Just as he was making a bid for time gains on his chief rival, Andy Schleck’s bike bucked him out of the yellow jersey. He had made the decision to attack Alberto Contador with about three kilometers to climb on the Port de Bales and although he opened up a solid advantage, he ultimately lost the battle because of a mechanical problem. His chain dropped and got wedged between his crank and the bottom bracket. Not only did her nearly crash, he had to do an emergency repair on a bike that was the same color as the jersey he would ultimately surrender in unfortunate circumstances.Contador was not going to wait around while Schleck repaired his bike and he had the support of one of the best descenders in the world for the 21km downhill to Luchon. Samuel Sanchez joined forces with Contador and Menchov to put time into Schleck who got to within 22” of the rider who began the stage 31” behind but ended it eight seconds ahead. The battle for yellow is far from over!
The Progress Report
The 187.5km 15th stage of the 2010 Tour de France began at 12.23pm with 175 riders still in the race. The course from Pamiers to Bagneres-de-Luchon featured two intermediate sprints – in Clermont (55km) and Fronsac (136km) – and four categorized climbs: the Carla-Bayle (cat-4 at 30km), col de Portet d’Aspet (cat-2 at 105km), the col des Ares (cat-2 at 126.5km) and the ‘Hors Category’ Port de Bales (166km).
Fast Start To Stage 15
There were attacks from kilometer zero to 35km but none were able to gain any advantage on the peloton. At 26km, the bunch split and Astana had the courage to try and gain an advantage on the second peloton that included Schleck. The maximum gain of the move was 10” before Saxo Bank reeled it back in. At the first climb, the points winners included the riders in first and second in the green jersey race – Petacchi and Hushovd – and they then tried to get in a move of 18 riders. The bunch, however, refused to allow any escape gain an advantage early. No escape was allowed to succeed in the first hour which was raced at an average speed of 47.5km/h.
Lampre led the peloton to the first intermediate sprint and the points were won by Hunt (CTT), Knees (MRM) and Pineau (QST).
No escape was allowed any leeway until the 93km mark when seven were involved in the initial move, but three others came across at 95km. The members of the elusive escape were: Vandborg (LIQ), Van Summeren (GRM), Ivanov (KAT), Mondory (ALM), Ballan (BMC), Reda (QST), Roberts (MRM) – who started the move – Voeckler and Turgot (BTL) and Perez Arrieta (FOT). The average speed for the second hour was 47.3km/h.
The peloton was 4’35” behind the 10 escapees at the foot of the Portet d’Aspet. McEwen (KAT), O’Grady (SAX) and Gutierrez (GCE) were at the front of the peloton that cruised up the second climb, cresting it 7’40” behind the stage leaders. No riders slowed down at the Fabio Casartelli memorial on the descent of the second climb. The Saxo Bank team led the peloton to the top of the Port des Ares 10 minutes behind the 10 escapees. The maximum gain was 10’45” at 138km.
Geslin (FDJ), Mayoz (FOT) and Lancaster (CTT) crashed as the peloton approached the Port de Bales when the pace of the peloton had been increased by O’Grady (SAX). They arrived at the base of the final climb by 9’00”.
Voeckler Races To Victory
The first to drop from the lead group were Reda, Roberts and Mondory, this prompted Voeckler to attack 8km from the top of the Port de Bales. It would prove to be the winning move, and the first time that a French champion has won a stage of the Tour since Jacky Durand in Cahors in 1994. He descended with panache, let the closest of the escape remnants (Perez Arrieta and Ballan) over the top by 1’30” and Contador by 4’15” but by then there was an entirely different battle going on… the one to keep the yellow jersey!
Dropped Chain Cost Schleck Yellow Jersey!
With about 3km to climb, Schleck launched an attack from an elite group that included Contador, Van den Broeck, Menchov and S. Sanchez. He quickly opened up a solid lead and appeared destined to increase his advantage on the rider in second place. After about 20 pedal strokes, however, his chain fell from the front derailleur and got stuck near the bottom bracket of his yellow bike… it was not an easy mechanical problem to remedy at the best of times – but with Contador seizing the moment to attack, it required a cool hand at time of intense pressure! Schleck eventually remedied the situation but not until he’d lost 28 seconds – from the moment he dropped his chain until he started riding again – to a rider who was determined to put distance into him.
Contador received reinforcements for his quest for the yellow jersey from Menchov and Sanchez. At the top, this trio was 30” ahead of Schleck – who was chasing furiously for the final moments of the climb, passing the likes of Armstrong and Kloden like they were standing still.
Although he got to within 22” of Contador on the descent, Schleck lost 39” to the Spaniard at the finish. Contador will wear the yellow jersey in stage 16.
He’s a regular animator in stages of the Tour de France and Thomas Voeckler insists that there’s reason for his attacking ways. He wants to win. Every so often it pays off…
“I knew I was better than the fourth place in the stage to Station des Rousses. On this Tour I’ve really had difficult times. The day of the stage to Gap, had it been a day in high mountains, I might be home at this hour. But I’m getting experience and after 12 Grand Tours, I know very well that we can have terrible days, and then find ourselves in great shape. That’s what I say to all young guys on the team when they are in doubt. This morning, I talked with Christopher Kern, and we said that we began to think of Paris. But in the early stage, we have both tried to attack, it motivated me, and finally the legs were very good.
“I am very proud of what I have done today. At an emotional level, what happened at the championships of France, when I came home first, was already enormous. But then win with the tricolor on the shoulders a stage of the Tour de France is extraordinary.
“It is true that I have a special way to ride, but I do not attack for the sake of attacking. It’s an attack for the victory. And when you’re not the strongest in the world, you must try many times for it to work."
In the second stage of the 2010 Tour de France, Alberto Contador could have attacked as Andy Schleck lay on the ground after a crash. Instead he waited. On the Port de Balès he saw Schleck slow down but didn’t know why… and this time he didn’t wait. This is his story for stage 15.
“At this moment it’s a really good situation, but actually 30 seconds more or 30 seconds less could change things a bit. It’s always good to be ahead in the general classification.
“I didn’t know anything about the problems with Andy Schleck, but when I realized it I was already ahead of him. The only things that I saw was that he was beginning to attack and then he slowed down. I didn’t realize that he had a problem with the bike.
“When I attacked it was before he had the problem… we’ve got a really good relationship and, in the sporting sense we also get along well, especially if you see what we did on the road to Spa [in stage two when Schleck crashed the the peloton acted in solidarity and waited for him and the other fallen riders].
“In Spa, he had big crash but today when I attacked it wasn’t because I knew he had problems.
“I’m sure he will attack me and I always have fear of what he might be able to do…”
From the moment that Andy Schleck dropped his chain, until he started riding again after his attack on the Port de Bales it was 28 seconds. At the finish, he lost 39 to Alberto Contador who is the new leader of the Tour de France. Andy is angry but he could also give lessons in how to be forgiving…
“Now I’m really angry. I will ride on the Tourmalet until I fall from my bike and give everything to this race.
“I felt really good but what counted at the end of the day is the time that you have when you arrive at the finish and I was so far back even with what I did on the descent.
“I promised my brother this morning that I wouldn’t take any risk on the downhill but I think I went down pretty fast... for me, let me put it that way. I didn’t want to lose too much time.
“Things happen, and everything happens for a reason. People can say what they want but they also have realize that Alberto was one of the guys who waited for me in Spa and that was really a great sign of fair play. Chapeau! Today was a different story, a different scenario but the Tour is not finished.
[Question: Andy, you seem so calm. You speak really relaxed but are you not mad with your bike or at anyone – maybe with Alberto?]
“What happened, happens. I cannot change the situation even if I’m mad. Of course I wouldn’t have minded to throw my bike into the fence and just hit someone but you’ve got to keep yourself under control in situations like this. If you just stay calm it’s worthwhile. If yell at people, it won’t change the situation. It is how it is. I’m not crying behind my jersey. In the end it comes down to the fact that this is a bike race and we will make the final count. I’m not done with.”
The top 10 in stage 15 is: 1. Thomas Voeckler (FRA) BTL - 187.5km in 4h44’51" 2. Alessandro Ballan (ITA) BMC at 1’20" 3. Aitor Perez Arrieta (ESP) FOT at 1’20" 4. Lloyd Mondory (FRA) ALM at 2’50" 5. Luke Roberts (AUS) MRM at 2’50" 6. Francisco Reda (ITA) QST at 2’50" 7. Alberto Contador (ESP) AST at 2’50" 8. Samuel Sanchez (ESP) EUS at 2’50" 9. Denis Menchov (RUS) RAB at 2’50" 10. Brian Vandborg (DEN) LIQ at 2’50" ...12. Andy Schleck (LUX) SAX ... at 3’29"
The provisional general classification standings has Contador ahead of Schleck by eight seconds.
Andy Schleck has lost his yellow jersey to Contador... and it’s essentially because of the power of his attack. Had he not put so much power into the pedals it’s possible his chain would have stayed on and he may well have finished ahead of Contador and gained time. As it is, he’s lost over 31" to last year’s champion who is the new leader of the general classification.
Start the stopwatch...! Contador has arrived at the finish... now we await the arrival of Schleck...
Contador is with Menchov, Sanchez, Roberts and Reda they are less than 2km from finish.