The first stop for any rider coming down from the Tour de France podium is in front of the microphone brandished by French television presenter Gérard Holtz. During his post-stage interviews in Pau, the effervescent Holtz received a bonus when race leader Alberto Contador and second-placed Andy Schleck reached his position at almost the same time.
This allowed the Spaniard to state publicly his apology for events on the Port de Balès, when Schleck’s mechanical mishap resulted in Contador taking the race lead from the irate Luxembourger, who is, coincidentally, one of his close friends.
Holtz had just started his interview with Contador, by asking him for his thoughts on a stage that started fiercely for the yellow jersey group and ended up rather tamely for them…
Alberto Contador: It was certainly a hard stage. Right from the second kilometre of the stage there were only 14 riders in the peloton.
Gérard Holtz: There were whistles on the podium. Did it shock you to hear that?
AC: No, I can respect why…
GH: Hang on, sorry for interrupting you, but we’ve got another guest here. Andy, can you sit down? Alberto?
AC: We are very good friends and we can’t let that friendship be ruined by what has happened.
GH: Andy, what do you think when you hear Alberto say that?
Andy Schleck: We did speak to each other today. What we all saw yesterday was not something that you want to see in a race, but sometimes things like that do happen. Alberto said to me that it was simply something that’s part of racing. I told him that it’s all fine now. The Tour de France is going to be won by the rider with the best legs, and there is certainly going to be a great battle between the two of us the day after tomorrow.
GH (referring to the video that Contador posted on Youtube in the evening after stage 15): Alberto, is it true that you apologised to Andy?
AC: Yes. I didn’t need to. But we’ve got a very strong friendship and it was for that reason that I wanted to apologise yesterday evening.
AS: I realise that after what happened at Spa the race could already have been over for me. That day the peloton waited for me. Yesterday the situation wasn’t the same, and I realised that I shouldn’t fret about it too much.
GH: You’re like now two boxers preparing for the final rounds on the last Pyrenean stage and also in the final time trial.
AS: Yes, eight second is nothing at all.
GH: Laurent Fignon and Greg LeMond know that all too well…
AS: In the final week of the Tour de France eight seconds between him and me is nothing at all. I think that the Tour will be decided on the Tourmalet and that the first one to the summit will be the man who wins the Tour de France.
GH: Can you also tell those members of the public who have been jeering Alberto that they should stop because once again today there was a scene that was disrespectful of all those who love cycling…
AS: Yes, er…
GH: Can you say it directly into that camera?
AS (looking directly into the camera): Everyone stop that! Do it for me.
GH: That’s good to hear because I think it is right to respect the yellow jersey and also to respect great champions.
AC: I just want to say many, many thanks for that my friend.
GH: Thank you to both of you champions.
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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