Alberto Contador has apologised for taking advantage of rival Andy Schleck’s mechanical problem to seize the Tour de France race leader’s yellow jersey.
The 27-year-old Spaniard surged ahead after Schleck’s chain slipped on yesterday’s 187.5-kilometre 15th stage from Pamiers to Bagneres-de-Luchon to take an eight-second lead in the race for the maillot jaune.
Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) lost around 40 seconds due to the mechanical problem as he attempted to attack on the 19.3km Port de Bales hors categorie (beyond category) climb and he finished 39 seconds behind Contador (Astana) to fall back into second place overall with five days of racing remaining.
Contador – against usual convention when another rider is afflicted with a mechanical problem – rode on when Schleck was brought to a halt and passed his rival.
The two-time winner insisted after the race he was not aware of Schleck’s predicament.
However, in a YouTube video, Contador later said: “Today I managed to get on the podium, which makes me happy.
“The problem with that was the circumstances. Right when I attacked, Andy had a mechanical on the last climb. The race was in full gear and, well, maybe I made a mistake. I’m sorry.
“At a time like that all you think about is riding as fast as you can. I’m not happy, in the sense that, to me, fair play is very important.
“The kind of thing that happened today is not something I like, it’s not my style and I hope my relationship with Andy will remain as good as before.”
Contador holds an eight-second lead over Schleck ahead of today’s 199.5km 16th stage from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Pau.