Frandy were hit with a sucker punch on Tuesday's
stage 16 when they failed to grasp that one of their rivals would ever consider
an attack while it was raining.
"Frankly," said Frank, "we did not expect an attack. It's well
played. Bjarne (Riis) is behind this. He knows we don't like the bad weather
and the descent. Congratulations to them, it's a nice one."
The idea of attacking four kilometres from the summit of a potentially decisive
climb is new to the Schlecks, who are keener to throw down the hammer in the
closing 500m of uphill tests, picking up two-second advantages piecemeal.
Both brothers could not keep up with the pace of Saxo Bank's Alberto Contador
on the Col de Manse, and when BMC's Cadel Evans set a blistering pace down the
narrow descent to La Rochette, the vertiginous Schlecks were found out.
Younger Schleck, Andy, was particularly aggrieved at having lost more than a
minute in such an unfair manner.
"People don't want a race that is decided in a downhill," he
harrumphed at the finish in Gap, forgetting that it had been Contador's series
of uphill attacks that had really done for his chances.
"It was a dangerous finish. I was not feeling great when he attacked and I
did a bad descent. But is this really what people want to see? A finish like
this should not be allowed. We have families waiting for us at home. Do the
public want a fair race or a race which ends in hospital?" he added, on a
day which saw no hospitalisations.
Schleck's whining was not so much a question of sour grapes as a whole sour
Maybe he thinks that if he complains enough, race director Christian Prudhomme
- in the same way that he altered the green jersey competition to suit Mark
Cavendish - will see the light and come up with a Tour of 21 summit finishes and no downhill whatsoever, thereby gifting Andy a probable 42-second overall
As it is, Schleck Junior has seen his advantage over a resurgent Contador
whittled down to just 39 seconds - the same advantage that the Spaniard beat
him by last year in Paris.
Worrying news for Andy is his admission that he "knew Contador would attack"
and yet failed to do anything about it. Hardly form of a potential Tour
The Schlecks' failure to take significant time gains from their main rivals in the Pyrenees could well be about to come back and haunt them. All of a sudden,
being stoked about a two-second gain seems somewhat laughable.
Laughable, too, are the Schlecks' tactics and PR machine. With both brothers
pretty much admitting they don't like wet downhills on the eve of another stage
which features a similar downhill finish - which could well be wet - it is an
open invitation for further attacks.
"The gap (time lost today) means nothing. I'm in great shape, I can affirm
that. I have showed it and I will continue to show it," poker-faced Andy
at about the same time that Rupert Murdoch was attacked by a custard pie.
"The Tour is not over, it has just started. Today's episode is not a
tragedy. We will stay on our path," he schoolteacher-ed in that inimitable
way of his, before adding, tellingly: "We need to gain time."
Saddles has not checked up on the reaction of Leotard manager Bryan Nygaard,
but no doubt it will be steeped in spin, something along the lines of:
"Yet again both Andy and Frank showed they are in the form of their life.
The way they managed to complete that demanding descent in such treacherous
conditions without falling was incredible.
"It was tactical to let Evans and Contador ride on ahead - we believe they
will tire themselves out before the big mountains. As for Sanchez, we're not
underestimating him so much as forgetting he's around."
Gaffe of the Day: Leonardo Duque
touched wheels with a rider and came crashing down heavily on his right hip as
he tried to get into one of the many breakaway attempts. Given news broke on
Tuesday of the Cofidis rider's contract not being renewed next season, this was
hardly the best way to put
himself in the shop window.
Plat du Jour: A black truffle
omelette for breakfast and a nice leg of Gap lamb for dinner.
Word of the Day:
Schlective - adj. patchy - eg. Their form is rather schlective at the moment,
in fact it's going downhill fast.
Uses for... Thor
Quote of the Day:
"It's a little bit scary when Contador
attacks." Thomas Voeckler
Stage 16 prediction:
After the usual FDJ breakaway drama, we'll see Damiano Cunego attacking on the
climb to Sestrieres. A selection will be made, with all the big guns, but in
the final run into the finish, one of the Schlecks will fall, prompting Andy to
say "I told you so". Bryan Nygaard will put a positive spin on it,
saying the team has better prospects with one Schleck out of the race. And the
thing is, he'll be right. Sky's Rigo Uran to take the stage, outsprinting Roman
Kreuziger of Astana in Pinerolo.