I’m sitting here at my desk wrapping up work on tomorrow’s Roanoke Times Outdoors page while dealing with a difficult distraction — live coverage of the Tour de France on the Versus network.
I’ve watched quite a bit of the tour this year, and I admit it’s because of Lance Armstrong’s return. I never expected that Armstrong could win, but I figured his being in the race would make things more interesting, and that’s been the case.
A lot has been made of the supposed rivalry between Armstrong and his teammate, Alberto Contador of Spain.
As much as these guys ride together, Armstrong knew full well that Contador would be stronger in the big mountains, where this race is won. But I think early in the race Armstrong played things up in regards to the rivalry, if for no other reason than to help fuel interest in the race.
Once Contador established that he wouldn’t lose (barring a crash, illness or other catastrophe) Armstrong was left fighting for a spot on the podium, and that’s still pretty interesting considering his age (ancient, by pro cycling standards).
As for Contador, I was pretty ambivalent about him until yesterday, when he pulled one of the most baffling moves I’ve seen in years of closely following this race.
About 2 kilometers from the top of the day’s final climb, Contador was in a group with rivals Andy and Frank Schleck, and teammate Andreas Kloden.
Had the four reached the summit together, there was a good chance that Kloden could have hung with the others to the finish, and solidified his chances of finishing in the top three overall come Paris. With Armstrong still also in the mix for a podium spot, there was a chance Astana could sweep all three top spots — a remarkable team achievement.
So what does Contador do? He attacks, meaning he put the hammer down. The strategy was questionable, because even if he had dropped the Schlecks, he wasn’t going to get much time on them. And he didn’t need time on them anyway.
The problem was, the Schlecks were able to hang on, but Kloden couldn’t. He ended up losing two minutes, and was passed in the standings by the Schleck brothers.
So the only thing Contador accomplished was to hurt his own teammate. So this guy is either really selfish, or really dumb. Or, maybe, both.
As I write this it appears that Contador may win today’s individual time trial. So he’s clearly the best in the race. But I can’t imagine he’s winning many friends in the peleton with moves like Wednesday’s. That might not hurt him in this race, but it will come back on him at some point.