While Alberto Contador has faced criticism from many quarter for not waiting for Andy Schleck in Stage 15 after Schleck's mechanical, in Spain he has faced criticism for not being cutthroated towards Schleck, from Stage 2 on. Today was another day for the Spanish press to rip him. AS.com:
"The climb to Tourmalet, with Contador and Andy mano a mano, simplifies what this Tour has been: an exclusive duel between the two strongest men. And also a charade. Today I wait, tomorrow I don't. Yesterday I did not see the chain come off, later I apologize. On the Tourmalet I let you win. This is not sport, nor is it fair play. It is playacting. The prestige of writing your name on this summit [Tourmalet] should be more important than friendship and endorsement money. But, Contador has had a tete a tete with his fellow cyclist after taking out 39 seconds because of a mechanical (a racing circumstance like any other), and now finds himself only 3 stages from winning his third Tour of France, the time trial in Bourdeaux before him, in which Contadar is much superior to Schleck."
I've thought that part of the reason Contador did not wait in Stage 15 was because of the criticism he received in the Spanish press for waiting on Stage 2. And indeed, he mentioned it after the controversy of Stage 15. Contador has two audiences - one Spanish and one global. And their criticisms have been at cross purposes. What does Contador really believe would be sporting? Personally, I think Stage 2 reflected his true views. He wanted to beat Schleck on his bike. Not on the side of the road, crashed or with a mechanical.
As for today, as I understand the conventions (inexpert fan though I am), since Schleck had carried the race up the climb (and withstood Contador's counterattack) it would have been poor form for Contador to contest at the very end. And even if he did contest, it is not clear to me he would have beaten Schleck at the end. I've never seen Contador win a contested finish myself. (correction, he outsprinted Brakjovic on the Alpe d'Huez in the Dauphine,)
But what I am trying to illuminate just a little bit is the dilemma, at least in terms of public relations and public criticism, that Contador faced. The proverbial spot between the rock and a hard place.
Photo: Bryn Lennon, Getty