Image via WikipediaSometimes in sport you get that added something, that clash of personalities and wills that lifts a game or event above the run of the mill. Sometimes it comes early on as a form of intimidation, that would be the stare an opening batsman received from Curtley Ambrose for having the temerity to survive the first ball of the day. Sometimes it comes mid event, that would be Roy Keane's mad eyed glare giving you a moments advance notice of an incoming leg breaker tackle.
Sometimes though the clash of wills comes when two competitors have pushed themselves to utmost limit, and realising that they have done all they physically can to beat the other man, it hasn't been enough, and in a state of near desperation they seek to impose them self on their opponent by sheer force of will.
One of those moments came this afternoon in the Tour De France, towards the end of a brutal mountain stage the two men broke away from the peloton on the climb to the summit of the Col De Tourmalet. Andy Schleck kept the lead with Alberto Contador on his wheel as they toiled up the fog shrouded mountain road, the pace Schleck kept had dropped every man off his tail, except Contador, who clung limpet like to him. The strain was visible on both men's faces, Schleck was the man that needed the break, but striving as hard as he could he could not shake Contador off.
Following the earlier controversy when Contador failed to halt after Schleck lost his chain on the run in, there was already a palpable air of tension between the leading two riders, and as they stood up on their machines and forced their way up the final mountain stage that tension seemed to break. Schleck had failed to shake Contador, Contador had tried to charge but in return could not lose Schleck.
Then came the look, Schleck dropped back so that the men were riding abreast and he glared at Contador from inches away, words were exchanged, mostly from the Frenchman, the Spaniard kept his own counsel. Schleck continued to stare at his rival, but Contador remained impassive and the men crossed the finish line almost together. After the race they shared a brief hug and congratulated each other, but on turning away their smiles vanished, they had shared an epic day, but each was disappointed at not beating the other.
There are only 2 days remaining in this year's Tour, a long stage tomorrow, then a short time trail, and lastly one of the shortest final days ever in a TdF, all 3 days should provide breaks and sprint finishes, and with the two leaders neck and neck, and Sanchez and Mendov only three minutes behind them, nobody can afford any mistakes in the final days.