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Riis preaches calm in aftermath of Schleck's disappointment

While Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) had “anger in his belly” following stage fifteen of the Tour de France, when Alberto Contador (Astana) took advantage of his mechanical problems on the climb of the Port de Bales to claim the yellow jersey, the Luxembourger’s team director, Bjarne Riis, appeared to have ice in his.

Riis was characteristically cool and undemonstrative as he discussed Schleck’s mishap. “It’s sh*tty for him and for us it’s just bad luck,” shrugged Riis, who appealed to his rider to find an outlet for his anger on the bike. “That’s the way to handle it,” he said. “Take it out on the pedals.”

To the thorny question of whether Contador should have waited for Schleck as he attempted to fix his chain, Riis shrugged again. “I would have hoped he would have waited, and I think I would have waited... I think he did wait at the beginning but then it was a while before Andy was on the bike again.

“I don’t know. Was it possible for Contador to wait in that situation, with [Samuel] Sanchez [Euskaltel] and [Denis] Menchov [Rabobank] attacking? He has to follow those guys, for sure. He might not need to pull [with them] or attack, but he has to follow those guys.

“[Andy] needs to stay calm, to focus and do the right thing. We’ll talk about it and we’ll make a plan - I think that’s the only thing we can do. There’s a lot of anger right now. I think that's normal and it’s okay. You have the right to let that out. But then he has to settle down again and regain his focus and do the right things.”

Riis attempted to play down any problems between Schleck and Contador, saying: “I don’t want to create a polemic [argument] here because these were the circumstances of the race, and sometimes it’s like that. A lot of guys crashed today and nobody helped, nobody waited. It’s how it is.

“But it’s sad for Andy,” continued Riis, “he doesn’t deserve that. It’s not just the eight seconds [he now trails Contador by], it’s the 39 seconds he lost.”

With another Pyrenean stage on Tuesday, including the climb of the Col du Tourmalet, was it possible that Schleck will claim back the yellow jersey within 24 hours of losing it? “That would be beautiful,” smiled Riis.

However, he then suggested that Thursday’s stage, which finishes at the summit of the Tourmalet, would be the important one. “I think the Tourmalet in a few days is going to be decisive. If you attack tomorrow, you can be chased down.”

Riis knows that his rider must attack before the final time trial on Saturday, though he wouldn’t be drawn on how much time Schleck would need in order to hold off Contador. “We’ve been talking about that for two weeks now,” he said. “I don’t know.”

Nor did Riis know whether Schleck’s attack on the Port de Bales would have been successful, had his chain not come off. “I’m not sure because Contador was on his way back to Andy,” said Riis. “To be honest, I don’t really see one of them [as being] stronger than the other on the climbs.”

What do you think about the Andy Schleck mechanical? Should his GC rivals have waited or were they in the right to attack? Weigh in on the Cyclingnews Forum.

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Richard Moore is a freelance journalist and author. His first book, In Search of Robert Millar (HarperSport), won Best Biography at the 2008 British Sports Book Awards. His second book, Heroes, Villains & Velodromes (HarperSport), was long-listed for the 2008 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

He writes on sport, specialising in cycling, and is a regular contributor to Cyclingnews, the Guardian, skyports.com, the Scotsman and Procycling magazine.

He is also a former racing cyclist who represented Scotland at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and Great Britain at the 1998 Tour de Langkawi

His next book, Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France, will be published by Yellow Jersey in May 2011.

Another book, Sky’s the Limit: British Cycling’s Quest to Conquer the Tour de France, will also be published by HarperSport in June 2011.