Contador Apologizes For Tour de France Pass, Showing Cycling Does Have Some Ethics

Who knew there was a code of ethics in cycling? After passing race-leader Andy Schleck during Monday's Stage 15 of the Tour de France to become the overall leader, defending champion Alberto Contador took to YouTube to apologize for his action:
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↵⇥"Hello everyone. Today I made the podium and I am happy about that. But there's a problem with the circumstances. Just when I attacked, Andy had a mechanical problem, on the last climb. The race was on, and maybe I made a mistake. I'm sorry." ↵
↵Contador is specifically apologizing for taking advantage of Schleck's mechanical problem by blowing past him while his bike wasn't working properly. Per The Telegraph: ↵
↵⇥Schleck started the day 31 seconds ahead of Contador and needing to extend that lead ahead of Saturday’s time-trial. After biding his time on another sweltering day … he attacked with a savage burst 4km short of the summit of the mighty Port de Balès 24km from the finish. ↵⇥

↵⇥In no time Schleck had put 45 yards on Contador and was stretching that lead when his chain slipped and tangled and he came to grinding halt. ↵⇥Contador, chasing hard by now, had to swerve as he passed the stationary Schleck on the inside and narrowly avoided colliding with a parked car as he attacked the yellow jersey. ↵⇥

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↵⇥Afterwards, however, he insisted he did not realise Schleck had stopped and encountered a problem. Replays clearly show Contador constantly looking back over his shoulder to check the progress of his rival as he accelerated hard to ram home his advantage. ↵⇥

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↵Per the report, Schleck and Contador are friends, but the defending champ not only left his challenger in the proverbial dust, but also in a fit of rage. Schleck told reporters, "[m]y stomach is full of anger. The race is not finished and I will take my revenge. I can end it like a champion. I would never have raced like that and taken advantage of that situation. For sure these guys don’t get the fair-play prize today.” ↵

↵Excuse me if I take an American point of view in this situation. First, cycling has more reports of cheating – yes it's mostly doping – than any sport in the world, so it's somewhat hilarious to the outsider to read about a moral and ethical code within a race. Second, it's a bike race! Men…riding bikes. There are only two things in that equation. The men, and the bikes. If something happens to the man – a knee injury or a back problem – does the race stop so he can grab a massage and an ice pack? Why, then, if something happens to the bike, should the other competitors hold up the rest of the race until one rider can fix his problem? ↵

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↵If a NASCAR driver got a flat tire or had a belt snap, would the rest of the drivers wait for him to fix it in the pits before getting back to full speed? If a marathon runners shoe falls off, does everyone wait until he can secure a proper double knot? ↵

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↵You can make the case that it's understandable for other riders to slow down after a competitor crashes – if for nothing else, like car racing, to not add to the carnage – and there's probably some karmic value to making sure you don’t benefit from another racer's injury. But bike malfunction? ↵

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↵Contador shouldn’t be apologizing to Schleck, he should be telling him to get a better bike. Alas, this is what happens in the Tour de France. With a race that's completed in stages, there is ample time for a racer to let the press, and the sentiment of the fans, get into his head. Contador wants to win, but he clearly doesn't want to be the villain in the process. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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