Monday, August 02, 2010

A Fine Bromance: Schleck and Contador on the Col du Tourmalet

"Jacques Anquetil was the first cyclist to win five Tours de France; in 1961, he held the Yellow jersey from first stage to last. Anquetil was the first to win all three grand tours. He held the hour record. In 1965 he won the gruelling 557km Bordeaux-Paris, the day after taking victory in the week-long Dauphine Libere, an amazing achievement. His generally defensive racing style meant he was less successful in one day races, but even so he won Liege-Bastogne-Liege, considered by many to be the toughest of the Classics. Anquetil was imperious, uncoubtedly the strongest rider of his era. Yet he was never world champion, despite finishing in the top ten on six occasions. Why?

In Master Jacques, Richard Yates argues that it was spite that ensured Anquetil would never win the world title. His rivalry with Raymond Poulidor was so intense that he spent more time preventing Poulidor from winning the world title than trying to win it himself. In other words, it was more important to Anquetil to stop his rival from being world champion than to be world champion himself.

It’s incredible that a great athlete would pass up the opportunity of winning one of the most prestigious titles the sport has to offer for the sake of personal animosity. Yet there it is. Anquetil hated Poulidor; he couldn’t bear it that the French public loved Poulidor, the loser, more than he, the imperious winner. It was jealous, small-minded and magnificently petty. One of the great cycling images is of the two men riding elbow to elbow up the Puy de Dome in the 1964 Tour, neither giving an inch, neither allowing the other to have even half a wheel. Riding like that was to neither man’s advantage. Yet it’s as compelling a moment as the sport has to offer; it is the essence of sport.

Schleck and Contador climbing for almost certain victory on the Tourmalet in this year’s Tour could – and should – have been as compelling. But there was – there is – something missing from this rivalry: spite. We came close, in stage 15 when Contador powered on as Schleck dropped his chain and seized the yellow jersey. Many argued that this critical counter breached a basic convention of the sport – you don’t attack the yellow jersey when he suffers an accident or a mechanical. Schleck was furious, Contador at first indifferent as he celebrated taking the race lead at the end of the stage. For a few gossip-filled hours, the rivalry seemd to light up. Then Contador apologised, Schleck accepted and we were back to the fine bromance that reached its pinnacle with the stomach-turning spectacle of Contador patting Schleck’s face for just a little too long after gifting him the Tourmalet stage..."

Read more of "A Fine Bromance: Schleck and Contador on the Col du Tourmalet," at The Fixed Factor, here.


  1. Homoerotic face-patting has no place in the Tour de France, let alone between the Yellow and White Jerseys. I'm an AC fan (tho much less so after he flicked VINO), but the love-in with Schleck should have earned them both a fine! And in retrospect, Renshaw vs. Dean and Barredo vs. Costa should have earned those riders BONUSES for the displays of fighting spirit

    (fight video of Barredo y Costa is disappearing quickly from the 'net b/c of ASO copyright claims - you can still see it here, though:

  2. Cycling is for fags lol


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