Tour Ethics: Should You Kick Your rival When He’s down?

Bike racing is not like other sports, and the Tour de France is not like other bike races. In the Tour, there is a long-standing tradition that says you do not attack when your rival goes down, whether he goes down as a result of a crash or a mechanical difficulty. This tradition exists because it is considered poor form to win because of the temporary difficulty of your opponent. The race should be won based on strength and skill and strategy (and other tres importante words beginning with S). This tradition goes double when the rival in question wears the fabled Maillot Jeaune. Thus, the peloton waited for Lance Armstrong when he crashed in previous years and Armstrong himself waited for opponents when they crashed. And Armstrong is not really known to be an especially nice guy.

That’s what makes today’s events so difficult to understand.

Contador was booed as they put the yellow jersey on him at the end of the ride. And this in an area of France that is near to Spain, his home country. You have to work hard to generate that much bad blood.

Contador says he didn’t know Schleck’s chain was off. Schleck says, “my stomach is filled with anger.” One thing’s for sure: the next few days should be very interesting.


3 Responses

  1. Although it’s not 100% black-and-white (what ever is?), Contador’s actions flew in the face of Tour history and etiquette. The fact he has subsequently issued a video apology suggests he realises it too.

    I’ve tried to lay out the evidence in the blog below:

  2. Clearly winning matters more to Contador than winning fair. As I argued in my blog (, the fact that he chose to attack suggests to me that is worried about Schleck, so maybe Schleck can still regain the yellow, even if just until the time trail. It’s certainly unlikely Contador will go down as one of the great legends of the Tour after yesterday.

  3. Thanks, both of you for your comments and for your great exposition of this issue elsewhere. For myself, I think what Contador did was clearly wrong, but even worse was refusing to admit his knowlefge of what was happening to Schleck. Contador’s apology was very welcome, but even there, he chose to try to excuse himself and cast aspersions at others. Not great form from a guy who is clearly a great rider but maybe not such a great champion.

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