The Tour de France is no longer about Lance Armstrong (except for those keeping an eye on federal subpoenas), but there’s still plenty of drama going on, even if American cyclists are somewhat irrelevant to it.
Take today, for example, when Spaniard Alberto Contador seized the leader’s yellow jersey in a total dick move that will be debated endlessly by the world’s cycling press in coming days.
Contador had been in second place, trailing Luxembourger Andy Schleck by 31 seconds, when Schleck made a strong move at the top of today’s monster mountaintop climb of Port de Bales.
But just as he started his move, Schleck’s chain came off, and he as he stopped to deal with it, Contador raced by him.
Now, there’s an unwritten rule in the Tour, that you’re not supposed to attack the yellow jersey when he’s had a mechanical problem — a flat tire or busted chain — or when he’s had some other non-racing difficulty (like stopping to take a leak, etc.). The most famous recent example was in 2003, when, after Lance Armstrong fell after getting caught up with a fan, Jan Ullrich and other leading racers held back (or didn’t, according to whom you ask) so that Lance could catch back up. Armstrong himself had at times slowed down other racers so Ullrich could catch up after one of his own crashes.
But this time, Contador took off, taking advantage of Schleck’s momentary problem. Schleck soon fixed the chain, but was chasing Contador the rest of the time, and finished far enough back that he’s now trailing Contador by 8 seconds.
Even Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, announcing for Versus, couldn’t agree on whether Contador should have slowed up and waited for Schleck, so expect the world’s press to be all over the place on this one.
Schleck himself, just interviewed on Versus, was clearly upset by Contador’s move: “I’m full of anger and I will take revenge,” he said. And he also said it was for others to decide if the jersey was fairly taken from him.
Oh, it’s on!
In the meantime, Contador’s yellow jersey tomorrow will never have been a more appropriate hue.