Saturday, July 24, 2010


Remember that number: 39.

It's the number of seconds by which Alberto Contador of Spain finished Stage 19 ahead of Andy Schleck of Luxembourg in the General Classification, or overall standings of this year's Tour de France.

It's also the exact number of seconds which Contador gained on Schleck when he took advantage of Schleck's mechanical problem in the first Pyreneean mountain stage.  Following the Yellow Jersey-wearing Schleck on the last climb of that stage, Contador saw his chain come off, raced past him and did his best to leave Schleck in the dust.  Schleck had led Contador by 31 seconds at the beginning of that stage; when it ended, he trailed the new race leader by 8 seconds.

Now, after stage 19's individual time trial, 39 seconds is Contador's margin of victory over Schleck for the Tour de France championship.

39 seconds that were gained in a way most professional cyclists disrespect.  It is protocol to not attack the race leader, the wearer of the Yellow Jersey, if he (1) has a crash, (2) has a mechanical failure, or is (3) responding to the call of nature.

Though Contador has apologized for his actions and Andy Schleck has accepted his fate, the difference in the outcome of this year's Tour hinges on those 39 seconds.

Reminds me of the title of one of Lance Armstrong's books: Every Second Counts.

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