RFI interview

Former Tour champions talk tactics

Andy Schlek
Andy Schlek Reuters

The polemic continues as to whether Tour de France leader Alberto Contador should have waited for Andy Schlek on the Port de Balès on Monday after the chain on Schlek’s bike came off as he was launching an attack against Contador. Schlek was leading the race up to that point but the incident with the chain cost him time and the overall leader’s yellow jersey.


So should Contador have waited for Andy Schlek or was he right to continue riding ?

RFI’s Philip Turle sought the view of two former Tour de France winners, Bernard Thevenet and Bernard Hinault. Thevenet won two tours in 1975 and 1977 and Hinault five in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982 and 1985.

Bernard Thevenet : We have different views about this. I believe that once a fight has started, one rider should not wait for another even, if he has a mechanical problem. At least in principal.

As Contador had already launched his attack I am not sure he realised that Andy Schlek was having problems. A chain is normally something which can be rapidly repaired. Unfortunately Schlek had to get off his bike twice at a moment in the race when the animosity between the two was at its height. Contador naturally cycled on.

Unfortunately Schlek stopped for a long time. Normally his chain would have been repaired rapidly and he could have got back into the race after only losing about 50 meters. The mechanical unfortunately took longer to repair and once the attack by Contador had started it was hard to stop it.

Bernard Hinault : No he shouldn’t have waited. It was an incident in the race. No one crashed. Did the chain come off due to faulty material or was it the result of the way Andy Schlek was riding his bike ? No one could tell at that precise moment.

Contador said he didn’t see what had happened. Surely his team manager would have informed him so is he telling the truth ?

Bernard Thevenet : I think that on the spur of the moment he thought it was only a minor incident. He was in the process of counter-attacking and continued what he had started. After that, it was not up to Contador but to his team managers to tell him that the incident was more serious than originally thought. But maybe his team management was annoyed by what had happened in Spa and decided to leave things as they were.

Bernard Hinault : It’s possible those who were behind Contador decided not to tell him what had happened.

That also happens. Was it Contador’s fault or was it the fault of his team managers who decided not to tell him ? Who knows ? We can’t hear the conversations which take place between the rider and the team manager. They take place in private.






Contador has an eight second advance over Schlek. Can Schlek still win ?

Bernard Thevent : Yes of course Schlek can still win. He is very strong in the mountains, but he will need to make some serious tactical decisions and not just launch a series of head to head attacks.

Bernard Hinault : Schlek must attack in order to build up a strong time difference with Contador. When it comes to the individual time trial, (which takes place on Saturday) and if you consider what happened last year in Annecy, Schlek lost more than a minute and a half over 35 to 40 kilometres. This year the stage is 50 kilometres long. So even though it takes place on the flat, Schlek needs to gain at least a two minute advance over Contador to be assured of winning.

Who is the stronger, Contador or Schlek ?

Bernard Thevenet : For the moment it is Contador who has the advantage. But there is nothing to indicate that he will maintain his advantage to the end. The situation is still very much open.

This Tour de France has been a good one for French riders who have won six stage wins so far this year.

Bernard Hinault : Yes, but it’s a shame that those winning them are all aged around 30.
What would be good would be for a youngster of about 23 or 24 who could show the older ones what he has got, and take the lead!

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Keep up to date with international news by downloading the RFI app