Tour de France Brings Unwritten Rules into the International Spotlight

Today’s primary unwritten rules-related chatter comes to us from the Continent, where defending champion Alberto Contador did the ungentlemanly thing in the Tour de France by pressing ahead after stage leader Andy Schleck’s chain popped off.

Bicycling’s code mandates that a rider slows to wait should a rival be beset by technical misfortune.

Contador’s maneuver allowed him to gain 39 seconds—enough to surpass Schleck for the overall lead, but at considerable cost to his good P.R. Like baseball’s unwritten rules, however, prominent names defend both sides of every argument.

“You can’t say to Contador, ‘Hey, wait for Andy,’ ” said Lance Armstrong’s team director Johan Bruyneel in the Christian Science Monitor. “There’s no gifts in this race.”

Also quoted in the Monitor was Cervelo TestTeam owner Gerard Vroomen, who tweeted the opposite sentiment: “Contador just gained a great chance to win, but he lost the chance to win greatly.”

The fact that Contador and Schleck are good friends only leads to the intrigue.

“I would not like to take the yellow like that,” said Schleck in the Wall Street Journal. “I will take my revenge.”

There are subtleties here about which a bicycle-racing neophyte like myself has little idea, including the notion (according to Vroomen, anyway) that Contador’s action might have itself been revenge for an earlier slight by Schleck.

However this threatened revenge plays out, however, it’s a fair certainty that it won’t come via an inside fastball.

– Jason

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