Andy Schleck was my favourite Tour rider for a while. It’s always good to see young riders come through and especially if they are gifted climbers. By 2010 he had won the previous two white jerseys and finished 2nd in 2009. He just needed another small step up to become overall champion but near the top of the Port de Balès on stage 15 he succumbed to the rotten luck, indecision and poor judgement that plague his career and rob him of a glittering palmarès.
At the start of the day, The second of four Pyrenean stages which would decide the race, Schleck had a stage win and was in yellow with Alberto Contador 31 seconds behind. With the next best rider Samuel Sánchez a further 2 minutes back it seemed the the winner of the Tour would be either Schleck or Contador, who were close friends.
As the French Champion Thomas Voeckler who had attacked out of the days break neared the top of the Port de Balès Schleck attacked out of the group of favourites. It was a strong move and he quickly put a gap on his rivals but he quickly came to a sudden halt. His chain had jumped off his drive-train and soon rider after rider were steaming passed him as tried to continue, unsure what to do. He got off his bike, tried to sort out the issue, got back on, got off again, managed fix things before getting going to chase down Contador. After his pursuit up the rest of the climb, down the other side and along the valley to the finish in Bagnères-de-Luchon he lost 39 seconds and the yellow jersey to his Spanish pal. He was now 2nd and the top two positions would remain the same all the way to the finish in Paris where Contador won by, 39 seconds.
The question everyone was asking at the end was “Should Contador have attacked Schleck”. I was pretty livid at the time, but that was because I wanted Schleck to win. I felt that Vinokourov had taken an unfair advantage of the situation by attacking the moment Schleck’s chain dropped. This forced the main GC men and his teammate Contador to come with him. After thinking about it though I thought things were fair enough. Equipment failure isn’t bad luck, it’s the fault of a person whether that’s a team mechanic or a rider changing gears at the wrong moment.
A few months later, and after annoying Spanish cattle farmers, Contador was striped of his Tour title with Schleck being awarded 1st. But even now he showed his inability to snatch a victory and declared that he still thought of Contador as the true 2010 Champion. He might not have fulfilled his full potential as a cyclist and that’s perhaps because he was more human than the champions who have. I am delighted he is happy in his retirement.
11th place on this mountainous stage and in the Contador group – Johan Van Summeren.
Looking at this Versus coverage above I never knew the distance to go was shown in kilometers and miles in some countries.