PARIS – It may be that the winner of the 2010 Tour de France will be the only rider not to have crashed, fallen ill or suffered a mechanical breakdown.
With three competitive stages left in the race – plus the ceremonial ride into Paris on Sunday – Spain’s Alberto Contador looks likely to be the last man standing.
He leads Andy Schleck of Luxembourg by a mere 8 seconds, with another Spaniard, Samuel Sanchez, in third, 2 minutes adrift.
Contador owes his lead over Schleck to one of the numerous mishaps that have characterized this dramatic Tour.
During Monday’s 15th stage, the chain of Schleck’s bicycle popped out of the derailleur just as he sought to distance himself from Contador on a grueling 25-kilometer climb before the finish.
The two-time Tour winner raced past his rival and left him behind as the hapless Schleck waited for a replacement bicycle. Contador gained 39 seconds at the finish and the race leader’s yellow jersey.
A Tour de France mechanic told the daily L’Equipe that Schleck had made a beginner’s mistake by standing up in the bicycle just as he changed gears.
“That’s exactly what you learn in cycling school never to do,” the mechanic said.
The rider who arguably has suffered the greatest series of misfortunes is seven-time champion Lance Armstrong, who is riding in his 13th and final Tour de France.
He fell, along with dozens of other riders, on the rain-slick pavement in the second stage, suffered a flat tire on the cobblestones of the third stage, then crashed in a roundabout and was slowed by two other crashes during the eighth stage.
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