TdF 2010, Stage 15, fear and respect

2010-07-19, , , Comments

Yesterday I wrote about the failures and disappointments which made the opening week of this year’s tour so compelling, and complained that the action had dropped when it should have peaked, in the mountains. Having shaken off the field, Contador and Schleck seemed unable to get to grips with each other. That all changed on stage 15, though again failure and disappointment underpinned the racing. Schleck sprang away from the elite climbers on the Port de Balès, with Contador in hot pursuit. Schleck’s chain came off but the momentum of his attack continued — now carried by Contador and a few other elite riders.

We’ve already seen Schleck doesn’t have the team support Contador does; but he looked cruelly exposed on that mountain road, struggling to re-fit his chain. It took a couple of goes. He had to fend off a motorbike. He needed help from a couple of spectators to shove him back on course. By then, the leader on the road was Contador.

At last we were treated to the sight of Schleck racing uphill. He tore up the road. He nearly caught Contador, but the Spaniard was lucky to be in the perfect group for a super-fast descent. At the end of that descent, the end of the stage, Contador had the yellow jersey.

Schleck was furious. He is furious. I think he’s also wiped out, physically and emotionally. Anger fuelled his final climb up the Balès but a tankful of anger won’t get take over the Tourmalet.

In an interview afterwards Contador was asked if he was afraid of Schleck. Fear? No, he said. Respect, yes. Contador lost a lot of respect for attacking when the race leader suffered a mechanical failure. Maybe even self-respect. He was jeered on the podium. He toughed it out with the press, claiming he hadn’t known about Schleck’s chain falling off. Later on, from his hotel room, he posted a public apology on YouTube.

What if Schleck’s chain hadn’t come off? I think Contador would have caught him. Schleck was already looking back to see who was where. He needed to face forwards and give it everything. I also thought Contador would attack on the final Pyrenean stage. He’s been holding something back. I thought that he was too classy to accept winning the Tour by beating the clock in a time trial.

Now I’m not so sure he would have attacked, when defence and a decent time-trial would have sufficed. He will attack, if only to regain some respect. Sadly, I doubt Schleck has enough left.