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Chain, Gloves Off in Tour de France Showdown

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bike Chain, Gloves Off in Tour de France Showdown

BAGNERES-DE-LUCHON, France (AP) — The gloves have come off at the Tour de France.

Andy Schleck was fighting mad after dropping his chain during a tough climb Monday and then losing the overall lead when defending champion Alberto Contador unabashedly sped ahead to take the yellow jersey.

“He can be nervous for the next days … this gives me anger,” said Schleck, vowing revenge. “I’m not the one who will get chased any more, I’m the one who chases. That’s a big difference.”

The episode highlighted the often-unclear etiquette of cycling’s greatest race, where the wearer of the yellow jersey is conferred almost queen-bee-like respect — and taking advantage of mishaps out of his control is frowned upon.

The breach came on a day when France’s Thomas Voeckler came out of a long breakaway to win the 15th stage from Pamiers to Bagneres to Luchon, finishing a 116.5-mile trek that included the merciless Port de Bales climb in 4 hours, 44 minutes, 51 seconds.

Contador, who gained time while Schleck was putting his chain back on and during a high-speed downhill to the finish, crossed 2:50 back in seventh, while Schleck came in 12th — 3:29 after Voeckler.

After more than two weeks and 1,800 miles of racing, the two-time champion from Spain leads Schleck by merely 8 seconds. Spain’s Samuel Sanchez is third, 2:00 back.

With Schleck only 31 seconds ahead going into Monday’s stage and big Pyrenean climbs ahead promising a shakeout, tensions were certain to escalate. The two self-avowed friends had spent one calmer day in this Tour discussing a recent vacation getaway they had had together.

The friendship is now apparently on hold.

“We’re only here in a bike race, so let’s leave it that way,” Schleck said after a long pause, when asked if he and Contador were still friends. “I think everybody can make his opinion about the race today.”

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