Cycling fans across the globe have been treated to one of the most exciting Tour de France races to date. The race has been filled with rough terrain leading to violent accidents, and now has a friendly rivalry turning ugly. Alberto Contador took the lead after stage 15 when Andy Schleck’s bike suffered a malfunction.
Contador took the lead from the young rider from Luxembourg when his chain suffered a malfunction, and Schleck was forced to stop immediately. In a move that most are calling racing taboo, Contador made his move just as Schleck was forced to the sideline.
A mixture of cheers and boos were waiting for Contador as he slipped on the yellow jersey for the first time since he won the race last year. Schleck was annoyed by the move from Contador, and is now accusing him of breaking cycling convention.
The Spanish rider was sympathetic to Schleck’s cause, but maintains he was already in the midst of his attack when the 25-year old was forced to stop suddenly.
“I understand that he’s disappointed about today,” Contador said. “I had planned to attack. When I learned he had this incident, I was already on the attack.”
While Contador has the experience needed to win a race of this magnitude, there is only an eight second margin between himself and Schleck. The Luxembourger made up valuable time on the Port de Bales descent that shrank any type of big lead Contador could have hoped for.
Crashes and bathroom breaks are among the things considered to limit the opportunities afforded to riders to take the lead from the man in the yellow jersey.
Replays showed that Contador was indeed behind the Saxo Bank leader when his pedaling motion stopped without notice. Schleck was the first rider to break away from the pack.
Samuel Sanchez and Russia’s Denis Menchov also blew by Schleck, and Contador said at that point the race was on. He followed Sanchez all the way down the mountain, mimicking his teammate perfectly.
Tuesday could prove to be the hardest stages yet both physically and mentally. Riders must pace themselves over four categorized climbs, the latter two standing out as particularly punishing.
The Tourmalet climb rises gradually, then riders must deal with one of the steepest climbs in the race. Contador and Shleck won the 15th and the 17th stages respectively last year, and look to take a commanding lead on the podium by tomorrow’s end.
Online sportsbooks have now set Contador as the favorite to win the race outright at -600. Many new online sportsbooks have Tour de France sections favoring Schleck to win the Young Rider Classification at +3500 odds. The favorite to win Stage 16 by the most trusted sportsbooks is Damiano Cunego at +800 odds.