Contador takes yellow, re-interprets unwritten rule.

Not smiling no more.

Alberto Contador took a chain whip to Andy Schleck, thrashed him on the Port de Balès and stole his yellow jersey.

Did the Spaniard break one of those unwritten laws of cycling that says you don’t attack when your adversary has a mechanical? Yes and no.

First, the unwritten part makes interpretation of said rule pretty loose. Guilt and innocence, judge and jury, those are things based on laws on the books.

If Andy Schleck wants to pay the printing costs, the ProTour Code on Conduct, first edition, specifically the section dealing with Attacking during Mechanicals would be extremely relevant.

No, we’re dealing with the primitive oral tradition and yeah, one man’s mechanical is another man’s yellow jersey and trip to Paris as king of cycling. Alberto Contador decided Schleck was dangerous enough to ignore the oral prohibition and deliver what might be a knock out punch.

We’re also dealing with not one, but three controversial interpretations of the unwritten rule. Samuel Sanchez (Euskatel-Euskadi) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank) both fighting for third place, also decided Andy Schleck’s problem wasn’t their problem.

There’s also the possibility that all three riders decided there was no Schleck mechanical. According to them, Schleck suddenly bonked hard or stopped to take some scenic photos. Chain, what chain?

One of the charms of professional cycling it the old school gentlemen’s agreements. A code of honor that says you don’t take advantage of someone’s slipped chain or full bladder. It’s the opposite of the American phrase, winning ugly. It’s a sport with leftover chivalry, a bygone idea that there’s a correct and beautiful way to win.

“It’s not up to me to decide if it was fair or not, but I wouldn’t have raced like that,” said a furious Schleck after the finish. “My belly is so full of anger right now … I’m going to want to get my revenge.”

There’s the nutshell right there: who does decide? No book, no judge, no decision. Just a guy who might have lost the tour. There’s a score to settle but revenge is running out of mountain.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email
  • Suze

    If the teams (including Astana) hadn’t played the Gentleman’s Agreement on the road to Spa, Schleck’s Tour would have been finished over a week ago.

    The real question – since from the replay it’s quite clear that Contador had already launched his counter to Schleck’s attack – is whether Schleck dropped his chain because of a mechanical fault or because, as Stephen Roche was quick to point out, he made a poor decision in his choice of gear and the problem was a direct result of his own incompetence.

    If it was a genuine mechanical then AC should have slowed, if a case of ‘user error’ then he had every right to persist in his attack. And who would/could judge in that situation?

    • Suze, a fair comment. I see your point. Matt

  • Alex Simon

    I think it’s one of those Karmic (is that a word) things. Nothing stops you attacking an adversary with a mechanical (the Yellow Jersey no less), but there will probably be repercussions as nobody else would ever want to be in that situation.

    The argument from Stephen Roach on Eurosport was that it wasn’t a mechanical of the random kind – Andy was wrong to attempt a small to big ring change when he was in the small cassette cog and under full gas. I can see some of that. But then I don’t see how Contador would have known either way.

    • Alex, with some hindsight and 24 hours to calm down, I can see Contador’s situation. Can’t let Menchov and Sanchez go up the road and also he’s kinda assuming Andy will catch on in the descent even though Andy is a crappy downhiller. The heat of the moment argument is acceptable given that in general Contador has shown he’s not the kind fo guy to win ugly. Matt

  • Jorge

    Cycling has one great rule that separates it from many sports. Unfortunately, Contador, Sánchez and Menchov broke it today. The next two mountain stages will be interesting to watch for sure.

  • robert

    I would have booed Contador, too; that is not a victory I would relish. Nor can you spread the blame around- Contador attacked and continued to attack after Andy dropped his chain, Sanchez and Menchov had to match Contador's move.

  • Richard Foley

    “I can’t sleep, i’m just too pissed off at Contador, Menchov and Sanchez for attacking Andy Schleck, who was wearing the yellow jersey, when he dropped his chain. You three suck. There is something called respect and sportsmanship. You guys don’t have any. ” This is what i posted on my Facebook account this morning. It’s how i feel. Funny how people are really split on this. it’s almost 50/50. Myself, i would have been one of the people booing Contador when he put the yellow on.

    • Richard, I have calmed down on this. Heat of the moment battle thing. If Andy is willing to forgive, so am I. Matt

  • Duck22

    I say award the Cheeto Bandito a yellow jersey, after first using it to clean Andy Schleck's chain.

    • Duck 22, nice, and cheetos are yellow baby.

  • An Ugly American

    Contador is selfish, arrogant, and childish. Don’t forget that last year he ruined a teammate’s chance for a GC 2nd place because he wanted to show up Lance one more time. Team Astana could have been the first team in history to sweep the podium. A real leader would have seen the prestige that such an accomplishment would bring to his sponsors and his team. A real champion would have looked beyond his own victory and would have worked with his team to achieve something that had never been done before. Is it any wonder that every one of his teammates abandoned him to race for RadioShack? Personally, I wouldn’t give a dime to sponsor Alberto Contador. His arrogance and unsportsmanlike behavior do his sponsors a disservice. Andy Schleck is a class act and undoubtedly has a great carrier ahead of him.

    To the author: I was born and raised in America (second generation Italian /Franch) and I have never heard the term “winning ugly”. There wasn’t a single American rider involved in the Contador/Schleck incident, but you just couldn’t resist slipping a bit of America-bashing into your article. Sad, petty, and childish.. Perhaps you should be booed too. Tell me, how many times did Lance let a rider win a stage that he could have won himself but didn’t NEED the win to win the GC? Was that “winning ugly”? How about George Hincapie or Levi Leipheimer? Have you ever seen either of them do anything that could be described as “winning ugly”? Now, how would you describe all the fine and cultured Europeans who cursed Lance and spat in his face during the infamous time trial up Alpe d’Huez?

    • Hey there angry fella, Tour was so crazy I just haven't had time to write a response to your long comment. I'll just address the "America bashing" comment because that was certainly not my intention and I'm not sure how you came to that conclusion. I'm an American, I like America, I like living here. There would really be no reason for me to engage in any bashing of that kind. The term "winning ugly" is I think pretty familiar to most sports fans in the states. It's simply a way to say that the win wasn't pretty or something to be super proud of the manner it which it was accomplished but it was still a win. That seemed to fit the Contador "chaingate" situation. After the stage Alberto clearly felt he did win in a way that was perhaps not the most sporting and he apologized to Andy. In any case, I'm not sure how you got so riled up but I appreciate you taking the time to write. Matt

  • Joker

    Why is everyone so upset? It is just a bike race. I hear through the grapevine that there might be another tour next year.