Bagneres de Luchon: It might have appeared terribly unjust, but Alberto Contador’s pilfering of the yellow jersey after Tour de France rival Andy Schleck suffered a mechanical failure was all too familiar for cycling’s old guard.
Saxo Bank rider Schleck attacked defending champion Contador in the ascent to the Port de Bales, but a chain slip allowed the Spaniard to gain 39 seconds and take an eight-second lead after Monday’s 187.5-km 15th stage.
“I cannot change the situation even if I’m mad,” Schleck told reporters. “Of course I wouldn’t have minded to throw my bike into the fence and just hit someone but you’ve got to keep yourself under control in situations like this.”
Crashes and mechanical failures have been part of Tour folklore as early as 1919, when yellow jersey-holder Eugene Christophe lost the Tour to Belgian Firmin Lambot after being robbed of some 70 minutes due to a broken bike.
The same Christophe all but lost the Tour six years earlier, when riding second overall, he was forced to repair his bike on his own in a local forge not far from where Luxembourg’s Schleck saw his chain fall off.
Schleck said Contador and other riders who profited from his misfortune would not win any “fair play prize” on offer, but former riders were quick to bring him back down to earth.
“At my time, when others had mechanical problems, we would just attack,” said Laurent Fignon, a Tour winner in 1983 and 1984.
“In the heat of the race and in the finale, you can’t say to Contador -- ‘hey, wait for Andy’,” added former Belgian professional rider Johan Bruyneel, who groomed Contador to his first two tour triumphs.
“Andy didn’t wait for Contador on the cobblestones either, I guess.”
In the third stage, Schleck took advantage of his brother Frank’s crash to go off in the wheel of team mate Fabian Cancellara and Contador lost over a minute in the process.
Frenchman Jean-Francois Bernard, third in the 1987 Tour de France, was even harsher.
“I would have given Contador a rollicking if he had waited for Schleck. That’s the race,” said Bernard, a pundit for daily L’Equipe’s website.