Are the Schlecks really that afraid of Contador or just a bit hypocritical?

Alberto Contador is a great bike rider.  You can disagree if you like but his record as a Grand Tour rider calls you an idiot. Great riders win the Tour de France repeatedly, something he has done already. Reed Albergotti in the WSJ outlines the inconvenient truth of his talent.

I want Alberto Contador to win the Tour de France 2011. I want him to win because I like the way he rides, even if I hide behind my hands every time he does his signature victory salute.

“Wee Bert”, as I call him, has got cojones and a calm in the face of trouble that is remarkable. Take stage 1 for example:


His response doesn’t seem to have been to flay the horses, panic and demand every  rider on his team at his call, as some have done when delayed involuntarily. That’s confidence in your own ability to take that time back. Well, confidence or balls of pure steel.

Remember what he did last year over the when he was impeded by Frank Schleck’s inability to keep it butter side up? Managed the gap, worked with the group, rode impressively for someone so unsuited to the cobbles. And did Andy Schleck wait for him as he followed Cancellara?

Remember what the Schlecks did when they got caught behind a crash last year? Was it:

a. “It was wet, there was oil, we crashed. That’s bike racing. We’ll pick ourselves up and look to make the time back in the mountains.”

b. “Fabian, can you use your magic yellow jersey to make the bad men who didn’t fall off stop racing?”

Or when Andy’s own user error shipped his chain? Was it

a. “Yeah that was a shit stupid shift to make there.”

b. “WAAAAA! Alberto didn’t play fair. He laughed at my mistake and carried on riding.”

You’d think he’d have gotten over it by now, but no:

Schleck said he forgave Contador for the move, but added he will never “forget it.”

“I would not have done this,” Schleck told L’Equipe this week. “A great champion doesn’t do things like this. I really was disappointed by his attitude that day.”

On Stage 1, when Contador and Sanchez hit the deck, who was among the teams pushing the pace on for their sprinter?

On Stage 7, when Horner was in a ditch and Wiggins lying by the side of the road, who was on the front pushing the pace for their sprinter?

Unless Stuey O’Grady has wound the clock back, Leopard-Trek haven’t brought a sprinter to this Tour. The impression it gives is not favourable.

Yes cycling is mercenary, but it is also meant to be honourable (not that it ever actually was). Great champions are meant to ride in a state of grace, spreading virtue along their path. It has to be that way, Andy says so.

Plenty of commentators have said that Andy Schleck lacks the ruthlessness to be a Tour winner. Frank’s claim to the throne is weaker, but as a foil he needs to remain close to his brother to pose any threat.

So putting time into a crashed rival should look a sign of them discovering what is needed to step up. Instead it looks like a lack of confidence in their own abilities against the clock, even to break Contador in the mountains.

Or at the very least there’s a hypocrisy, as noted by Radioshack’s Jani Brajkovic, who crashed out of the race in a pretty nasty fall, on seeing Leopard-Trek on the front when Horner and Wiggins were down:

Where is the hero, who is gonna neutralize the race, now? Hypocrates (sic)

86 retweets and counting suggests he’s not alone in his distaste. Yes, Radioshack have driven the pace when it suits them, but I’ve not seen them crow about being on the receiving end. Likewise BMC have drilled it for Cadel Evans, but he’s not one to complain. His response usually boils down to “it’s not what you want to happen, but that is bike racing.”

With Wiggins out and Radioshack stumbling around like a bunch of over-medicated geriatrics, that leaves Evans, Basso and Gesink as the remaining contenders. Of those Gesink has been par terre and Basso came into the race looking somewhat dessous par.

So there’s a four-way battle ahead: Contador, Evans and the two Schlecks. For me there’s only one person I’d like to see beat Contador or at least stand on the second step. And that would be historic in every sense.

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  • Anonymous

    It’s no secret that I’m an Andy Schleck fan *but* I’m in agreeance with everything you’ve written here.  It’s long been said that Andy needs to be harder, steelier and more aggressive to truly fight it out but if it is Leopard Trek that’s upsetting the other teams then I’m not sure how I feel about that.  It could be other teams, as always no one is naming names, but Contador and Evans are able to place themselves where they need to be without causing havoc, but the Schlecks can’t position so…logic suggests it’s the Leopard squad making their presence felt.
    Pushing hard follow crashes or mechanicals (hi there Tour de Suisse!) isn’t exactly honourable.  It’s the sort of thing they themselves would frown at.  Hypocrates indeed! 😉

    So despite wishing Andy Schleck well, I find myself drawn more towards supporting Contador and Evans this year.   This surprises even myself but they know how to ride with class.

    Finally, if it is the leopards that aren’t making friends, they can expect precisely no favours from the other teams out on the road.  That will be fascinating to see.

    Twice second, now whole team built around him, no prologue timeloss, Contador with a time deficit – it almost seems as if this year is set up precisely for Andy to win it and the pressure must be intense.   Striving to avoid all the bad luck isn’t a poor strategy but something is bothering me about it-  it’s a puzzler.