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.