Perhaps the only thing stronger than Alberto Contador’s attack as Andy Schleck had a mechanical was the reaction among riders, directors and fans.
Only seconds after watching Contador speed away from Schleck in the final kilometers of the HC Port de Balès climb on stage 15, pro riders who weren’t in the race began Tweeting away, and the controversy on the ground ignited soon after. Reactions in the Tour finish town of Bagneres-de-Luchon, and in the Twittersphere, were mixed.
“Off the record? That’s bullshit,” one former Tour rider said in between team buses.
Others were sympathetic to Contador, saying that it was fair racing considering the circumstances.
Many pundits were quick to point to past instances of Tour contenders waiting for one another, including Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich. But on Monday Armstrong said the two famous incidents between himself and Ullrich were perhaps different. In 2003, Ullrich and others waited for Armstrong after a fan’s musette bag caught his handlebars.
“In 2001 I waited for Ullrich when he went down off the road,” Armstrong said immediately after stage 15. “But maybe this is different, because this was the last climb of the race, and it was really on. I don’t want to make a hard judgment without seeing the images.”
Only a few pedal strokes after launching an attack, Schleck suffered trouble with his chain, and had to stop and dismount to fix it. Almost simultaneously, Contador — who had just regained Schleck’s wheel — launched an attack of his own. Denis Menchov and Samuel Sanchez were the next to zoom up the road. Schleck chased in vain, and ultimately lost 39 seconds and thus the yellow jersey to Contador.
Schleck’s Saxo Bank director Bjarne Riis was discouraged after the finish.
“It’s hard to say. I didn’t really see what happened,” he said. “If Contador waits, the other guys have to wait, too. He needs to follow, of course. It’s a shitty situation.”
Contador’s Astana teammate Alexander Vinokourov said that after Schleck attacked, “everybody was 100 percent.”
“When everyone is going 100 percent in the final, if Alberto waited, the others, Menchov and Sanchez, would keep going, just like they did yesterday,” Vinokourov said. “It’s not really possible to wait.”
Cervélo team owner Gerard Vroomen had this to say on Twitter: “Contador just gained a great chance to win, but he lost the chance to win greatly.”
Team Sky’s Greg Henderson had a different take: “Playing prison rules cycling today at the tdf.”
And Garmin-Transitions’ Robbie Hunter, who dropped out of the 2010 Tour with a broken arm, said this on Twitter: “If Contador had waited he would have won the heart of the world. Like this he got a yellow jersey on his back, but it’s always gonna be a (question mark).”
Armstrong was behind the Contador/Schleck group on the road and did not see the incident. “I need to see the images,” he said after the stage. “But Alberto saw that Andy was having a mechanical, and he took advantage of it, that’s not correct.”
-Neal Rogers contributed to this report.