Schleck suffers mechanical failure, Frenchman wins stage
When Alberto Contador slipped on the yellow jersey at the end of Stage 15 in the Tour de France, spectators booed and hissed. Contador moved into first place over Schleck by eight seconds after Schleck dropped his chain on the climb up the Port de Balés, at 100 miles into a 116-mile race. Schleck attacked shortly before the summit and put a substantial gap between himself, Contador and other main rivals such as Denis Menchov and Sammy Sanchez . It appeared that Schleck was going to drop them all. But then the morning’s yellow-jersey leader looked down at his bike and stopped pedaling. Contador passed him and the rest followed. Schleck was left alone in a world of panic. He jumped off his bike, fixed his chain and tried to catch up. By the time Contador’s group was over the top of the mountain, they were fifteen seconds ahead of Schleck. Contador was now racing downhill with some of the world’s best descenders. Schleck was on his own, taking risks on dangerous turns in an effort to keep his now dwindling 16-second advantage over Contador. But his effort failed. Was Contador right to take advantage of Schleck’s misfortune? Should he have waited for Schleck?
“It’s not up to me to decide if it was fair… but I wouldn’t have raced like that,” said an upset Schleck after the race.
The battle for the yellow jersey overshadowed what was happening two minutes up the road. Thomas Voeckler, the French national cycling champion wearing red, white and blue, won the stage into Bagnères-de-Luchon. Chapeau, Voeckler!
In a post-race interview, Contador said he didn’t realize Schleck had a mechanical problem. But he rode right past Schleck, who had stopped to fix his chain. How could he not see that? One wonders if “The Pistol” is feeling a bit guilty. But most riders would have done the same and charged ahead. After all, bike problems are part of bike racing.
Schleck is determined to get revenge. He fell in love with the maillot jaune, which he wore for the past six days. Tuesday’s stage into Pau passes over four difficult mountains. Schleck is certainly going to pull the punches here. He has no choice.
It’s a stage we cannot miss.