The Biggest TdF Scandals: 2010—Chaingate

Forget about the doping. These ten scandals rocked cycling to its core.

Tour de France 2009 Mont Ventou

Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador in 2009.     Photo: charel.irrthum/Flickr

On stage 15 of the 2010 Tour, Luxembourger Andy Schleck was riding in the yellow jersey when he attacked a group of his rivals near the summit of the Port de Balès, a high mountain pass in the central Pyrenees. But soon after Schleck darted up the road he came to a dead stop and hopped off his bike. He’d dropped his chain.

While he struggled to get it back on, Schleck’s closest competitor, Alberto Contador, who was trying to mark Schleck’s attack, rode past him in anger with two other riders. Contador looked back a few times to check on Schleck’s progress, but he did not slow down and wait for Schleck. A desperate Schleck tried to reconnect with Contador but failed, eventually losing the yellow jersey at day’s end and never regaining it.

The stage 15 incident will forever go down in history as “chaingate.” The reason for the controversy has to do with the unwritten rules of the road at the Tour de France—in this case the rule that the leader’s closest rivals should not attack him if he has a mechanical issue. The thinking goes that profiting from the leader’s bad luck is dishonorable, and that the battle for the lead should be held on an even playing field.

Never before has this “rule” been put to the test like it was in 2010. Footage of “chaingate” has been dissected as closely as any in history, and opinion remains split to this day on whether Contador should have waited for Schleck to fix the chain and rejoin the group, or since Schleck attacked first, whether Contador was “allowed” to drop him.

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