Schleck Attack Sequence

What should or should not have happened following Andy Schleck’s chain-throwing attack has been sufficiently argued and discussed and even apologized for. I don’t wish for it to be discussed any further here. That said, John Pierce sent me a sequence of photos he was able to capture in the seconds following the race’s now most infamous attack.

In and of themselves, the photos are fascinating. Will they or should they change your mind in any way? Let’s hope not; but for those of us who like to dissect things, these images freeze a race-changing event.

I’ve uploaded the full-size images so you can see them in rich glory.

Images: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. Richard Irvine

    I just love the spectator in the white shirt – imagine having what could be the Tour’s defining moment happen right in front of you! On the video you can see him offering advice on putting the chain back on, and giving Andy a helpful push to get him underway.

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  3. Gary

    It looks like Andy tried to “shift” the chain back on the chainwheel with the front derailleur. This sometimes works, but when it didn’t, he should have immediatly gotten off the bike to fix it. It seemed like he was too relaxed about it.

  4. Pascal

    Notice how many racers seem to be smiling at Andy’s misfortune.
    A little Schadenfreuden perhaps? Maybe some of the elder/wiser riders are a little jealous of young Schleckie and are smiling because of the timing of the mishap? Sometimes I think the TdF is scripted. This is right out of WWF.

  5. Weber

    Nice photo sequence. How helpful would it be to have time code on this sequence. This happened quickly didn’t it?

    Note to self: chain catcher totally good idea.

    Note to Team Saxo Bank: borrow a few K-Edge chain catchers from Garmin-Transitions.

  6. Champs

    I was really pulling for “Ändy” so I don’t delight in this at all, but it was his mistake, and he paid for it. As Ryder Hesjedal put it: “If you draw your sword and you drop it, you die.” Those are pearls of Canuck wisdom.

    As for the drama, every Tour’s got it. This year it’s bolstered by the absence of a selective ITT so far. Had there been one after the Alps, I don’t know if the top five would have a different composition, but it would definitely have a different shape.

  7. Jim

    It’s not that Contador attacked when he did – I didn’t like that but not every champ can have that special bullfighter’s grace and go for a clean kill. It’s that he told an implausible lie after the race about not having a clue that Schleck had dropped the chain. That signaled to me that he felt some guilt at having done something perhaps not really worthy of a great champion.

  8. xoffender

    don’t think those are smiles, more like grimaces.

    all the other riders are attacking schleck, not just contador. when i see a rider in front of me and his head is hanging down, my thought is that he’s popped. in fact the riders van den brouck, sanchez, menchov, sastre, etc have more time to realize what’s going on and certainly saw the problem. i don’t think contador had time to analyze what was going on, he was just gunning it. great images and i like that i was able to enlarge them

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  10. Lachlan

    Nice sequence. Confirms some of the basics I think.
    Then its down to each of our judgement on fairplay / greatness / its-part-of-racing pov.

    Still as a Contador fan, this confirms my feeling that I’m disappointed in him on that occassion, and would have liked him to step up… not step on the gas.

    @Weber… Andy DID have a chain catcher on… elsewhere hires photos confirm it, as did his mechanic, BUT the catcher got bent by the force of the event. Just goes to show there’s no such thing as fool proof I guess.

  11. Sophrosune

    I guess there are those who have the opinion that Contador is lying, and they are likely to be unswayed, and still others who immediately accepted the judgment of Paul Sherwen when he called Contador classless almost immediately. But truth be told, Contador was never going to win the hearts of those cycling fans, so there’s little Contador could have done in this race that would have won their affection short of giving Schleck a 5-minute headstart. Oops…he did that, but you get the idea.

    So, okay there are those who will always dislike Contador for this and use this as another excuse to deny him his full credit for winning a TdF, if indeed he wins. But it’s all moot. The race is on and may the best man win. I just hope we don’t have to give Andy Schleck another do-over for that to happen.

  12. Hank

    I think in this instance Contador did not have to give quarter by any rule written or unwriiten. Schleck was isolated from his team and made a critical error while initiating an attack. 2 failings that together will and should cost you. However having said that the high ground would be a champion in circumstances like this that neither asks nor expects quarter but gives it, even when not required.

    By that measure both riders fell short. I think it’s likely something, that being decent guys who respect each other, both AS and AC aspire to. So no surprise that they have sorted this out and moved on.

    As to the reaction online and in the media. I think if the shoe had been on the other foot the reaction would have been different. The dropped chain and lack of team support would have been proof of Contador’s mental and tactical inferiority. A storyline that has been pushed since last years Tour with zero basis in reality.

  13. Souleur

    After reading more, and as Lachlan says, there was a chain-catcher on, makes me wonder about the mechanic wrenching on this bike. What would make a bike flex that much, that regularly to make a PRO mechanic put on a chain catcher on due to apparently regular chain throws? Zinn makes a pretty thorough assessment of it, but I still scratch my head and wonder what is going down. Many have questioned a frame crack or micro-crack or something of the sort, but I differ.

    Nonetheless, its all water under the bridge now.

    Beautiful photo’s and absolute swiss precise timing in sequence.

    I agree, what great luck also for the fan to be right there when it went down.

    I also, for one, am glad to see Andy and Contador make up. We can speculate everything on the side, but I am glad to see it. The apology is what it is, and Andy accepted it. Enough said by me. I hope they maintain a friendship into the future.

  14. Alex

    I was right there, less than one hundred meters above this scene!!! It was amazing, I saw it happening but from the distance I couldn´t tell what was going on. So I assumed that Andy was suffering and/or Contador was attacking.

    Only after they passed us someone who was with this guy came up and told our group what happened with Andy´s chain. Appreantly he was on 39-something and the chain slack caused the problem. When Andy came up he was chasing like crazy.

    Contador passed us flying, climbing out of the seat and I must confess I got impressed by his style. I´ve seen him climbing and attacking on TV many times but right there, at this moment and only 3 feet away was glorious. Andy is a skinny little goat of a climber but AC exudes power and souplésse on the hills. And that was one tough, tough one!!!

    I felt like he could sprint Menchov easily to the top. He´s a monster.

  15. redcliffs

    The most important of these photos for me is the 7th — Vino has gone by and he gets on his radio. Contador knew, Vino just told him and the entire team.

    As for Contador following attacks, as others have said, we can clearly see that Menchov, Sanchez and the rest were first following AC’s attack.

    @ Souleur — I think many pro bikes now run chain catchers, but in any case, SRAMs Achilles heel is definitely the front derailleur; not only is throwing a chain fairly easy, I’ve also done what Zinn describes *and* thrown a chain off the rear derailleur lower pulley in the process — in other words, in my experience, throwing a SRAM chain can jam up the works much worse than any Shimano system I’ve ever ridden.

  16. redcliffs

    @ Robot,

    If it was a gift, I’d say yes, but what makes you say it was a gift? Did you see strength that suggested Contador could have come around and didn’t, or do you feel that there was just no sprint and it was therefore an agreed upon finish?

  17. Sophrosune

    I know this is somewhat off topic, but what happened to the support from RadioShack for their GC leader? Looks like Armstrong left little ole Leipheimer to fend for himself with only the help of Paulinho. At least they have Horner in the Top 10 and there’s always the highly prestigious team classification. BTW: No kudos for Contador slowing down his team after Sanchez’s crash. They even had to let the recalitrant Sastre go on his hopeless breakaway.

  18. Robot

    @red cliffs – No sprint. He didn’t even try. Whether they discussed it or not, it was a gesture. A guy like Contador doesn’t let a stage win go for nothing. If almost anyone else had been there, I think he would have sprinted.

  19. Robot

    Put another way, stage wins, for a GC beast like Contador, are like currency. Some he’ll want to put in his pocket. Others he’ll want to trade for future considerations, perhaps a water bottle at an opportune moment, or some support on a tough stage. I think he traded this one for Schleck’s defense and forgiveness.

  20. Doug P

    I saw the video. And the photos. Several times. It’s not real clear, and one can draw whatever conclusions from that video one wants. BUT- I don’t believe in ‘second guessing’ cops, fireman, soldiers, or bike racers from my armchair! If Alberto says he didn’t know, I believe him! My observation is that those who ALREADY didn’t like him will disbelieve, and those who like him will believe what he said. Just human nature I guess. No surprises there.

  21. mark

    The yellow bikes are annoying, garish, and, evidently, temperamental. I recall Fabian’s requiring some tweaking mid-stage in a previous edition. I have no idea whether the quick setup of the yellow frame had anything to do with the incident, but why not continue riding your primary bike just to avoid looking like a clown, if nothing else?

  22. Souleur

    @sophosrune: I have been disappointed da shack. After Lance hit the deck, did the shack just hang it up and tell Levi to ride solo…

    it appears that way, and he has done stellar for himself

  23. Souleur

    @ redcliff: thanks, thats good to know

    I have never deserved an SRM, so i ‘just ride more’ as Eddy says.

    Your observation makes sense. Thanks

  24. Souleur

    @ robot: i think Contador gifted the stage as concession

    Everyone better be watching Andy for next year. Andy exposed Contador twice as much as Lance or Rassmussen ever did IMHO

  25. Everett

    Thanks for the pics. The third one is the best, he caught the wheel hop!

    But what amazed me was how shleck blasted through the field when he did get the chain back on. and no one else could help him catch back on. You can see everyone is gassed (LA especially) in the first photo.

  26. Lachlan

    Ah dear Andy – you showed some great power again today, but alberto was never troubled…

    You’re now at or slightly above Albertos climbing ability…. for next year gotta work on the jump and the time trialling!!!

    But two truly great tour riders in action today. Gotta love it.

  27. Touriste-Routier

    AC had good cause to ride defensively today, so essentially AS was screwed since he wasn’t able to drop him. The defensive tact was made even more relevant with how readily AS responded to AC’s one big attack; if AC went again, and AS was able to respond, there surely would have a counter, so why risk it? In the last 2k with all the fans choking the road, it would have been very difficult to make an attack from either the front or the back.

    Call the stage victory a gift, an apology, or whatever, AS led the whole way, so he deserved it, in addition to the fact that AC would have been vilified again by many if he sprinted. Regardless, a decent gesture by AS, as a GC win w/o a road stage victory is most reviewed as hollow (assuming of course he is still ahead after the TT).

  28. MCH

    One more comment on the did he or didn’t he know topic: In my experience when riding/racing in a pack at speed, when someone drops a chain everyone knows. The sound of the chain grinding and slapping around is unmistakable. The rider suddenly slowing and swerving around to maintain balance can’t be missed. Is my experience the same as being on the rivet at the top of a TdF pass? Not even close. The point is that any racer has seen this enough times to know exactly what it is, regardless of the level of oxygen debt. He knew.

  29. Doug P

    You’re right Souleur, it was sad to see Levi finish the Tour basically alone. Proof for me at least that Radio Shack exist(ed!)only as a Laance vehicle. And that Laance would NEVER help a teammate in the TDF.

    1. Author

      Everyone: Thanks for all the comments. Every time I think I need to chime in with a thought, someone else makes exactly the point on my mind, especially what MCH had to say.

  30. Dan O

    I think Contador saw what happened – he obviously rode around Schleck as he was slowing down and looking at his chain. Come on! These dudes live on their bikes, they can tell when a chain derails.

    In any case, Andy telling the press he was over it, accepting the apology, and telling the press to lay off Contador was a class act. I didn’t know a whole lot about Schleck until this Tour. I’m now a fan.

    After today’s stage – awesome – I think all is forgotten. Overall, this has been a great Tour so far – for the fans anyway.

  31. SinglespeedJarv

    I’m happy to agree with Sophrosune for a change, some people just aren’t going to like Bertie.

    It falls like this:
    Schleck attacked
    Contador countered him
    Schleck drops his chain
    Contador rides past him.

    It’s race, get over it. Most of the peloton seemed to agree wit that sentiment.

    The risk all this “unwritten rules” stuff brings is that races will be neutralised on a whim. As Sastre pointed out, he had problems and no-one waited for him.

    Bertie didn’t attack, he was countering Schlecklette’s attack. Invisible Denis and Sami the Salmon rode up to Bertie, at that point he had to at least follow wheels to defend his postion.

  32. Sophrosune

    At first, it seemed as though people were outraged that Contador had broken an unwritten rule of cycling, but then when it became increasingly apparent that all the old Tour winners saw no problem with it, current rivals started sounding like Sun Tzu and still others who were fed up with the moaning, the argument became more about Contador saying he didn’t know what Schleck’s problem was and only after he was past him realized he had some sort of mechanical.

    This was unequivocally pointed out as a lie. Evidence was provided of riding in packs where people dropped chains (even though they weren’t in a pack at the time but Schleck was 10 meters up the road) or the photo showing Vinokurov talking into his two-way (even though he’s speaking at the very moment Contador is passing Schleck). Even Contador’s apology was either forgotten in order to highlight Schleck forgiveness or used as evidence that he was lying initially (why apologize when he didn’t do anything wrong?).

    My simple point here is that there is enough evidence to counter the evidence provided that he’s lying. You still may want to make a judgment that Contador was lying. That is your perogative. But it is still arbitrary and not any more concrete than that he is telling the truth when he said he wasn’t sure what Schleck’s problem was. My final point is that are those who are inclined to make that judgment that Contador is lying based on there’s previous feelings of him, i.e. he didn’t follow team orders last year (which was what? Let Armstrong win?).

    Contador was never going to turn those people around. Just look at the fact that he let the Schleck brothers catch up more than 4 minutes in Stage 2 or he didn’t piss and moan when he was caught up behind a crash that allowed Schleck to gain over a minute on him. I understand it’s hopeless to ever turn people’s opinions around about Contador, but unequivocal statements like, “He knew” are better framed as “I think he knew.”

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