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Contador framed

Creative Commons License photo credit: Arjan Almekinders
What type of rider will Contador turn out to be?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock and you’re a sports fan, you know that on Monday in the Tour de France, Alberto Contador assumed the yellow jersey after Andy Schleck had a mechanical where his chain fell off his derailleur. Even though Contador was behind Schleck and quite possibly saw the mechanical, he still chose to attack as did the other competitors. The net result is that Andy Schleck is now eight seconds behind Contador in second place.

One of the unique things about the Tour de France and the sport of cycling–when compared to many other modern day sports–is the prelevance of what people call chivalry or a code of conduct. In this case, typically the wearer of the yellow jersey is afforded a great deal of more respect and consideration than the average cyclist. When, for example, the leader has a mechanical issue, the competition will often not attack: it’s simply better to take victory as achieved with strength and their fitness, not by virtue of a mechanical issue.

There was most certainly some unhappy fans at the end of the day when Contador put on his yellow jersey. Contador brushed them aside at the time, but later on Monday night he published a video to YouTube where he apologized for his actions. And this leads to my point today: the power of conscience.

Whether you are a professional athlete or simply someone who enjoys sport, you’ve probably had an opportunity in whatever race or event you participated in to take a shortcut or get a head start on someone. Not through sheer athleticism, but by finding an easier way. The split-second choices you make in that situation both define and reveal your character.

Whether or not Contador saw the chain, he could see that Andy Schleck had trouble. There were plenty of chances over the last 20k to hear what had happened…but he still didn’t ease up. The fact that he made the video later on Monday night tells me that regardless of what he knew at the time, Contador now knows what he did wasn’t right.

In today’s age of social media, it’s very easy to apologize. But I don’t think it really has the same effect as taking an action to fix what’s been done. When you’ve said something damaging in person or done something wrong, it’s very easy to get on Twitter and Youtube and set up a message saying hey, I’m sorry for what I did. But if you really fix what you’ve done, the most important thing to do is to take action.

Actions speak louder than words. Your actions caused the issue. Your actions can fix it.

So, here is my proposed solution, assuming Contador and Schleck ride into the final time trial still in first and second place, respectively. When Contador is on the starting block, I say that he sits there for an additional 39 seconds. At the end of those 39 seconds, he begins riding.

I think that would be a huge demonstration of his commitment to making things right and to racing clean. More importantly it would really show personal growth, as a lot of people have doubted Contador’s emotional ability to handle the leadership of being the greatest cyclist in the world.

Like you, I’ll be curious to see what happens over the next few days of riding. I do believe that my proposed Start House Solution will be, perhaps, the most single powerful signal that Contador could send to the cycling world and to Andy Schleck that he made the wrong decision on Monday, that he knows he made the wrong decision, and that he’s going to race the race as it stood before the incident.

What do you think? Tell me in the comments below!

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