My Opinion

Posted: Sunday, July 25, 2010 by Travis Cody in
5

My opinion is that honor counts in sport.  My opinion is that winning is important, but not so much more important than fair play.  My opinion is that you prove yourself the better man by being the better man.

My opinion is that it sucks to lose, but I can deal with it if all parties have played the game with respect.

The difference between the winner of the 2010 Tour de France and second place is 39 seconds.

After Stage 11, Andy Schleck, 25, had worked for a 41 second lead over his main rival Alberto Contador, 27.  The two men are also good friends, so the competition between them is fierce but not angry, and stands to continue for several exciting years.

On Stage 12, Contador decided to attack Schleck on a late climb.  The attack was successful and took 10 seconds out of Schleck's lead.  But the attack also came at the expense of one of Contador's teammate's who had managed to stay out on a break away and was in a position to win the stage that day had Contador not chased him down.  Contador was playing the game to win.  Sometimes teammates are sacrificed like that in the Tour.  And Alexander Vinokourov took the hit that day, although he did come back the next day to earn his stage victory.


Still, it was the second time I can remember that Contador hit a teammate for his own benefit.  This gives me a bit of a bad taste with regard to Contador.


Schleck maintained his 31 second advantage for several days, until he attacked near the top of the final climb on Stage 15.  He had gained several bike lengths on Contador in that attack when he slipped his chain and came to a dead stop.  It took him several precious seconds to get the chain back on the bike, during which Contador attacked.


Contador attacked the yellow jersey against Tour protocol and convention.  He took advantage of the race leader's mechanical difficulty.  He powered past the yellow jersey, not by his own ability, but because the race leader had to stop and fix his bike.


Contador made up his 31 second deficit plus 8 seconds with that attack, and took the yellow jersey that day by those 8 seconds.  He won the Tour de France by 39 seconds.


There's no way to go back and predict how the race would have unfolded if Contador had not accelerated while Schleck fixed his bike chain.  I don't think Contador should have gotten off his own bike and waited.  But I do feel very strongly that he should not have attacked until Schleck was back on his bike and ready to defend his yellow jersey. 


I'm not talking about not trying to win the bike race.  Sometimes it's hard for an observer to understand how the peleton works.  I don't always understand why they do some of the things they do.  The wearer of the yellow jersey is not only the rider who leads the race in terms of time, he is also the de facto leader of the peleton.  The yellow jersey has an authority, and riders respect it.  Riders do not attack the yellow jersey when it crashes, has a mechanical, has to slow for a bunch of sheep that decide to join the peleton, or has to stop for a quick pee. 

All the riders have radios that allow them to communicate with team managers.  Contador saw the mechanical issue Schleck had.  All he had to do was sit up and maintain tempo until he heard Shleck was back on the bike.  In my years watching this bike race, I've seen that done.  In fact, that's exactly what Vinokourov did as he passed Schleck.  He saw the problem and stopped his attack.  It was Contador, Denis Menchov, and Samuel Sanchez who continued to speed by.


If Contador had simply maintained tempo and waited to get the news that Schleck was rolling again, which teammate Vinokourov surely would have communicated by radio, then he would have been free to go for all the time he could take.  And that would have been riding to win honorably.


So my opinion is that honor counts in sport.  My opinion is that winning is important, but not so much more important than fair play.  My opinion is that you prove yourself the better man by being the better man.


My opinion is that it sucks to lose, but I can deal with it if all parties have played the game with respect.

Alberto Contador is the 2010 champion of the Tour de France by 39 seconds.  And that's the amount of time he took out of Andy Schleck by attacking Schleck's yellow jersey during a mechanical.  

That reversal required Schleck to beat Contador in the time trial, which he was not able to do.  But Schleck only lost 31 seconds to Contador in the time trial.  Yes, it's that damn close between these two young men.

There's no way to go back and predict how the race would have unfolded from Stage 15 forward if Contador had not attacked Schleck's mechanical misfortune.  All I can say is that strategies would have changed to suit the resultant circumstances.

Amidst the cheers when Contador was presented with the yellow jersey after Stage 15 were an equal number of boos.  Fans of this race know, and some of them made it very clear what their opinion was of that result.  Alberto Contador issued an apology to Andy Schleck for his actions during Stage 15, admitting he may have made a mistake on his attack.  By all reports, the two men remain friends.  They know better between them what it means to wear and defend the yellow jersey, and to compete with it.

I have enjoyed this Tour de France, although I leave it for another year as an unsatisfied observer.  My perception is that the 2010 champion rides to win at any cost, with demonstrated disrespect, and his yellow jersey doesn't shine all that brightly. 

5 comments:

  1. I did not hear about the race, but felt I needed to chime in. Winning is important in competition, but only doing so honorably. That's called Sportsmanship!

  1. You're pretty old fashioned, believing in this "honor" concept. Unfortunately it's rarely seen these days, in sports or anywhere else. :(

  1. I agree with everything you said, although I didn't really follow the tour de France. There are some true sportsmen out there but they don't seem to be increasing in numbers.

  1. JohnH985 says:

    I agree with you, sir, but the problem today is that too many of those in sports are in it only to win and care less about such concepts as honor. Now it's all about the dollar.

  1. Sportsmanship...one word says it all