Yesterday, the Tour de France became a blood duel, but today’s stage was remarkably dull for all that.
With his overall Tour a disappointment, Lance Armstrong took the opportunity for individual glory at the finish line in Pau, but was edged out by yet another Frenchmen in this surprisingly French race.
Lance managed to finish sixth after spending all day in a small breakaway group. He made a valiant sprint for the line, but it was not to be. Former French national champion Pierrick Fédrigo took first after a brutal day of climbing which didn’t feature any additional drama in the duel between overall leader Alberto Contado of Spain, and his rival Luxembourg rider Andy Schleck.
The day began with more debate over yesterday’s race, which saw Contador overtaking Schleck in a controversial attack while Schleck was stopped with a slipped chain.
On the Versus crew, Phil Liggett continued to argue that Contador had little choice but to press his advantage, because if he hadn’t he would have lost time to Sammy Sanchez and Denis Menchov, who each lie about two minutes back in the overall general classification and who were both in the attack with Contador. (Of course, that doesn’t explain why Sanchez and Menchov themselves also attacked the yellow jersey while it was sidelined by a mechanical failure. And it wasn’t Sanchez and Menchov leading the attack, but Contador. How hard would it have been for him to put an arm out and slow down the entire group as Schleck got his chain back on?)
Paul Sherwen continued to disagree with Liggett, saying that Contador’s attack was simply dirty pool.
We wondered what was being said by the press in France, so we asked a good cycling friend who happens to be a professor of French literature, Stanford’s Jonathan Hunt. He sent us this assessment:
The consensus in the French press is that Contador a) wouldn’t have immediately known it was a mechanical, b) couldn’t really wait with Sanchez and Menchov there, and c) wasn’t really bound to wait since it was the heat of battle at a crucial point in the stage. Bruyneel and Lance were both quoted in l’Equipe as saying basically, it’s not a cool situation, but you can’t really blame Contador.
Really? It’s extremely hard to see Armstrong doing what Contador did. But whatever.
After tomorrow’s rest day, we’ll get to see Contador and Schleck fight it out Thursday on the Tourmalet.