The friendship between Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck ended on the Port de Balès today at the Tour de France. Contador flew by Schleck in his yellow jersey, who was struggling to get his bicycle to go after losing his chain.
Luxembourg’s Schleck said last Monday he had no enemies in the peloton and that he was friends with Contador, but today that changed.
“We are only here to bike race, let’s leave it at that,” said Schleck. “I asked him in there [behind podium], how can you do that?”
Schleck had distanced Contador with an attack three kilometres to the summit of the climb and only with 24.5 kilometres to race, but a stuck chain derailed his stage and possibly his Tour de France.
He led the race by 31 seconds and wore the leader’s yellow jersey going into the stage. However, the time he spent getting his bike going again allowed Spain’s Contador to ride clear with a known fast descender, Spaniard Samuel Sánchez.
A Spanish coup? Did Contador know that Schleck had a problem?
He passed Schleck at such a speed that he must have known something was wrong; in fact, he looked back several times to check the whereabouts of his rivals. And Schleck is not normally one to be distanced so easily.
“I had already attacked and I didn’t see Andy had lost his chain,” said Contador. “I wasn’t aware of it.”
The two-time Tour de France winner then reasoned he was right to attack even if Schleck had problems.
“It’s not the first time that someone lost a chain. These things happen in the race. It could happen to me tomorrow.
“We were all ahead. The others didn’t stop either.”
Besides Sánchez, Contador rode clear with Denis Menchov and then caught up with earlier escapees Francesco Reda and Luke Roberts. His group finished nearly three minutes behind stage winner Thomas Voeckler, but more importantly for Contador, 39 seconds ahead on Schleck.
Contador now holds the yellow jersey and leads the race by eight seconds.
“I would not have attacked,” responded Schleck when asked if he would have done the same thing.
“My stomach is full of anger,” he continued. “I want to take my revenge.”
He will have his chance in the next two Pyrenean mountain days: Pau tomorrow and the next stage, after a rest day, Col du Tourmalet on Thursday.
Schleck’s time gains will be important to win his first Tour de France. He faces a 52-kilometre time trial on Saturday, the day before the race ends, and Contador is typically a better rider in the speciality.
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