Fake magnanimity

July 4, 2011

Now, first off, there was no reason not to take advantage of the crash on Saturday. That’s part of racing, everybody knows crashes happen. Staying in the front is part of the job in the first week of the Tour if you want to win the overall.

Yet it is a little surprising that some of the riders who after “Chaingate” claimed they would slow down if their arch rival encountered a calamity couldn’t wait to get their teammates to the front to distance Contador. It’s a lot easier to be generous in theory than in practice.

It fits right into my concept from last year that anybody is willing to be magnanimous when they know it won’t affect the outcome. Win the Tour AND look like a gentleman, that’s the ultimate.But if one of the two has to be sacrificed, it’s exit Gentleman. And why not, it’s not a butlering contest. Just don’t bore us with the “I wouldn’t have done that” crap.

Ultimately this is good news for Contador. First off, it shows he is no worse than other riders for not waiting last year (I should specify “during Chaingate”, as he did wait for Schleck during “Slipperyroadgate” on stage 2, which was also explained through last year’s concept). And secondly, if his opponents were convinced they could beat him in a straight-up fight, they wouldn’t have needed their helpers to put time into him on Saturday. So the team leaders have voted, and they think it will take a calamity to keep Contador from winning this year.

[Thanks to spanielsson for the comment that gave the inspiration for this post]

24 Responses to “Fake magnanimity”

  1. I’m in two minds about this. Last year I was furious with Contador for taking advantage of Schlecks incident. This year I feel sorry for the guy as I am quite sure the peleton will work collectively against him. I’m sure if it had been a French rider instead of Spanish, the incident on Saturday would have been handled differently. Contador is going to be treated badly by riders and onlookers combined.

    • Thanks for the comment. I’m not sure they will work collectively against Contador, it’s not that sophisticated. Didn’t really happen in the Spring classics against super-favorite Cancellara either.

      Certainly everybody will be aware of him and individually ride against him, but I don’t see monster-combines happening like they used to in the Vuelta to ensure a Spanish rider wins or anything like that. No five team leaders up the road and five with Contador just waiting for him to close the gap, the five left behind would do their share in that case.

  2. hermitblogger Says:

    I can’t remember which rider tweeted this last year (?CVV), but to paraphrase: “When you draw your sword and drop it, you die.”

    I’ve watched the replay a million times, just like everyone else. Honestly? I think it was extraordinarily bad timing for Andy — Vinokourov countered his move with an immediate attack and Contador followed his teammate. I doubt either ‘saw’ the chain drop in the heat of action. They may have realized it seconds later, but why take a chance at neutralizing a counterattack for a suspected mechanical? It wasn’t an ostensible problem like a crash. The dropped chain may have been ‘obvious’ from a viewer’s perspective, but in real-time split seconds, the riders have to make a decision and go with it.

    As was the consensus of the Peleton last year: “That’s racing.”

    • I’m 100% convinced sure they saw it, they are professionals. You look up, you see how fast the guy is going and how far ahead he is, 2 seconds later you pass him. Then you know he’s got no propulsion. But who cares. Would have been better though if Contador would have just said “Yep, I saw it and I went for it. That’ll teach him to cross his chain” but of course he didn’t do that. A lot of GC guys could do with a bit of Cavendish spirit in them.

    • hermitblogger Says:

      Thank you, for the rider perspective. I’m not a cyclist myself, so I have to make my own a priori assumptions, like everyone else!

      Agree with you completely re:Cav, calling things as they are. This is professional sports, not time for über-defensive & concessionary political correctness. I think Cav tried the ‘guard my persona’ thing at first, but now I have a lot more respect for him, with his transparency on Twitter. He’s clearly an intelligent guy, who knows himself and the people who help him succeed.

  3. The chaingate was the proof that Contador is a liar… “he didn’t see” yah right!

    I guess he didn’t see “the mysterious” friend with the contaminated meat….

  4. Favorite? For the GC? I don’t believe the Brothers either…
    I’m hoping that it’s going to be the year for the mountain bikers… Cadel and Ryder.

    And yes, I’m really enjoying Thor, Farrar… good to see Cavendish not winning.

    • Anonymous Says:

      Dude, Gerard was being sarcastic – we didn’t really need to know who your fav is.

      Your comments about enjoying seeing Thor and Farrar winning are true and I agree, but to add “good to see Cav not winning” – just nasty and not called for. Your point could have been equally made by ending off with …

  5. ancker Says:

    I don’t agree with you here Gerard.

    The difference between last year and this year is that only Schleck and Contador were affected by his chain dropping. Contador (seeing it or not) attacked almost immediately. Contador and Andy were really the only two competitors for the GC win at that point in the Tour. In the past, several riders have slowed to allow a direct rival to rejoin as to not win the GC due to a mechanical or puncture.

    This year there was a group crash in stage 1. Those at the front of the group have no obligation to stop or slow for those who crashed. In fact I’ve never seen a group stop or slow for a group who crashed behind them. To imply that a rider should do just that today because a potential rival was caught out is unfair.

    To be honest, I don’t think Contador did anything wrong last year. But to compare the two situations is unfair. They are two completely different situations in two completely different points of the Tour. (Not that when in the Tour it happens matters.)

    • Thanks for the comment, I certainly agree that the situations are different. But still. Never seen a group stop or slow down for a crash behind? Stage 2 last year, they slowed down (and eventually they neutralized the race but they slowed down way before).

      Giro stage on strade bianche last year, Vino tried to slow down the group after the crash on the descent too.

      I know plenty of people have waited for others on GC, question is who ever waited and gave up GC in the process. I’m sure it happened, but it is extremely rare. Armstrong waiting for Ulrich when he’s 5min ahead, ulrich waiting for Armstrong when he’s 5min behind, that’s easy (but Armstrong sent his people to the front after the crash on Passage du Gois to gap Zulle when GC was not decided yet).

      And again, there is a difference between just continuing and immediately sending all your people to the front to drive up the pace. Both are allowed, but when you see your rival crash (or the team radio tells you so), you can make one of two calls. THe peloton is not an autonomous being, it doesn’t speed up by itself.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    This has been said a million times, AS did not wait for AC in stage 3 when AC was delayed behind the FS crash. AC lost 1min 13s.

  7. metaFORMA Says:

    Excellent post Gerard!
    The thing that bugged me about the stage 1 incident is the way the commisairs applied the rules. it seemed to me they made a decision based strictly on the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law.
    The 3K rule is a very wise one, but at the same time it was awkward to see people crossing the line in the same time but still being given a +1.20mins…
    It was basically a lottery. It only mattered where you crashed (in or out of the final 3K) and that’s somehow unfair…
    I’m rooting for Sammy San btw.


    • I see your point, but I am not sure the commissaires can do any different. The 3km rule has always been interpreted very strictly, if not then there is no end to the discussions. 4km, 5km, 10km, where does it end? And is it different when the favorite crashes? And on a stage like the one that Gilbert won, if you crash you avoid the chance to lose time on the climb, would that be fair?

      Bottomline is that there will always be situations that feel unfair, the rules cannot cover all possibilities, but giving the commissaires too much room to interpret is also dangerous (see endless discussions on how to interpret the technical rules).

  8. Great insight. I was angry last year, I’m not a Contador fan but I think your right. It’s the nature of competition. I always root for the gentleman and nice guy. I think if the shoe were on the other foot, the outcome may have been the same, would Andy have waited? I’m not so sure.

    My favs and perspective are posted on my blog http://www.mamacyclingfan.posterous.com

    • I think Anonymous already answered that above, in that Andy didn’t wait for Contador in stage 3 last year but instead put Cancellara on the front to make the gap. Perfectly legit, especially on a cobblestone stage where setbacks are part and parcel, but at the same time he is not OBLIGATED to do so. It’s a choice.

      BTW, good luck with your blog, keep it up!

  9. Sidamo Says:

    On every stage of every Tour, Phil & Paul have commented that “you need to stay in the top 20 to stay our of danger”. Pretty much anyone who regularly watches the Tour knows that even if they don’t race bikes.

    Bert knows this as well as anyone, and you can be damn sure Riis knows it. So, why wasn’t he up the front? It’s his own fault he was caught up in the crash. It’s just like the old saying: ‘you snooze, you loose’.

  10. James Hanus Says:

    With the Chaingate incident last year, it may have not been the most gentlemanly response Contador could have taken but he gain timed – time which was vitally important in him winning the biggest bike race in the world for the 3rd time.

    Stage 1 this year, when Contador was caught up in the crash, Schleck and the other GC guys up front saw it as an opportunity to gain time on arguably the biggest favorite for the race.

    I guess in the end, it comes down to the fact that these guys are paid to win bike races, not make lots of friends.

    • ancker Says:

      The difference is Contador attacked, Andy merely rode with the pack he was in. Is Andy supposed to drop out of the pack to wait on Contador? Are all the players supposed to drop out and wait? It might be gentlemanly, but what we’d end up with is all the favorites 1:30ish down. Sure they might be able to make it back, but why chance it?

      Again, I don’t think Contador did anything wrong last year. He’s paid to win the race. But last year and this year aren’t even close to the same type of incident.

  11. Andrew Says:

    Chaingate is a distant memory for me. All I remember is Contador failing a TdF drug test and getting away with it by claiming that he ate “tainted beef”.

    Kudos to whoever built the giant cow serving contador a steak on a field near stage 2.

  12. Felfam Says:

    I was thinking about this last night and it struck me that I have heard no one mention the merit’s of Andy’s decision to attack. Why would he attack on a stage that had a descent and rather long run in to the finish? There was no way he would be able to stay from the rest of the group on the long descent and less so on the flats before the finish. It was a bad decision, and the dropped chain added insult to injury.

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