The Most Epic Race Ever?
July 24, 2010 7:14 PM   Subscribe

Alberto Contador of Spain has solidified his third win of the Tour de France, edging out Andy Schleck of Luxembourg with a lead of 39 seconds after the penultimate stage today. The two have ridden an exciting Tour, with last year's winner Contador challenged by the evenly matched Schleck.

As of Stage 15, Schleck had a 31-second lead on Contador, when a mechanical failure forced him to stop and reattach his bicycle chain. Contador continued and gained 8 seconds on Schleck, taking the yellow jersey and causing mixed reactions from race commentators and fans alike. In Stage 17, the two continued side by side up the Pyrenees mountains through rain and tremendous crowds; Schleck took the stage win and was congratulated by Contador for his courageous ride.

On Sunday, the remaining cyclists will take their victory ride into Paris towards the podiums in Stage 20. Schleck will take second place overall as well as the white jersey for Best Young Rider for the third year in a row.

Other notable events along this Tour were the crashes that put several riders out of the race. A fight broke out after Stage 6. Some controversial headbutting and aggresive riding resulted in Mark Renshaw's expulsion in Stage 11. And Lance Armstrong claims this to be his last Tour (again).

View all the Stage summaries and results here.
posted by wundermint (43 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Look at the time difference between Schleck and Contador. Now look at the time Schleck lost when he dropped his chain and Contador attacked. Coincidence?
posted by fixedgear at 7:21 PM on July 24, 2010

also: Andy Schleck is adorable.
posted by wundermint at 7:26 PM on July 24, 2010

Andy Schleck is the best, it's a pity he can't get the win. Worth keeping in mind about the controversy over Contador attacking on Andy's mechanical is that Andy tweeted that all was forgiven and Alberto didn't contest Andy's stage win the other day.

I've really enjoyed the tour this year despite the crashes decimating some important riders. Also, Jens Voigt i awesome: Oh no, I don't need YOU!
posted by ghharr at 7:39 PM on July 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

ghhar, I was just going to post that Jens Voigt link. How often does a peloton rider invoke Terry Pratchett? Post-crash interviews here and here (English starts at 1:00).
posted by grounded at 7:46 PM on July 24, 2010

I've been really impressed with Schleck this year. There's been some interesting analysis of the riders' performance this year, and what it may mean for prevalence of doping in the peloton, at the Science of Sport blog.
posted by chinston at 7:48 PM on July 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Can somebody explain the basics of bicycle racing? Why does a 39 second lead guarantee him the win? Are the individual legs actually points based? I suppose that will probably explain my follow-up question: apart from drafting / energy conservation, why would you ride with your competitor and then, apparently, let them win the stage? And what's with the gentlemanly shock at taking the lead over a mechanical failure?
posted by one_bean at 8:00 PM on July 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think it's been super exciting this year. The video feeds are getting better and better as well.
posted by carter at 8:08 PM on July 24, 2010

Goddamnit. Spoilers. I've been avoiding the news all day until my wife gets home from work and we watch the time trial stage together. I mean, I knew Schleck had no chance of getting time over Contador, but I was keeping hope alive until I watched it in an hour or so.

one_bean, 39 seconds all but guarantees Contador the win. Schleck will have one final stage, the ride into Paris tomorrow, to win. To do that, he'll have to cross the line with a gap between the wheels 39 seconds ahead of Contador. If Schleck crosses the line at the front of the peloton, but due to the mass of riders, there's no gap of daylight between the wheels of the riders, they all get the same time. They only split the time when there's a gap.

What does this mean in terms of tactics? Well, Schleck is going to have to get himself in a breakaway to win. To do that, he'll need riders to help him, unless he wants to pull at the front alone the whole time (with other riders drafting behind him the whole way, saving their energy until the end when Schleck is wasted).

If Schleck leaves the peloton tomorrow, team Astana (Contador's team) will organize at the front of the peloton and pedal hard until they puke, to allow Contador to draft behind all of them, and they'll close the gap on Schleck. There's just no way in hell Astana is going to let Schleck get ahead tomorrow.

Now, if this were a mountain stage, where the effort you put to the pedals goes into fighting gravity instead of fighting wind resistance, this would be a different story. You'd have the same battle you had two days ago in the Pyrenees (holy shit, what a stage). But it's flat, so drafting has a huge effect, so again, if Schleck goes, Astana will be on his wheel, with Contador sitting 39 minus one seconds behind. The individual legs aren't point based; they just add up the time of every stage and tack that onto your total time.

why would you ride with your competitor and then, apparently, let them win the stage?

Professional courtesy. Contador knew he is a much stronger time trialist than Schleck. He knew he would increase his lead on Schleck two days from that mountain finish. He already caught some negative publicity (wrongly, imho) for counter attacking Schleck when Schleck dropped his chain. Since you're going to with Le Tour now, why not give Andy another stage win so he doesn't feel so bad? Since there was no gap in the wheels at the top of that finish, Schleck gained exactly 0 seconds on Contador. It was a nice thing to do.

And what's with the gentlemanly shock at taking the lead over a mechanical failure?

There's an unwritten rule in bicycle racing that you don't attack the yellow jersey when they're off the bike. This means if the yellow jersey crashes, or is on the side of the road taking a quick break to pee, you don't decide to start hauling ass off the front to break away. It just isn't done. There's no rule against it, but cycling is a sport of culture and legend, and fans will hate you more than they hate dopers.

As much as I dislike Contador and love Schleck, I think Contador's move was fair game. Schleck attacked, so the race was on. Contador had to respond, and during the move of Contador to mark Schleck's wheel, Schleck had a mechanical issue and dropped his chain. That's a huge fucking bummer for Schleck, but Contador didn't wait for Schleck's chain to fuck up and then launch an attack. Schleck attacked, Contador responded, and in the melee Schleck's bike had a mechanical.

That's racing.

In a post-stage interview, Contador wussed out and said he didn't know Schleck was in trouble, but that's bullshit. He knew. I would respect him more if he had said "Yeah, Schleck went for it, so I made my move, too, and then he had a mechanical. That's unfortunate, but it happens. The race can't wait forever, and we were running out of time to the top. I'll prove myself in the time trial as well."

My wife and I, drunk on the couch, literally cried for Andy Schleck. He's had a rough tour, especially having to deal with the loss of his brother Frank, who is A MOTHERFUCKING BEAST OF A DOMESTIQUE. If Frank had been with Andy this Tour it might have been a different race.

Hats off to Contador, though. That man is insanely powerful.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:17 PM on July 24, 2010 [18 favorites]

Since you're going to with win Le Tour now
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:21 PM on July 24, 2010

Why does a 39 second lead guarantee him the win?

It is insurmountable unless Contador has a heart attack or a stroke. After all of the stages, he and Schleck have been pretty equal.

why would you ride with your competitor and then, apparently, let them win the stage?

I think that Contador knew he had the tour won at that point, based on the fact that he has a better record in time trials (the next and last meaningful stage) than Schleck. I also think that Alberto was ambivalent about the dropped chain break he got, and maybe this kept Schleck from hating him. Who knows what their relationship actually is?

And what's with the gentlemanly shock at taking the lead over a mechanical failure?

Armstong and Ullich did this for one another on successive tours. This was different, since Contador was attacking when Scheck dropped the chain. It is a matter of opinion (and probably nationality) whether Contador acted ethically or not.
posted by Danf at 8:22 PM on July 24, 2010

Contador continued and gained 8 seconds on Schleck, taking the yellow jersey

Well, Contador went from being 31 seconds behind Schleck to being 8 seconds ahead of Schleck, so he technically gained 39 seconds. Contador had the advantage of descending to Ax 3 Domaines with a group of riders and was able to work with them to get to the finish as quickly as possible. Poor Schleck did all the work himself going down the mountain, and dragged others behind him.

One of the most impressive things I've ever seen watching all the Tours was how Schleck rode after getting his chain back on. While he was off his bike he got passed by several riders. He stayed calm and collected, then got back on his bike and fucking blew by them like they were standing still when he started climbing again.

You just can't understand how strong these guys are until you go ride a hill with them. They're When you're putting out 100% of your power, and then find out they're just coasting along, and then they decide to make an effort....they just drop you like you're going backwards. It's impressive to witness. The cameras just don't do the sport justice, because you rarely get a sense of just how steep these climbs are.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:28 PM on July 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Awesome, thanks!
posted by one_bean at 8:29 PM on July 24, 2010

Contador new what he did was wrong and that is why he apologized.
posted by nestor_makhno at 8:41 PM on July 24, 2010

39 seconds! Makes you wonder who got the best EPO.
posted by mecran01 at 8:43 PM on July 24, 2010

Wow, that picture of Jens on the tiny Mavic bike is hilarious.
posted by nestor_makhno at 8:51 PM on July 24, 2010

contador may be the tour winner but Jens Voigt is totally badass. I loved those videos.
posted by bluesky43 at 9:00 PM on July 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

but Jens Voigt is totally badass.

fuck yeah he is. in the HD version you can see sparts coming off the bike while it slides along the pavement.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:04 PM on July 24, 2010

Excellent analysis of the Tourmalet, with an eye toward 'cleanliness', over at The Science of Sport.
posted by grounded at 9:08 PM on July 24, 2010

25 seconds after the race ended, Floyd Landis went on his "Contador did steroids while I watched" tour.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:24 PM on July 24, 2010

Here is an excellent analysis by VeloNews' Lennard Zinn of why Schleck's chain came off.

"LZ’s Schleck chain-drop theory in a nutshell: ‘twas a perfect storm of upshifting under load with a derailleur that has a big loop on it to snag the cogset when the chain drops off the bottom to the inside of the small chainring."

Personally, my take on it was that he made the amateur mistake of shifting while pushing hard, which I never do, but those guys have waaaaay better gear than I'll ever have, and even at his young age Schleck has forgotten more about shifting technique than I'll ever know. So I'm probably being naive.

Great thread so far!
posted by intermod at 9:58 PM on July 24, 2010

That chain trouble analysis sounded spot-on to me when I read it a while back. SRAM has a really irritating design on their rear derraileurs that allows the chain to get really jammed up in there. Also in the analysis I remember he hit a bump at just the wrong time (the bump caused the chain to flop off the chainring).

Never had anything even vaguely similar happen with shimano rear derraileurs, but I like the SRAM shifters too much to switch.
posted by inparticularity at 10:25 PM on July 24, 2010

Magnificent thread and post. I'd always been kind of aware of the Tour, but this is the first year I've followed it seriously, while simultaneously finally going out on my bike for long rides.

I think, formally, I have been bit by the cycling bug. So many fantastic moments, and my heart was pounding the whole time Contador and Schleck were in the mountains, wheel on wheel, waiting...waiting...waiting...I think I jumped a foot in the air when Contador attacked.

I am very definitely team Schleck, and only a little bit because I'm sort of in love with him. Jens Voigt is made entirely out of barbed wire and railroad spikes, and little love for Tyler Farrar, please, who's been riding since the cobbles with a broken wrist.

(And Geraint Thomas! Such a star, and it was lovely to see the Welsh flags at practically every stage!)
posted by kalimac at 1:43 AM on July 25, 2010

Oh, and about Contador solidifying his win -- I was under the impression that the ride into Paris is essentially a victory lap, and Schleck wouldn't attack, to be gentlemanly. (I know it's happened before, but LeMond in...'89 was it? was a smaller gap, right?) Obviously, this doesn't hold true for the green jersey, but am I roughly right on yellow?
posted by kalimac at 1:46 AM on July 25, 2010

Yay for a TDF post!

As an Aussie, it's disappointing to see World Champion Cadel Evans fail - yet again - at this year's tour. But great to see Contador & Schleck battle it out.

Who is up for the Lanterne Rouge this year?
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:50 AM on July 25, 2010

I hope Contador's chain falls off on the Champs Elysees and Andy goes for it!

It's been a great Tour this year. Interesting to see Armstrong so human, I almost felt bad for him at times.
posted by sveskemus at 4:30 AM on July 25, 2010

Shifting under load isn't an amateur mistake, it's a professional requirement. Mechanical failure, not user error.

I have a stronger opinion about that than I do about Contador's 'attack'... Interesting, now, that he's only going to win by as much as he gained on the Chaingate stage. That raises eyebrows and makes the Chaingate stage, well, that much more important. And it makes Contador's victory less decisive. Is Andy poised to be the next superdominant GC contender? Is anybody going to really join Contador and Schleck at the top?
posted by entropone at 5:31 AM on July 25, 2010

Great thread. Not least for the Jens Voight material. That's the one stage my wife and I completely missed this year.

I have to admit that I am still pissed at Contador, but that's partly for his behavior towards Armstrong last year and because Schleck seems more likeable to me. Fandom is entirely subjective, after all.

It was fun to hear Phil and Paul arguing on the versus coverage like an old married couple over the mechanical/attack issue. Paul even brought up the fact that Phil never rode the TDF! (catty)

If nothing else, for me, this all proves that I'll still love the Tour whether or not Armstrong rides.
posted by mmahaffie at 5:41 AM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have to admit that I am still pissed at Contador, but that's partly for his behavior towards Armstrong last year and because Schleck seems more likeable to me. Fandom is entirely subjective, after all.

Clearly, because most people I know, including me, had much sympathy for the way Contador was treated last year. So yeah... subjective.

Anyway, we can now add "jerseygate" to "chaingate".
posted by afx237vi at 6:27 AM on July 25, 2010

How did they not get the black jerseys approved ahead of time? Seems like a major oversight.
posted by ghharr at 8:39 AM on July 25, 2010

LeMond in...'89 was it? was a smaller gap, right?

No, LeMond was 50 seconds back before the final stage and won by eight seconds. But that was a time trial, so there was no team strategy involved, just flat-out speed.
posted by stargell at 9:12 AM on July 25, 2010

The 39-second final difference is exactly the amount of time that Contador gained on Schleck in Stage 15. If Contador had waited for Schleck, perhaps they'd have been tied going into today's stage. I don't think there would have been any champagne toasts, and they could've done away with the nonsense that has turned the final stage into a victory lap for the leader.
posted by sixpack at 9:23 AM on July 25, 2010

Final Standings after Stage 20.
posted by wundermint at 9:34 AM on July 25, 2010

I don't think there would have been any champagne toasts, and they could've done away with the nonsense that has turned the final stage into a victory lap for the leader.

People get this wrong so often, I despair. Did anyone here actually watch the final stage? How and where was Schleck supposed to attack? The road is dead flat and the bunch is going at 60 km/ph. The sprinters' teams are hardly going to sit up and let a wiry climber get away just because he has a chance of yellow.

And if Schleck does somehow magically attack a couple of laps from the end, what do you think Contador's team is going to do? Big strong rouleurs like Vinokourov and Tiralongo... just sit there and watch?

The GC contenders don't sit in the bunch out of a sense of respect or tradition. They don't attack because it's impossible for them to do so.

The only way for the Tour to have a meaningful GC race on the final day would be to finish on a mountain or re-introduce a TT.
posted by afx237vi at 9:40 AM on July 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

Sorry, my response to sixpack is a bit off, because I misconstrued what he wrote, but I hear this "why don't they attack on the final stage" stuff quite often, and it's already been mentioned in this thread, so it's worth repeating anyway.
posted by afx237vi at 9:44 AM on July 25, 2010

In case anyone's missed it, Cervelo's had a fellow who's been following the team around and making a documentary of sorts called Beyond the Peloton.

Like Team SaxoBank's vids on YouTube, it offers a pretty spiffy insight on team dynamics and personalities outside the actual races themselves. Also, it's in super hi-def!
posted by herrdoktor at 12:50 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

No, LeMond was 50 seconds back before the final stage and won by eight seconds. But that was a time trial, so there was no team strategy involved, just flat-out speed.

A-ha, that's it! Thank you :) And to afx237vi, for being patient with us n00bs.


In other news, Jens Voigt is thisclose to beating out Andy the Eel as my favourite member of SaxoBank. I think I shall go look at Andy's dorky grin some more.
posted by kalimac at 1:37 PM on July 25, 2010

I've heard that Contador and Schleck are in fact close friends, the kind of close friends that go on vacation together. Weird... it must be difficult to have real friends in such a competitive environment.
posted by samelborp at 9:58 AM on July 26, 2010

Oh man. I was pulling for Schleck for no reason other than the fact that my road bike has the SaxoBank colors. I wanted to be all "yeah look at me I am riding the same bike* that the TDF winner rode!"

*by which I mean "the same basic bike, even if the components are different. What? Well OK his is the S-works frame and mine isn't, but it's the same manufacturer, anyway; Sure, his costs at least like 8 times what mine did; OK so yeah his bike is probably 97.8% carbon fiber and weighs as much as my water bottle does; OK FINE I ADMIT IT it's a totally different bike but it's the SAME COLOR and oh wait whattaya mean he has a special custom paint job? Damn.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:36 AM on July 26, 2010

I was rooting for Andy as well. My late June predictions were A. Schleck in yellow and Cavendish in green. Not exactly risky picks considering Cavendish sprints like he's launched from a catapult.

I've got an eye for calling the runner up.
posted by cmfletcher at 11:35 AM on July 26, 2010

No kidding about Cavendish; I swear that man has sold his soul to the devil for turbo sprint.
posted by misha at 1:46 PM on July 26, 2010

My wife gets tired of Cav winning all the time. That's understandable with last year, because shit, who wouldn't win with a leadout train like he had last year.

But this year the team kinda fell apart for a lot of his finishes, but he was still able to pull things off.

Dude is raw fucking speed. Respect.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 3:01 PM on July 28, 2010

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