During Stage 15 of the 2010 Tour de France, Alberto Contador (Astana) took yellow after Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) suffered an unshipped chain near the top of the major climb of Port de Balès.  Some people reckon this was an “unsporting” thing for Contador to have done, and indeed some quite vituperative exchanges have been going on in cycling forums all across the interweb.
Personally, I think you need to bear in mind this was nearing the top of a climb, that the riders will have been really on the rivet, with all the attendant hullaballoo of the motorcade, helicopters and suchlike associated with the Tour de France.  Add into the mix the fact that all the likely podium contenders were there, it seems that Contador did the right thing, and specifically:

  • he had no way of knowing how significant the mechanical issue was (assuming he realised there was a mechanical problem)
  • he had no way of knowing how long it would take Schleck to deal with the issue
  • what would have happened had he waited, and the others had carried on?

I think the critics of Contador’s actions need to remember this is race, not a club run…  Here’s a video of the event (YouTube)

And finally – at last a commentator who takes a rational view of the situation as it unfolds: Opinion: It’s wrong to vilify Contador by Neal Rogers (Velonews.com).  Neal points out pretty much what I do above, and also adds:

But, like most things in life, this situation not that simple — and most people will make their judgments based upon how they already felt about either Contador or Schleck. We saw that during last year’s race, when diehard Lance Armstrong fans vilified Contador, ignoring the facts that Armstrong made his comeback into Contador’s team, that Armstrong did what he could to turn the team against Contador, and that the Spaniard did what he needed to do to assert himself as the strongest rider in last year’s Tour.

You could certainly discern the anti-Contador bias in comments left at the VeloNews site yesterday, and I’d concur with Neal as to the motivation.  Let’s all see how this most interesting Tour unfolds en route to Paris.