- the action of leading a group of people or an organisation, or the ability to do this.
Who doesn’t love a good rivalry? Messi vs Ronaldo, the Yankees vs the Red Sox, Nancy Kerrigan vs Tonya Harding. We can’t stop watching them, wondering who will come out on top, as they help drive their sports to greater heights.
But what happens when these rivalries occur within the same team? You know what they say, too many cooks spoil the broth. Dual leadership can be a welcomed concept for some. If one rider falters, there is still another, with the team refusing to put all their eggs in one basket – in case this basket breaks.
So without further ado: co-leaders and dual leadership. Good, bad or ugly?
1985/1986: Le Blaireau vs LeMond
“He’s attacked me from the beginning of the Tour de France. He’s never helped me once. I don’t feel confident at all with him.” – Greg LeMond on his teammate Bernard Hinault after the 1985 Tour de France.
Rewind back to 1984. Bernard Hinault was signed to the La Vie Claire team, and LeMond would join him as co-leader after a strong performance in the Tour de France that same year. This proved to work wonders at the Giro d’Italia in 1985, as Hinault grasped overall victory while teammate LeMond rounded off the podium in third place. Heading in to the Tour de France, LeMond still worked as a lieutenant for Hinault, but the latter would arguably become the stronger of the pair. With under less than kilometre to go and after touching wheels with other riders, Hinault and teammates Bauer, Arnaud and Vallet hit the ground on stage 14. Although he lost no time that day on GC, Le Blaireau lost a lot of blood, combined with a broken nose, inability to breathe properly and two black eyes the next day. During stage 17, rival Roche attacked, and LeMond followed – doing his job. The team orders were simple: you can follow, but you can’t work with him. It’s here that there is some confusion (or more, a case of who you want to believe). LeMond states his directeur sportifs Köchli and Le Guilloux lied about how far back teammate Hinault actually was, resulting in LeMond’s inability to challenge for the overall win.
Hinault would go on to win the Tour, with LeMond sitting right behind him in second place, just over 1’40” behind. For his support, Hinault promised to repay LeMond by helping him win the 1986 Tour de France. Yet during this Tour, Hinault rode a suspiciously aggressive race. Claiming he was trying to tire out LeMond’s rivals, “The Badger” drew out a lead over his teammate after the twelfth stage; even though he just missed the stage win, he would wear the yellow jersey with a lead of over 5 minutes. Yet, reluctant to pass up an opportunity to win, it was LeMond who attacked on stage 13, almost closing the entire gap to his teammate on GC. Stage 18’s Alpe d’Huez finish was the chosen setting in which the duo would appear calmer, eventually riding side-by-side. Were they working in peace? Was Hinault actually content with LeMond winning?
“I hope the strongest man wins the Tour. [It’s] not finished. There could be a crash, many things could happen. But if we have a war – it will be fair. The stronger one will win.” – Hinault after the stage.
‘But I don’t want to attack! I could have attacked last year.” – LeMond in response.
Right then. LeMond would have to ride with constant anxiety hanging over his yellow jersey, that his own teammate would keep attacking him. Nevertheless, LeMond would claim the Tour de France by 3’10” over Hinault, with it possibly coming as no surprise that the latter would take the combativity award. Speaking to Rouleur.cc, Hinault claimed that LeMond thought the 1986 Tour de France was war. “It wasn’t war for me. I wasn’t just going to give him the yellow jersey like that. He needed to seek it out a bit.”
Ah, that team spirit.
Good, Bad or Ugly? Good in the 1985 Giro d’Italia. Bad for Hinault’s shady game during the 1986 Tour de France – LeMond won, but at what cost? Well, the splitting of the team. La Vie Claire effectively split after this through nationality lines, the French riding for Hinault, the American and Canadian riders siding with LeMond and the Swiss remaining neutral.
1940 Onwards: Two Too Many for Gino at Giro
“Give it a year and I’ll put things back to how it should be.”– Gino Bartali after his teammate Fausto Coppi won the Giro d’Italia in 1940.
Coppi signed for Legnano in 1940, and would validate his worth by winning the Giro d’Italia for his new team a few months later. He was not initially the favourite, but became Legnano’s leader after teammate Bartali crashed into a dog on the second stage, badly injuring himself and his GC chances. Making it known he would rather be the one wearing the maglia rosa instead, Bartali ordered their team to chase down Coppi, before stating “give it a year and I’ll put things back to how it should be”.
20 years old at the time, Coppi remains the youngest rider ever to win the Giro d’Italia, and would go on to become the first winner of the Giro and the Tour de France in the same year. While the instigation of the Second World War resulted in the Giro being halted between 1941 and 1945, the rivalry between the two Italians was not – with the signing of Coppi to Bianchi possibly resulting in an even stronger discord. Bartali claimed the first edition of the race since the war had ended, Coppi finishing only 47 seconds behind. The tables were turned just a year later, as Coppi won the 30th edition by 1’43” over Bartali. Their stubbornness as joint leaders at the 1948 World Championships resulted in a deadlock, neither rider would help the other win. Thus ensued both Italians climbing off their bikes, retiring rather than facing the prospect of the other in the rainbow stripes, and the Italian cycling federation promptly banned them for two months. You’d be forgiven for thinking they wouldn’t want anything to do with each other again. Their unwillingness to work together would surely spread to other races, right?
Well, take the Tour de France in 1949 – contested by national and regional teams. Bartali worked for Coppi, resulting in his teammate securing his first win in the Grand Tour. Did they turn a corner?
Enter the Tour de France in 1952. This race produced the iconic photo of the riders, taken by Omega’s photographer Martini. Coppi wore the yellow jersey, with Bartali behind him, a bottle of water being passed between them. While Martini would admit this was later staged – his friend had passed them the bottle deliberately so he could take a picture – what should have been a simple act of sportsmanship was later developed into an argument between the pair, of course. Both riders stated they passed the bottle. According to the Italian Cycling Journal, a man named Liverani knew Martini. Liverani also knows the truth. He’ll never say.
Good, Bad or Ugly? Some good moments, at least for the interest in the sport, despite Bartali’s obvious dislike of playing second fiddle. Definitely ugly for the behaviour at the world championships. Come on, they both climbed off. But the serious question is… who passed the bottle? (After a scientific analysis of me looking at the picture, I think Coppi passed it.)
2009: Armstrong and Alberto at Astana
“My relationship with Lance is zero.” – Contador after the 2009 Tour de France.
“I couldn’t dislike the guy more.” – Armstrong to Bicycling.com.
It feels simultaneously so near and yet so far away, but yes – Lance Armstrong was still riding in 2009. (And here I am writing about him. Who’d have thought? I digress.) Leaving my views aside for a second, his leadership rivalry with Contador wasn’t exactly the subtlest. Both riders were coming into the 2009 Tour with the ambition to win; Lance came out of retirement to do so, as Contador threatened to move if he played anything but a leading role. Astana would announce Contador as their leader, but Armstrong was undoubtedly strong too. (We’d later learn why).
Stage 7. Did Contador deliberately disobey team orders and attack on the Arcalís, or did his earpiece conveniently fall out at the base of the climb, preventing him for hearing his team? Whatever your thoughts, Armstrong was not happy. He told the media that Contador attacking wasn’t the plan, yet he’s not surprised the Spaniard didn’t stick to the plan anyway, before calling out Contador on the team bus. Armstrong claimed there was a lack of respect for team orders, as Contador hit back with: “you don’t have any respect for orders”. What’s a Tour without some drama? There would later be more on stage 17, the final day in the Alps, when Contador attacked despite not needing to. This move was possibly responsible for preventing teammate Kloden from joining both Contador and Armstrong on the final podium in Paris.
After 21 long, long stages, Contador eventually won the Tour, while Armstrong placed third. Well, until 2012 anyway, when his results were declared void and it was actually Wiggins on the podium instead.
Good, Bad or Ugly? Good at least for Contador, who won the Tour but admitted that, at times, it was bad psychologically. Bad for Armstrong, who didn’t succeed in his comeback and quickly moved teams to get away from sharing leadership with Contador. In fact, a lot of his Astana teammates then joined him at Team RadioShack in 2010. Something Contador said guys?
2012: No Love Lost at Team Sky
Speaking of Wiggins, it is no secret that his friendship with his old teammate Froome is… well… non-existent. While they weren’t under dual leadership at Sky, the duo’s divide during the 2012 Tour de France was widely documented after Froome dropped Wiggins on more than one occasion. Accelerating on stage 11, which saw a summit finish on La Toussuire, Froome dropped the yellow jersey-clad Wiggins and carried on solo to Rolland. A mistake, or a deliberate point that he was the stronger of the pair? Froome slowed and the group caught up, but the damage appeared to have been done. The showing of Froome’s strength didn’t end there, as Valverde broke away for the win on stage 17. Froome once again looked stronger than Wiggins, who was riding on his wheel, and could certainly have challenged for the win himself. Yet Wiggins was nothing but supportive to his teammate post-finish, claiming “my incredible teammate Chris Froome… [he] could have caught Valverde”.
All rosy? Certainly not. Team Sky were forced to intervene when Froome was left without his bonus payments from Wiggins’ Tour win for 14 months. The sideburn-donning Brit didn’t invite key domestique Froome to his ‘Yellow Ball’ either, thrown to celebrate the Tour de France win.
Good, Bad or Ugly? This one was definitely ugly. Leadership-wise, Wiggins was a good choice going in to the 2012 Tour de France after winning the Dauphiné. Yet Froome would undoubtedly become the stronger of the two. With the help of his teammates, Wiggins became the first Brit to win the Tour, but he would never be able to work with Froome again. Having to deal with Froome dropping him numerous times, there was an obvious developing divide between the pair (and their wives) that would only become stronger, and uglier. Truly no love lost here.
2018: All Smiles at Mitchelton-Scott
At last, a relatively happier interaction between two leaders in the same team. Mitchelton-Scott arrived at the Giro d’Italia 2018 with high hopes and both Simon Yates and Esteban Chaves eyeing pink. It looked as if they’d played their cards perfectly – stage 6 marked a dominant display by the team, taking a one-two on the day as Chaves won on Mount Etna. Yates finished just behind him, soaring into the pink jersey after letting his teammate cross the line first. Then it began to go wrong.
“I just didn’t have the strength… it didn’t work out” spoke the usually-smiling Colombian, after a horrific turn of events on stage 10 saw him drop from second place overall to losing 25 minutes on GC. Yates told the media he was “very disappointed for Esteban”, and ‘Chavito’ turned his full attention to helping his teammate in the fight for the maglia rosa. A tremendous ride meant the Brit held the jersey all the way from stage 6, until Chris Froome overpowered him on the bike after another regrettable day for Mitchelton-Scott on stage 19. “I gave everything today” were the words that left Yates’ mouth, after he finished almost 40 minutes down from stage winner/GC leader Chris Froome. This was in addition to his not-so-good previous stage, losing almost 30 seconds to Dumoulin.
Good, Bad or Ugly? Good. I can’t bring myself to say anything bad about this team, they just lacked the strength to win their first Grand Tour. Thanks to Dan Jones and his Backstage Pass videos, the personality of Mitchelton-Scott has been shining through for years. This is certainly a team that gels together and will happily show their team spirit, especially with the Colombian being adopted into the hearts of Australians (and cycling fans alike). So much so, that it never appeared an issue that both Yates and Chaves would share leadership at the Giro. Yates’ display of team comradery as he let Chaves take the stage win on the sixth day was certainly a nice change from previous years of intra-team bickering in this sport.
Ongoing: More’s The Merrier for Movistar
“Everyone’s looking for their own spot. We’re rivals after all.” – Valverde during the 2014 Vuelta a España.
Let’s be honest – it’s definitely not merrier, I just wanted to add more alliteration. Quintana and Valverde surely dislike the concept of sharing leadership with one another, and now Movistar have signed Landa into the mix – throwing their entire kitchen sink at this year’s Tour de France. Landa went from competing for leadership against Froome to having to actively hold off two members of his own team, for reasons I’m still not too sure about.
Quintana and Valverde don’t have the greatest of histories. They’re not Bartali and Coppi levels of I’m-climbing-off-so-I-don’t-have-to-work-with-you, but they’re not exactly Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates we’re-great-friends-and-co-leaders-and-no-one-can-tell-us-differently. Joint leaders for Movistar in the Vuelta a España in 2014, things soon appeared to turn sour for Quintana and Valverde. The honeymoon period that followed the team time trial win on the opening day disintegrated on stage 8, when Valverde dropped Quintana. The latter was distanced in crosswinds, and the then-maillot rojo wearer claimed it’s “impossible to know what’s going on… there’s so much noise… I couldn’t look back”.
Quintana may have stated the arrival of Landa at the beginning of the 2018 season was “a good option”, yet it doesn’t necessarily align with his comments last October. The Colombian couldn’t have made it clearer that he would be leading Movistar at the 2018 Tour de France: “I will be the leader [at the Tour] next year. It’s always been like that”. Now in addition with a strong new signing, who only finished 1 second off the podium last year, expect some tense moments as we wait to see how this one unfolds…
Good, Bad or Ugly? Some good elements. The Quintana/Valverde dual leadership isn’t exactly the worst we’ve seen, both have helped the other in their pursuits to win Grand Tours. But despite Quintana’s quieter nature and inability to completely talk badly about his teammate in the public eye, does anyone else get the vibe they’re just not happy? That at any moment Valverde could try and drop Quintana because he feels stronger?
Nibali and Aru at Astana. It was definitely an interesting time. Also, why is it always Astana?
“[Aru] often gets upset. He’s short tempered. He doesn’t consider you. He trusts other people.” – Vincenzo Nibali on then-teammate Fabio Aru. Sounds ugly, but the pair were able to get through their stints at Astana working together, especially during the Tour in 2016. They would also share leadership for Italy at the 2014 World Championships.
Not forgetting Fuglsang and Aru… why is it always Aru?
“No matter the outcome of the Dauphiné, we’ll go to the Tour with two captains.” – While the Dane would win the Dauphiné in 2017, he would abandon the Tour de France on stage 13. Aru finished 5th overall. This leadership battle was a bit tame, all things considered.
Last but not least, the leadership battle between Porte and Van Garderen.
It always happens. An unsuccessful Tour, an off-season to prepare, then up pops the American declaring his wish to fight for GC again, becoming BMC’s leader only to crash out before the race heats up. On the flip side, we have Richie Porte. The Tasmanian Devil, Froome’s loyal lieutenant before heading to BMC in order to pursue his own leadership role. Like Van Garderen, Porte definitely hasn’t had the best time of GC fights, either being taken ill or taken out in crashes beyond his control. Neither Tejay or Porte have won a Grand Tour since their arrival at BMC, despite being scripted at co-leaders for the Tour in 2016. BMC then apparently quietly changed this to Porte being the sole leader, with TVG as their plan B. Porte would suffer an untimely puncture on stage 2, losing time to his rivals, as Tejay cracked on stage 17, ending up over 20 minutes behind leader Froome on GC.
There have been plenty of occurrences involving dual leadership in the past. While some proved successful with winning Grand Tours, others did nothing for the harmony of the team – proving it’s not always good to put your eggs in different baskets.
So, all eyes turn to the Tour de France as we wait to see how Movistar’s three-pronged attack turns out. My guess? Good for the first week, turns bad after one shows signs of weakness or frustration, and the other two will be internally stressed thinking of if/when the other attacks. Or maybe that’s just what I want to see, some more Tour drama!