Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Le Tour 2010 - Stage 15 - Contador capitalises on Schleck's stuck gear. So?

Did Contador even know what happened? One moment Schleck attacked and put a gap into the others - and to my mind Alberto matched him easily and drew up to his rear wheel. But as Andy went for another gear I presume the chain got stuck between cogs, locking the back wheel solid. Schleck's momentum rotated the bike's rear-end upwards - the point where he could have fallen - but he stopped safely, all chain tension gone as the chain fell off the chainring. He fixed the chainring issue but then realised he had to fix the chain wrap too. It took time and his helpers - his teammates - were absent - they had burned themselves out on the climb. Alberto and the others just carried on - afterall they may not have known what had happened anyway. Being a bike race, they carried on with the momentum that Schleck's attack had generated.

I guess if Contador had known that it wasn't just bad bike handling - in other words a good 'ol hamfisted power-on gearchange - then he should have waited. If he had known it was a true "mechanical" - a breakage - or even a fall - then I suspect he would have waited. But it happened suddenly and the cause wasn't obvious, although someone in the bunch should have seen it clearly enough, even if Contador didn't. Even after numerous replays I still don't exactly know what happened, but assume that it was caused by pedalling during a gearchange, possibly made worse by a stuck chain link, a broken cog or something similar. In any event the problem didn't seem to recur - so he either worked around it from there or there never was a real problem - other than "rider error". It's not the first time a bike race has turned on a mechanical, but it's rarer in these "softer" days of STI-style click-click-click gear changing. (Bring back friction shifting and the fine art of getting the gear "just so" I say.)

Personally I wouldn't have waited if I thought he'd just stuffed up his gearchange. That's part of racing - we have to get it right, even gearchanging. If it was obviously a mechanical issue - and I was aware of it - then I would seriously have considered waiting. But if everyone else continued racing I'd join in - I may say something about it, but I'd go with the majority. After all, it's not as if Schleck had seemingly ridden off a cliff like Ullrich had done a few years ago!

Menchov Focused On Contador, Didn't Know About Schleck | Cyclingnews.com
On Monday afternoon three men took profit from the mechanical of Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) on the Port de Balès: Alberto Contador (Astana), who took over the yellow jersey, was the primary beneficiary but the third and fourth-placed riders on general classification, Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank) respectively, also reduced their time gap to Schleck.

Menchov responded to the attack from Contador and said that he was focusing on following the Spaniard, rather than checking out what was going on with Schleck. "I can't explain [what happened with Schleck] because I didn't see what happened. We know that Alberto and Andy play with each other. We have to follow one of them. I saw the reaction of Contador and I thought it was decisive, so I tried to follow him," Menchov said.
Menchov Focused On Contador, Didn't Know About Schleck | Cyclingnews.com
When asked if he felt that what Contador did was fair play or not Menchov passed on the question to the Spaniard. "I don't know. You'll have to ask him. The question [what to do with Schleck] didn't come up in me [during the race]," Menchov said.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
The precedent that is most relevant, in fact, is the 2003 crash of Lance Armstrong. Lance was in the yellow jersey, Jan Ullrich was 15 seconds behind Armstrong in the overall classification, and the crash happened in the heat of the racing on the final mountain of the stage. Today Contador was 31 seconds behind Schleck, who was in the yellow jersey, and although it wasn’t a summit finish, they were on the final mountain of the stage and in the heat of the race. In 2003, the lead group – including Ullrich – appeared to wait, at least for a little while. This year, Contador didn’t wait – but neither did Sammy Sanchez or Denis Menchov.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
When do you decide to wait for a rider who has a mechanical or a flat tire, and when is it “acceptable” to press on? Does it matter if the flat tire or the mechanical problem was the result of the rider’s choice (poor time to shift, ran into a pothole, jumped a curb, etc.) or out of their control?

There are precendents on this side of the argument as well. In 1999 there was a crash on the Passage du Gois that split the peloton. Alex Zulle lost six minutes to Lance Armstrong, who was in the front group. Lance Armstrong was certainly a yellow jersey contender this year during Stage 3, but he got a flat tire at a crucial part of the race on the cobblestones, and no one waited. He crashed on Stage 8 in a roundabout, no one waited. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that there are more examples of the race pressing on after a mishap involving a race favorite – in stage races and one-day races – than there are examples of the race waiting for a favorite to rejoin the lead group. It’s a race, not a tea party, and not a popularity contest. It sucks when you’re the one who falls or has an ill-timed mechanical, but that’s the way it goes. There will be another time when someone’s ill-timed crash or mechanical plays a role in allowing you to win.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
if I had to make a decision today I would say that it would have been nice to see Contador wait for Schleck, but I don’t think he was obligated to. The decision to press on, however, may well haunt Contador later in this race or in the future.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
The twenty or so seconds it took Schleck to remount his chain set up a no holds barred chase and duel to the finish, as both Contador and Schleck drove the pace in their respective groups, and overshadowed what would have otherwise been a big story in itself – French Champ Thomas Voeckler’s solo win on this brutal day. The gritty former Yellow jersey emerged from the day’s escape as last man standing – attacking his break mates midway up the final climb, and soloing to an inspired victory.
Procycling's Daily Tour De France Dispatch - Stage 15 | Cyclingnews.com
Astana directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli in Bagnères de Luchon: "The most important thing for me is to have a clear conscience and I have that tonight. I didn't tell him to wait, that's for sure..."

Good news, Alberto - you don't even have to tell us your radio wasn't working this time...
Riis Preaches Calm In Aftermath Of Schleck's Disappointment | Cyclingnews.com
To the thorny question of whether Contador should have waited for Schleck as he attempted to fix his chain, Riis shrugged again. “I would have hoped he would have waited, and I think I would have waited... I think he did wait at the beginning but then it was a while before Andy was on the bike again.

“I don’t know. Was it possible for Contador to wait in that situation, with [Samuel] Sanchez [Euskaltel] and [Denis] Menchov [Rabobank] attacking? He has to follow those guys, for sure. He might not need to pull [with them] or attack, but he has to follow those guys.
SBS: Tour de France 2010: Contador waves off controversy
Schleck had taken a 30-metre lead on Contador but just as the Spaniard began his counter move Schleck came suddenly to a halt. By the time Contador had closed the gap and passed the Luxemburger, Schleck was off his bike and screaming in frustration.

With Schleck left on his own to fix his mechanical problem, Contador raced ahead with Russian Denis Menchov and Spaniard Samuel Sanchez to crest the summit just over 20sec in front of the stricken Luxemburger.
SBS: Tour de France 2010: Contador waves off controversy
However the Luxemburger has a short memory, according to Contador.

The Tour de France champion was among the riders and teams who went beyond gentlemenly fair-play and waited for Schleck and his brother Frank after both were among the multiple crash victims on the rain-hit stage two to Spa.

But the Spaniard went further. Playing down Schleck's setback - which to most experts is simply part and parcel of racing - he said that he has race to win.
SBS: Tour de France 2010: Schleck's complaints given short shrift
Bruyneel said the real issue was whether Contador knew Schleck had encountered a problem and deliberately tried to benefit, a suggestion the Spaniard refuted.

When Jan Ullrich crashed in 2001 Armstrong waited for his German rival, who returned the favour in 2003 when Armstrong crashed, along with Spaniard Iban Mayo, on the climb to Luz Ardiden in the Pyrenees.

But Bruyneel was quick to remind Schleck that when the race is really on, you don't wait around for stricken rivals.

"The question is whether Contador was counter-attacking or just took advantage of a mechanical (problem)," said Bruyneel.

"In the heat of the race and in the final... you can't say to Contador, 'Hey, wait for Andy'. Andy didn't wait for Contador on the cobblestones (stage three) either, I guess.