CONTADOR IN YELLOW AFTER SNUB
Schleck stops to fix chain, but Contador doesn’t yield to tour etiquette, seizes lead
‘My belly is so full of anger right now. I’m going to want to get my revenge.’ Andy Schleck, former overall leader until Alberto Contador broke tour etiquette and seized the lead
BAGNERES-DE-LUCHON, France — There was a smattering of boos and whistles on Monday as Alberto Contador — the defending Tour de France champion — stepped onto the podium to accept the leader’s yellow jersey for the first time this month.
Contador, who finished seventh in Monday’s 15th stage, was able to erase what had been a 31-second deficit to previous overall leader Andy Schleck. But he did so in a controversial way, snubbing an unwritten rule of tour etiquette that states no one attacks the yellow jersey when that rider is in trouble.
With about two miles left in Monday’s final climb — a beyond-category ascent of the Port de Bales in the Pyrenees — Schleck accelerated, and Contador immediately followed. But just as quickly, Schleck pulled up.
Schleck’s chain had gotten caught as he tried to switch to a bigger gear. He was forced to stop and fix the chain, which took him about 50 seconds.
Contador, along with Denis Menchov and Sammy Sanchez, churned on, never paused as they crossed the top, then descended the 12 miles to the finish.
“My belly is so full of anger right now,” Schleck said. “I’m Alberto Contador puts on the yellow jersey of the leader after the 15th stage of the Tour de France. Monday’s stage covered 116.5 miles.
Continued from C1 going to want to get my revenge.”
Contador said afterward that he was unaware Schleck had a mechanical problem.
“I understand he is disappointed,” said Contador, a two-time champion. “When it happened, I was on the attack. What is important is I gained time today. … The goal is still Paris.”
Schleck’s opportunity for revenge could come today, when the riders encounter the first of two Tour climbs this week of the Tourmalet, the most revered summit in the Pyrenees.
Contador will be trying to protect his eight-second lead over Schleck, who had led the race for the past week.
French favorite Thomas Voeckler won Monday’s stage, but was several kilometers up the route when Schleck suffered his problem.
Cycling is a tradition-rich sport. One longtime tradition is that no rider wants to benefit when the wearer of yellow is injured or suffering a problem with his bike.
The last instance of riders significantly slowing their pace came in 2003, when Lance Armstrong crashed on a stage to Luz Ardiden. After righting himself, Armstrong slipped again because of a problem with his bike.
Tyler Hamilton, an Armstrong teammate, sprinted to the front of the lead group and made sure the riders, including top challenger Jan Ullrich, slowed down.
Armstrong, while wearing yellow, has even waited on contenders. In 2001, he made sure Ullrich — his top threat that year — was OK when Ullrich crashed on a mountain.
Armstrong, who finished 23rd on Monday, said he wanted to see video of what happened with Schleck and Contador.
“It definitely was questionable,” Armstrong said. Contador “saw that Andy had an issue and he gassed it. I guess the only issue is Andy had started the attack, so it was ‘game on,’ I suppose.”
Schleck “never came back and lost the jersey — that’s a shame,” Armstrong added.
Earlier in this year’s race, Fabian Cancellara, who was wearing yellow, ordered riders to slow down as more than half the peloton suffered crashes on a rain-soaked road outside of Spa, Belgium. Schleck, who is a teammate of Cancellara, bloodied both elbows in a crash. Contador was one of the riders to slow down.
There have been instances when etiquette was ignored, too.
In 1971, race leader Eddy Merckx suffered a flat tire on the first stage in the Alps, yet was attacked by four challengers. Merckx lost nearly nine minutes that day, but benefited later in the Tour when race leader Luis Ocana crashed out of the race. Merckx declined to wear the yellow jersey the day after Ocana’s injury because he didn’t believe he had earned the right to wear it.
Bjarne Riis, a former Tour champion and Schleck’s team director, said Contador didn’t follow race traditions Monday.
“He should not have done that,” Riis said of Contador. Schleck agreed. “Everybody can see for themselves what happened,” Schleck said. “I wouldn’t have done it myself.”
Alberto Contador of Spain, at left in blue, closely trails leader Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, right, during a climb toward the Port de Bales pass on Monday. Contador would charge past Schleck with two miles left in the climb.
The pack climbs toward the Port de Bales pass during the 15th stage of the Tour de France on Monday. Today, the Tour tackles the Tourmalet, the most revered summit in the Pyrenees. Check out photos and more coverage with this story online at statesman. com/go/tourdefrance.