred that will surely be his demise.

  4. Timothy Day

    Good points from all. I think AC had a split second to act on an opportunity and he chose the wrong way to handle it. And I think the fact that he is aware of this and sorry for the choice is made clear in his YouTube apology. I don’t think he would repeat the attack having the opportunity to go at it again.

    Part of me is glad this happened as I am looking forward to watching an angry Andy tonight! What a tour so far!

  5. Champs

    If Schleck is to find a silver lining to the events of yesterday, it’s that Astana will have to defend up half a dozen Cat1/HC climbs between now and the Tourmalet finale. Hernandez, Vino, and especially Navarro have looked good, but at the base of Thursday’s final climb, there will be a very fresh Saxo Bank crew and one isolated Contador. We’ll see if that’s enough to get “Ändy” all the way there.

    Schleck’s current state of affairs hardly differ from the pre-race consensus. Does the air of tragedy matter?

  6. Rod Diaz

    I have little problem with Contador and the other contenders attacking when Schleck had a problem with his bike. Yes, it goes against the cycling chivalry code, etc. But hey, it’s part of the race, etc, etc.

    I do have a big issue with his disingenuous statement “I didn’t know Andy had a problem”. If you’re cold blooded, calculating and decide to bank on this opportunity – so be it. He could have said “crashes and mechanicals are part of racing, such as in Stage 3″. But I find it insulting that he thinks we are idiots and didn’t see what was going on.

    You can be a cold-blooded. decisive winner that twists the knife when the blade is in. Or, you can opt otherwise, to let the mishap pass and have chivalry take hold. But lying with one hand still in the cookie jar makes him look like an idiot.

  7. Robot

    Four things:

    1) How many do-overs does Saxo want? We neutralized Stage 2 with the net effect that Andy and Frank weren’t out of the race before it began. I didn’t see any YouTube video expressions of gratitude that day. I like Andy and I like Bjarne Riis. I think they’re good for cycling, but come on, this is big boy stuff now. You were too far back on the Stockeu descent. Why? And then you had a bad shift. You over-torqued the pedals during a shift and you dropped your chain. Man up and ride your way back into the race.

    2) Contador should have stopped, not because it was the right thing to do, but because he could afford to, and it would have made him a legend. At the sharp end of the sport, gentleman’s rules are as fluid as the Ganges. As always, I think, the manner of a win is as important as the win itself. Contador is basically an insecure champion. For some reason it was important to him to take the yellow jersey yesterday, even though, strategically I’d have left it to the TT and made Saxo chase the breaks for another few days. Still, if he had waited, he would gained HUGE esteem from all quarters.

    3) This chain thing is a total red herring. The media have pretended that the race is between Schleck and Contador. It’s easier to explain than what is really going on. I think the race is actually between Schleck, Sanchez and Menchov for the spots beneath el Pistolero. Schleck dropped 42s to Contador over less than 9km in the prologue. Do you think he’s not going to lose double that in the longer TT? Maybe more. Menchov can time trial. He could easily make up his gap on Schleck. Contador is going to bury him. Sanchez will likely make time too.

    4) The best thing that could happen, for Contador and for everyone else’s peace of mind, would be for the Spaniard to attack and drop Schleck today, revenge day, and put a full minute into him. Think of Hushovd’s attack on Cavendish the day after Cav’s controversial relegation last year. Hushovd legitimized his green shirt that day. Contador could do the same today.

  8. grolby

    Right or wrong, Contador’s attack was an interesting development, because it appears to demonstrate (from my perspective) a fact that I found intriguing: Contador fears Schleck in this Tour. And not just a little bit. Whether realistically or not – only Contador knows for sure how strong he feels – he’s worried that Schleck will take that yellow jersey all the way to Paris. So he was given a gift of 39 seconds, and he took it.

    It’s funny, since they look pretty evenly matched on the climbs, and Contador has the clear advantage in the time trial (though those saying that Schleck needs three minutes are overstating his disadvantage). Does Contador know something we don’t? Even that attack didn’t appear to be the coup de grace; Schleck had distanced Contador, sure, but he didn’t have him on the ropes just yet. Maybe I’m wrong and Schleck will distance Contador to the tune of two or three minutes on the Tourmalet, but so far they appear to be pretty evenly matched, and that’s what makes Contador’s fear, justified or not, interesting.

    I have to admit that I don’t see any parallel between Schleck’s actions on Stage 3 and Contador’s attack here. It was clear when the cameras switched from Frank Schleck lying on the side of the road to Cancellara hammering on the front with Andy on his wheel, that Bjarne Riis had recognized that Frank wasn’t getting up and had told his guys to just ride hard. Andy was where he was supposed to be – right at the front of the peloton. Contador was a bit further back. That’s his problem; being out of position when you’ve got a guy like Cancellara at the tip of the spear is a mistake, period. When Contador attacked yesterday, they were both at the front of the race; Contador came from behind, even. Position doesn’t mean much when you lose a chain. Irrespective of whether Contador is a villain for attacking, the circumstances aren’t comparable.

  9. grolby

    Robot, your points are all well-taken, but I think Andy Schleck’s disadvantage in the time trial is overstated. Yes, 42 seconds in the prologue is a lot, but I’m inclined to think that was a fluke. The TT from last year’s Tour is more illustrative, I think: Schleck lost 1:44 to Contador in 42 km. That’s still enough to pose a serious problem (and the TT this year is 25% longer than last year), but it’s something that can be managed. And last year’s TT was a significant improvement for him. At the time, it was widely seen as a very successful time trial by Schleck (highlighting how awful he was before, I suppose). He may have improved again this year; we’ll see.

    As for Menchov, the podium and Andy Schleck’s 2nd place are within reach IF he can hold the current gap to Schleck on the Tourmalet. I’m a wee bit skeptical of his ability to do that.

  10. Enrico Gimondi

    In the last stage of the 1987 Paris-Nice, Stephen Roche flatted while in the leader’s jersey, an event that was greeted with an immediate attack by Roche’s friend and compatriot Sean Kelly, who used it as a springboard to victory–luck of the Irish, you might say.

    Later that year, in the Tour de France, leader Jean Francois Bernard flatted (a day after he claimed the maillot jaune with an epic time-trial victory on Mt. Ventoux) and guess how his rival Roche responded? Having learned his lesson in Paris-Nice, Roche attacked and took the yellow jersey.

    Perhaps the change you speak of happened a long time ago.

  11. Jim

    Well put, Padraig. I judge riders by that older scale but acknowledge that not too many of them live by it. I was willing to give Contador a pass until I heard his post-race comments. So I DVR’ed the late show on Versus last night and noticed he was 15 yards back when Schleck dropped his chain. I’d have more respect for the guy if he wasn’t a weasel about it. I guess also that if it’s win at all costs, then Garmin should work pretty damn hard in the next stage to curb Cav and his train. Subtly of course, since the judges have made clear that overtly trying to harm other riders is verboten…

  12. todd k

    Good response, Robot.

    The trouble with unwritten rules is that they are unwritten. It is easy for us to exclaim that they were broken after the fact. It isn’t surprising that there is disagreement.

    When we these rules are successfully followed we should praise those that make an example of following them. They are the glorious aspects of sport. Personally I think it takes a LOT of confidence and courage to follow them. When they are employed there is so much on the line and the speed at which these events unfold and the chaos unfolds poses significant cost to making an incorrect decision. In reality I think it is often entirely accidental or simply unique when these unwritten rules are followed. It isn’t a modern phenomenon that these rules are challenged. (Example: When Hinault attacked Lemond in the 1986 tour he broke the unwritten rule that one should not attack the proclaimed team leader.)

    These unwritten rules are vague and impossible to consistently follow “in the moment”. I often only know when they have been followed only after the fact. Armstrong waiting for Ullrich in 2001 is an example. But maybe Armstrong in 2004 not waiting for Mayo after a crash in the cobbles or Armstrong taking advantage of Zulle’s bad luck in 1999 doesn’t?

    Honestly, I’m not entirely certain what it really means to “not attack the yellow jersey after a mechanical” and I am very skeptical anyone can clearly define it. It sounds simple conceptually. But there are a lot fo factors that easily make it impossibly complex. Seriously, what are the rules? Is it ok to attack the yellow jersey after a mechanical that occurs at the same time in which the yellow jersey has attacked and caused a sudden and dramatic surge that intended to produce chaos? What if only some on the GC wait, but some do not? What if everyone continues to attack if they are not certain a mechanical occurred? Do they continue the attack and then sit up as race radios confirm the mechanical? What defines a mechanical? Is it only if a manufactured component physically fails as described by warranty? Or is it any component failure regardless of cause? How does rider error factor into this and do we distinguish it from a mechanical? Should we employ race radio, replay and a jury to ascertain the correct response? Do these rules only apply to the yellow jersey and why? Should they apply to all participants or only to serious candidates? What defines a serious candidate for the GC? Do these rules apply to all stages? Or do they apply only when a stage lacks cobbles? What about if incident is influenced by weather? We are talking about mechanicals, but what about mechanicals causing crashes? Do the GC candidates pull up and wait? What about delays caused by crashes? Should GC candidates they wait? Etc, etc, etc…

    I’m skeptical that these rules can be consistently followed when the peloton has enough trouble adhering to the written rules.

  13. Doug P

    Sad to see Contador’s victory tarnished. Sad to see Andy cryin’ the blues. Neither one came off as a grownup. Oh well, they’re young, maybe they’ll grow up before our eyes, kinda like Cav seems to be doing.

  14. sophrosune

    A couple of points I would add here. First, Armstrong’s chivalrous gesture to Ulrich was when the hapless Jan was already more than 4 minutes down on Armstrong. It’s easy to be magnanimous when you’re not sacrificing anything. Second, the incidents in Stage 3 and Stage 15 are comparable. The unwritten rules, if indeed there are any, seem to indicate that you shouldn’t attack on a mechanical or a crash. While some have argued in other forums that this unwritten rule only applies to the Yellow Jersey that just seems an extremely convenient interpretation for Schleck to avoid his apparent hypocrisy.

    There’s a lot of character assassination of Contador here and other places and all of it is based on the speculation that everything Contador says in his defense is a lie. You’re really so sure, or it just satisfies you more to make that judgment?

  15. Souleur

    There are alot of issues, many of which have been mentioned, that hang in balance.

    Just how do you win, especially in taking the maillot-juane? You can do so wrongly…

    And in so doing, how do you such, respecting the hierarchy of the peloton?

    And what if you win in such a way that nobody cares? It has historically taken place in the past and met with resistance.

    But then again, as Robot said, how many chances does boy Andy get? He got a lucky pass w/his super domestique held the peloton up for him once, should everyone give him another? By what merit in and of itself does he get that? He didn’t crash.

    But then again, it is absolute BS as Padraig mentioned for AC to say ‘he didn’t know’ of the chain-gate or whatever mechanical took place. BS! Now that’s taking it to another level. Do you really think that as Vino went by, he didn’t yell to the DS ‘GO’!?! Sure he did, because he did.

    But in the end, what really matters?

    My loving wife says it best. You cannot buy class, nor style. And AC evidenced for the world he has neither in the manner for which he ripped the maillot-juane away from boy Andy, like two children that don’t play well together in the sandbox. And thats unbecoming something so grand as the maillot-juane. There are hardmen in the peloton, and as hardmen, we want an honest contest..as men. I have favored AC in the past, heck, I picked him to win this big dance but AC didn’t show maturity nor patience in this. Does anyone really think the TT would not be the determinant factor in the end and personally I think AC could have buried him on Tourmalet as well. Most tragically however, is perhaps AC’s lack of confidence in himself that he could not or would not do either. So a cheap win…is…well cheap.

    And the peloton, the peloton will not respect it, as it was disrespected. They are owed a rightful maillot-juane. They have buried themselves, most of them as domestiques for it. Listen to them, some cannot stand AC now, see Nick Roche’s comments. They are right, of all of us, they are owed more than this.

    Perhaps in the end it is a win and perhaps AC will get away with one in the history books. Perhaps only us ‘in the know’ will remember it and his countrymen will greet him warmly. But as been mentioned, only time will tell. AC has made his bed, now sleep in it my friend.

  16. marcj

    I think both Andy and Contador are great and seeing them competing has made this Tour a lot of fun to watch.

    With the benefit of hindsight Alberto might have done something different. But let’s recall that he had been doing hard tempo up that mountain for a good 20-30 minutes before Andy launched his attack, and had to then put on a massive surge of power to catch him. I can’t imagine that anyone would be thinking straight under those circumstances, and it’s cruel to think he was focused on anyone’s performance but his own. He may or may not have made anything from the fact that Andy was stalled (but NOT at a standstill) – that he’d blown himself up even. He was most likely just trying to get to the top of that mountain before anyone else. So bully for him

    And speaking as someone who’s dropped his chain more times than I care to admit: Andy goofed. No matter how fancy your drivetrain may be, you have to know that shifting under power has consequences, and you accept the risk or else you ease up a bit before you click.

  17. Robot

    @sophrosune – I, for one, don’t think Contador is lying. Even if he rode past Schleck after the chain drop, it’s asking a lot of a rider, at full gas, to look down, see what the problem with a rival’s bike is, and devise a chivalrous strategy. If I’m racing that race, I’m much more concerned about the horrible pain in my legs than the possible mechanical trouble of another rider.

  18. todd k

    One last call out…. this stuff over shadowed a pretty good ride by Voeckler yesterday…. the French have had a pretty good tour over all….

    Souleur, I thought Roche’s comments (‘I wanted to smash his head in. I couldn’t stand to be near him’) pertained to John Gadret? I may have missed others that were directed to Contador.

  19. Michael

    ugh, enough with this already. AC and AS put paid to this chapter of the race with a classy interview on French TV after coming down of the podium today.

    case closed, they are both over it. so should everyone else.

  20. Robot

    “I want to tell the public that they should not whistle (boo) at him. He’s a great rider and does not deserve that,” Schleck continued. “I shouldn’t complain. If Alberto hadn’t waited for me on the second stage (to Spa) where I crashed, I wouldn’t have been in position to fight for this yellow jersey right now.” – VeloNews


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Everyone: thanks for the passionate comments. I think this horse is sufficiently flogged, but want to add a few points.

      I simply can’t accept that a rider with as much experience as Contador has could miss Schleck’s thrown chain. The combination of slow pace, odd cadence and strange sound is so unmistakable I can pick that rider out ahead of me even in a crowded pack.

      I can’t call the situation a red herring, though. It’s true Schleck couldn’t possibly get past the time trial with his time gap at 30 seconds, but he was attacking and I think there was a very real chance he would have added to his lead. Now, the point is moot; he has lost the Tour unless he utterly rides away from the field—a la Merckx—on Thursday.

      I do believe there has been a gradual loss of the gentlemen’s agreement that results in moments like the group pee break and no attacks in the feed zone. We can dig out examples of riders attacking at all sorts of inopportune times, but those exceptions aren’t the point, the significance is found in the standards by which we measure our champions. Whether you think Contador was right to continue his counter-attack or not, as others have noted, had he sat up for a moment, had he even told the others to wait until Schleck rejoined them, he would have been hailed as a champion of champions. For me, it’s simple: I have more respect for the athlete who doesn’t have to beat a guy by hitting him when he’s down.

  21. Lachlan

    I think they are both showing some class in how they are dealing with it 24hrs after the event. Good call by both / or by their DS!

    In heat of the moment Alberto threw away a chance to win many fans and show greatness, and Andy annoyed some with his angry reaction (gotta be a first for perhaps the most placid and mild mannered champion we’ve had for a few years! – though to be clear I think he’s great on the bike!).

    Its not *likely* to swing the tour one way or the other, but it might. The Tourmalet and TT might still surprise us, who knows. But it looked bad for Contador and the sport and thats a shame for all of us…. we dont need booing of the yellow jersey on the podium. Enough said on the matter just by that crowd reaction.

  22. Souleur

    Now Andy has shown some class…

    Great way to complement something he will have one day, speaking of the maillot-juane

  23. Souleur

    correction: thanks toddk, i read through stuff too fast, don’t credit Roche as I did for saying that directly about AC

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  25. sophrosune

    I am pleased that Schleck has publicly acknowledged that if it weren’t for Cancellera and Contador’s urging to his own teammates not to force the pace on the Stage 2 crash that he would likely be 4 minutes back. But he is not all the way there yet. He also has to acknowledge that after this magnanimous gesture for his benefit he stuck the shiv in the back of the rest of the GC contenders on the following stage when exploiting a split in the pack caused by his own brother’s crash. Nobody complained or pissed and moaned because that’s racing.

    Padraig, you are no doubt an accomplished rider and I respect your opinion, however I think you should base your character assassinations on something a little more concrete than your belief that Contador did know Schleck had a chain drop after he said he did not. Others have pointed out how it’s quite possible that he didn’t realize it. It’s not as unequivocal as you make it seem.

    Just another point, in the video at the moment Contador went around Schleck on the left there was another group of riders on the right passing at nearly the same time. In the following shots you see Contador initially by himself on the climb. This is no doubt because initially he accelerated faster than the other riders in his attack. But then in the following shots he is joined by Sanchez and Menchov. Contador did slow.

  26. Lachlan

    Just to pick up on the Roche situation… that one is a real shocker! And far more clear cut than chain gate, which will always a have an unaswerable question about how quickly Conatador did / did not know about the problem.

    Can’t believe the guy could do that to Roche and ignore his DS and still have the balls to sit on the team bus / at the diner table. What a douche.

  27. sophrosune

    I would like to suggest to those who feel they have figured Contador out as a classless, lying opportunist based on their viewing of Stage 15 to have a read of Cozy Beehive’s brief biography penned last year http://cozybeehive.blogspot.com/2009/07/alberto-contador-you-may-not-know.html.

    I am not interested in the beatification of Contador or the demonization of Schleck. Honestly, I like both, but the inclination of some to so quickly not only condemn what they perceive as poor sportsmanship but to accuse Contador of some of the ugliest character flaws, just seems to me gratuitous, and really seems to reflect poorly on the accusser.

  28. Lachlan

    @ sophrosune -I get where you’re coming from… as an AC fan I spent a lot of last July trying to defend him from what I thought were over-interpretted attacks here on RKP during the whole Lance/Astana debacle.

    But you might be being a bit unfair to some. Padraig is trying much harder this year to be fair to Contador , while still giving his point of view ; + ) …only joshing Padraig, at least there’s no debate over lightweight wheels this year!!

    Overall in the discussions on this topic here (ie at RKP) I think people are being *reasonably* balanced or at least providing a good reasons (ie pointing to specific evidence in the video footage etc) for their point of view, which ever way that view goes.

    Certainly compared to comment sections on other sites, its well evidenced or backed up comment.. Velonews for example is its usual major mudslinging-fest in the comments about this one!

    Personally I see the video evidence as putting a black mark on Contador (I still totally rate him as a champion and like him, but my read on this one thing is negative). But it is definitely inconclusive, and the balance of comments here seems to represent both ways you can read the footage and the comparisons (justified or not) to earlier stages.

    It’s all good.

  29. sophrosune

    Agreed, Lachlan. But as long as were discussing social zeitgeists, it seems common now for us to take an isolated public incident and extrapolate that into a vivid interpretation of a person’s character.

    The whole incident is regrettable because by looking at how quickly Vinokurov got Schleck’s wheel, I would guess that Contador was licking his lips that finally Schleck was making his attack so he could counterattack. Not only is it likely that Contador would have and will put some time into Schleck in the TT, certainly enough to overcome the 31 deficit that was in large part due to Stage 3, but I also think Contador was poised to take advantage of Schleck’s attack. I can’t wait for tomorrow so we can see who is the stongest in the mountains.

    But, yes, Lachlan, People are entitled to their opinions, and they’re even better when they support them with rigorous arguments as is almost always the case on this blog, but I also think it fair to point out when evidence that is far from conclusive is being used to accuse anyone of lying, insulting our intelligence and being classless.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Dave C: True. Almost all of my typos are homonyms (from typing too quickly) that aren’t caught by the spell checker.

  30. Henry

    If a guy flubs a gearshift, that’s not a “mechanical” — that’s a poorly executed gearshift. It’s an easy mistake to make under duress, when attacking, on a steep mountain, when fatigued, when racing.

    Chain snapped — that’s a mechanical. Rear derailleur broke into the spokes — also mechanical. Even a flat tire might fairly be considered a mechanical.

    I wouldn’t fault a guy for racing or not racing in this situation. It looks like it was probably obvious to AC pretty quickly that AS’s chain was off. But it might not have been obvious that it was anything other than operator error rather than an equipment failure. Not sure in the heat of the race how many of those contenders (e.g., Menchov, Sanchez) would have also stopped. Not sure how to calculate these variables in the heat of the moment.

    Put me down for sportsmanship, fairplay, honor, respecting each other and the race, but as todd k noted above, sometimes it’s kinda hard to flawlessly apply a somewhat nebulous code in the midst of battle.

    Race on, gents.

  31. Paul Johnson

    What about maturity, or the lack of it. Both of these racers are pretty young and if you look through the books you find some of the past champions made poorer decisions in their immature years. Not excusing, but perhaps an explaination.

  32. SinglespeedJarv

    I hate this “tradition”. Not least because it is inconsistently applied. I see it as a form of bullying, the Patrons of the peloton over-ruling the lesser mortals.

    Stage 3: Cancellara (clearly a patron) decides out of hand to destroy any chance of Green Jersey points. What harm would there have been in letting the sprinters race out the last 10km once everyone was accounted for. Selfish bullying. Hushovd may well have lost the Greem jersey because of those actions.

    Stage 4: Padraig, I have to completely disagree with you on this one. Of course it was double standards. It wasn’t that they didn’t wait for Frank, but that when Frank went down he blocked all the other GC contenders. So if “Whining Bitch” Schlecklette expects Contador to wait every time he mis-shifts, then he should have sat-up on the Pave.

    I’ve tried to ask when this tradition was started as I can’t remember much before Armstrong. Armstrong only waited in order to massage his ego. He knew he could drop everyone when he wanted and so by waiting meant it made him look good and then he’d look good again when he dropped everyone again.

    I Don’t remember Armstong waiting for Alex Zulle and other GC riders like Boogerd, Belli & Gotti on the Passage du Gois in ’99. A notable quote from cyclingnews.com:

    “Once the crash occurred and it was realised who was being delayed by it, the teams went into action to maximise the loss.”

    Now that is proper racing. Do you think Eddy or Hinault would have waited for Schleck? They probably wouldn’t have waited for him on stage 3.

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