BAGNERES-DE-LUCHON, France —
Andy Schleck lost the overall lead in the Tour de France to defending
champion Alberto Contador on Monday after suffering a mechanical problem
at a disastrous moment in a 15th stage won by Thomas Voeckler.
Afterward, a furious Schleck
accused Contador of taking the yellow jersey unfairly because he didn’t
wait while Schleck stopped to fix the chain on his bike. Contador
insisted he didn’t know Schleck had had a problem.
Schleck had accelerated less than
2.5 miles from the top of the big climb of the day, the Port de Bales,
but almost immediately lost his chain, forcing him to stop on the side
of the road. Contador shot past, gaining valuable time while Schleck got
his chain back on.
The Luxembourg rider then tried
to ride his way back through the field to catch up with Contador and the
other leaders in the overall competition, but was unable to make up the
time. He finished 39 seconds behind Contador, who holds the overall
lead by 8 seconds.
Schleck said that according to
cycling etiquette the riders should have waited for him, which was what
happened when he crashed during an early stage.
“Today, you know, everybody is in
panic, they see already the Eiffel Tower. I would not have taken
advantage of the situation,” he said. “It’s not up to me … but for
sure these guys don’t get the fair-play prize today.”
He added: “I wouldn’t want to
take the jersey like that.”
Contador said he was not aware of
Schleck’s problem until he had gone far past him.
“I planned to attack anyway, and
when I knew what had happened to him I was already ahead and racing,” he
said. “Of course I know it’s a delicate situation and could lead to
debate, but I don’t believe that to lose or win 30 seconds at this point
will make you win or lose the Tour de France.”
It was the second stage victory
for Voeckler after another solo win in Perpignan last year. He also held
the yellow jersey for nine days in 2004.
He finished Monday’s 116.5-mile
15th stage from Pamiers to Bagneres-de-Luchon in 4 hours, 44 minutes, 51
seconds, ahead of Alessandro Ballan of Italy and Aitor Perez of Spain.
Tuesday’s 16th stage, the third
in the Pyrenees, is one of the toughest of all, taking the riders 124
mile from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Pau. The course goes over the major
climbs of the Col de Peyresourde, Col d’Aspin and Col d’Aubisque, but
the highlight will be the first of two crossings of the legendary Col du