Contador proves his point to Armstrong, Astana

July 10, 2009


Alberto Contador made a point to Lance Armstrong and the rest of the Astana team with a thrilling break at the end of the seventh stage of the Tour de France on Friday.

it wasn’t quite enough to give him the yellow jersey — that honour went to Italy’s Rinaldo Nocentini  — but it took him up to second place, three seconds ahead of Armstrong in the General Classification.

Was it enough to show that he deserves to be team leader? Is he now the race favourite? It was certainly a brutal attack and it raised real questions about the American’s ability to compete with Contador in the mountains.

PHOTO: Supporters cheer Astana rider Lance Armstrong of the U.S. (C) and his team mate Alberto Contador of Spain (L) during the sixth stage of the 96th Tour de France cycling race between Gerona and Barcelona, July 9, 2009. REUTERS/Charles Platiau


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Once Contador went Armstrong did not chase him. If he did he would help Evans. Rather, he sat on Evan’s wheel and let Contador build a lead. If Contador was on another team or if Armstong was like B. Hinault was with LaMond in 1986 (not a team player) we would then have seen a race.
Kevin Fylan should get a better grasp of what is going on.

Posted by brevet_rider | Report as abusive

I think everybody expected Contador to attack when the other contenders attacked first. Armstrong did what he said he was going to do, that is, just stick to wheels of the other favorites. He can’t go after a teammate after he put a move like that. This race is far from over. However, saying this there will be only 2 that can win this race now. Contador vs Armstrong!

Let the racing (finally) begin!

Posted by JoelM | Report as abusive

[…] it wasn’t quite enough to give him the yellow jersey — that honour went to Italy’s Rinaldo Nocentini  – but it took him up to second plaRead more at 0/contador-proves-his-point-to-armstrong -astana/ […]

Posted by Knotted cyclists head for the hills…. Left field » Blog Archive…. | Australia News | Report as abusive

Hi guys. I appreciate it’s complicated, and that armstrong had said he wouldn’t follow a contador attack… But this was still a compelling piece of theatre. Not decisive, and sorry if I suggested as much, but very interesting…

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

Kevin, the last line of your article implies that Armstrong couldn’t keep up with Contador. Maybe that is right, but the race showed that Armstrong wouldn’t chase because of team racing. We still don’t know if he could or not and I think that is where some of us raise an eyebrow about your article. Thanks for keeping us up to date!

Posted by Dan Elam | Report as abusive

If anything, I think today’s race confirmed that Armstrong is a legitimate contender for the overall. Unlike several of the other favorites, he looked very comfortable at the front of the peleton, and clearly was not surprised by Contador’s attack. Bruyneel is all about precision and strategy, so today’s race likely unfolded exactly as Astana drew it up. Plenty of intrigue to come, and an Armstrong-Contador 1-2 (or 2-1) finish now looks likely. Can’t wait for the Alps!

Posted by Robin Lloyd | Report as abusive

All the news coverage of Contador making a move and no one keeping up seems to be ignoring Brunyeel’s standard race tatics. Contador didn’t attack Evans, he attacked Kloden and Armstrong. Astana was on the front of the pack dictating pace. He was so dead set on “proving something” that he attacked his own team that had worked hard all day and he looked at them and said “gee, guys, work harder now even though it is completely unecessary for Astana to win.” When Lance says, he’s riding for the team, he doesn’t mean he’s riding for Contador, it means he knows how to win the tour as a team rather than disrepecting the guys who pulled you up a mountains all day.

Posted by Leslie Bloom | Report as abusive

You know nothing about cycling. Just because Contador finished ahead of Armstrong by 3 seconds doesn’t mean anything. If he and Lance went together, neither of them would likely be in the good spot they’re currently in. There is still 2+ weeks of cycling to be done and plenty of opportunity to see the true face of the race develop. Contador is a great rider, but there are SIX more mountain stages and TWO ITT’s! Also keep your eye on Levi!

Posted by Aron | Report as abusive

I agree with Dan. Armstrong did exactly what a team member should do: Mark the other rivals while his teammate went on the attack. He has said all along that it will be the mountains that will decide who the ultimate team leader is on Astana for the Tour. Do not forget that this is day 1 in the mountains…and there is this little hill at the end called Ventoux where even the greatest climbers in the sport have lost days!!! Astana road tempo the whole day and still looked ridiculously fresh at the end.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there is still another individual time trial in stage 18- a 40.5k test. Contador has become a very good TT but Lance at 40k is pretty darn good even at his age.
This race is long from over but for now the Armstrong v. Contador is a non-controversy.

Posted by Marion Karr | Report as abusive

Undoubtedly Astana sent Contador up the road to see if any of the other contenders would follow, they didn’t. If they had you would have seen either Lance or Levi go when they caught Contador. People watch what is going on. Where Astana screwed up is that they let the break get too far ahead which is why they do not currently occupy the top 4 spots. If they ride this strong for the rest of the tour they will have the top 4 spots, anyones guess as to who will be in them though.

Posted by dp | Report as abusive

Contador did exactly what the strongest climber should do: he went for it. Did Armstrong wait for Contador when the cross winds gave him a 19 second break? Contador should be recognized as the strongest rider at Astana, and the team should rally behind him. I have no reason to believe that Armstrong held back for the team. Like others around him,he seemed to be going all out. Like Hinout, however, Armstrong is in danger of trying to stand in the way of the next tour leader out of selfishness and ego. It’s time for Armstrong to be a strong supporter.

Posted by Wayne Penn | Report as abusive

Well, my opinion may have changed some. Just saw a post race interview with Lance on Alberto’s attack was not planned but not unexpected and Lance basically said that his responsibility was to the team and stay on the wheel of Schleck and Evans. Curious to see the look and tone on Lance’s face but he was getting bumped pretty hard by cameras and microphones but I got the impression that Contador’s attack didn’t make him all that happy.
I also agree with Wayne that Contador is the strongest rider on the team. The fact that Lance didn’t chase though does not indicate in my mind that he was maxed out. He rolled the rest of that climb pretty easy.
I really don’t want to see the Hinault-Lemond thing play out again. That sucked. Let’s see how Astana as a team reacts over the coming days.
Regarding the crosswinds deal in the early stage: That split came with Contador being one of the key people who lost the wheel. Lance and the other riders could have dropped back but it could have put the team’s chances as a whole in jeopordy. I can’t remember the year but Lance got caught in one of those splits one time and it took him a large part of the tour to make up the difference.

By the way guys, I am NOT just a huge Lance fan..I am a fan of the sport. I do support Lance’s cancer stuff because I lost a wife to cancer a few years ago and I respect his ability to do what he has done. I think Contador is an outstanding racer, along with Levi, Kloeden, and the rest of the bunch. George Hincapie, Van de Velde and many of the other racers.

I agree with Wayne in that if Alberto’s the strongest then everyone else on Astana including the great Lance should be there to assure his victory.

Posted by Marion Karr | Report as abusive

I believe that Contador clearly wanted to prove how much stronger he is to the field in relation to Armstrong, Klogen, Levi, etc. and would have ignored any pre-race gameplan that the 4 of them might have made as a gentlemen’s agreement in the bus. So what that these guys are teammates, Lance has said some unsavory things about Alberto on twitter and no “team leader” would like to have his leadership questioned. One thing that I think serious riders agree on is that Lance is conforming to Astana strategies and being a team player. Did you see how much time he spent in front on the TTT?

Posted by Nate Dogg | Report as abusive

I just want to thank all the Lance defenders on this blog for the laughs. (I wore my Livestrong T-shirt yesterday, so don’t tell me what my allegiances are.)

If you honestly believe that Lance wasn’t pining for the yellow jersey, and you honestly believe that Lance even has 95% of the power that Contador showed on the final break *after* the initial burst, you may be a redneck.
(Whoops! Wrong ending.)

if you honestly believe Lance is a good team member (and Contador isn’t), you need to compare the team dynamics of Lance’s TDF wins with Contador’s France/Italy/Spain wins. Lance constantly made sure the team knew he was topdog; Alberto…not such a big deal.

Posted by Alex | Report as abusive

Reading comments by Armstrong, he has already figured out Contador and using his weaknesses against him. He attacked his own team showing he is not a team player. Eventhough, clearly, the team strategy was to stick together and only counter attack attacks by other serious GC contendors. There are a lot more hard miles to climb, so why waste energy and stay safe as possible to ensure the overall team’s win before going all out for personal glory. Lance’s reference to Mont Ventoux show down. If Contador weakens by the third week from all the show boating from the prior week, Lance and most of the team are going to stick together and leave Contador on his own when they pass him. They are both fit to win. So, the rider riding the wisest race is the one that is going to end the race in yellow.

Posted by Henry Gong | Report as abusive

Henry, one rider wins the tour, not a team. The TTT and the team classification are for the team. Alberto had to attack if he has to stake the claim to be the leader. Moreover isn’t this a classic team tactic – to allow your leader to counterattack after reeling in the first attack (from Evans). So in a sense it was great for Astana.

Lance was fortunate in 40s on him in the stage to La Grande Motte. And I am not sure Lance could have chased him down with the headwind and all. In fact all the chase riders – Evans, Lance et al. benefited from being together

Posted by omm bundaldas | Report as abusive

It is my understanding that when Lance came out of retirement, he was joining a team that “already” had a team leader. I have read the Astana website and it clearly states that Contador is their team leader and the strongest rider. Now if Lance wanted to win another tour why would you join ateam that already had the best rider on it. IMO I think Lance joined Astana to eleminate all his toughest competition (Contador, Kloden and Leiphimer). If you make yourself the team leader, which I think Lance wants, then the rest of the team has to make sure you win. Now I think Contador did the only thing he could do and tell the racing world once and for all that he is the leader of the team….not Armstrong… and that the team should be helping him to win, like every other racing team in the Tour de France. If you wondering I did cheer Lance on during his amazing 7 tour wins but I believe Contador is the better rider and the best.

Posted by D. Bell | Report as abusive

How much front riding did AC do on the TTT not as much as the rest. So either he is the annointed or he is not the team player. The Race being Andorra/Spain today makes sense that it was team tactics or AC was pumped by crowds. None of LA,AK,LL,CE or AS looked bad today. As lance said it was not a tought MTN Stage , there will be a time when there is only 2-3 riders and that will decide it and I hope it is on the Ventoux, may the best man win the day and the tour and party to Paris, Go Lance. sorry for the cheer but what inspiration the guy is.

Posted by rob | Report as abusive

Omm, after working perfectly together on the TT and placing 4 Astana riders in the top 5, the true challengers outside the Astana team will have a tough time getting on the podium, as long as the Astana team sticks together. Both Levi and Kloden time trail well too. The odds of Astana with a podium sweep at the end of the race looks very promising. This is only the first tough hilly stage with many more to come. It is a war of stamina and attrition. Just imagine the exposure for the sponsors and each team member on the podium, if a sweep happens. These professionals at the end of the day, do this for a pay check (except for Lance). Yes, there can only be one first place finisher and one yellow jersey, but if I was Levi or Kloden, I would not be a happy camper if one member of the team makes an error in judgement for only ones self glory. Astana has it in the bag and Lance knows it. It is there’s to lose. Lance has been hinting to a show down on Mont Ventoux. If egos are in check until then, Levi and Kloden can be sitting in a possible podium position and Lance and Contador can duke it out for first and second to determine who is the top dog once and for all. In any event, whatever happens, it is still exciting to watch.

Posted by Henry Gong | Report as abusive

Contador is being played. A few days ago Armstrong told the press, and therefore Contador, that we ought to wait till Arcalis to see who had the right to be called leader. But Arcalis is not that sort of climb, it is not hugely steep, it is very windy, and BTW it is in front of Contador’s home town fans. Tell everyone Contador is going to attack, pressure him to do so, dutifully he does, and on an inconsequential climb, too early in the race, Contador shows his own team he is not working with them. Meanwhile Armstrong sticks to the team plan and emphasizes this after the stage. Armstrong is trying to isolate Contador, bring the team behind him, for later in the tour when he will need them most. May not be enough to win, given Contador’s legs, but Armstrong’s best shot. It’s reminiscent of Muhammad Ali’s “rope a dope.” The article above is inaccurate, it shows nothing about relative capability because Armstrong did not follow Contador, so there was no race.

Posted by Victor | Report as abusive

D.Bell said: ”It is my understanding that when Lance came out of retirement, he was joining a team that “already” had a team leader.”

Contador would never be a ”team leader” for Bruyneel if Lance kept on riding and not retired – Lance was bored and retired as there was no competition. Coming back 4 years later finally gives him a challenge.

As for suggesting Armstrong didn’t want competition, that’s nonsense. Levi and Kloden are great riders but they aren’t in Lance’s class. If Lance had never retired, Contador would be on a second string team with a second string team manager and would never had the opportunity of winning if Lance was still riding – Contador would be just one more in a long line of poseurs.

Today’s attack was an attack on the team, (Lance and Bruyneel in particular), not the rest of the peloton (nobody else has a chance to win – not Evans, not Schleck, not Sastre).

Bruyneel, Lance et al are professionals and will keep peace in front of the cameras, but they’ll be furious at the little prick’s attempt to steal the yellow jersey today – it was total disrespect for the team – just another lame stunt like the crap effort Contador put in the TTT.

Posted by TdF | Report as abusive

Contador attacked the only member of the bunch who was obliged not to chase him. Hardly impressive.

Posted by Paul and Becky Stewart | Report as abusive

Contador will NOT be riding for a Bruyneel-led team next year. He learned of Lance’s return through the press rather than from Bruyneel and the team is stacked with riders loyal to Lance, a decision made by Bruyneel. Why shouldn’t he look out for his own interests? He’s without question the strongest rider on Astana as demonstrated in the 1st stage time trial and in the first mountain stage. Lance is not the ”team” player he portrays himself to be. He chose to position himself so as to take advantage of the split generated by Columbia-HTC in stage 3 without sharing his insight with Contador, Leipheimer, or Kloden who are his teammates. Even without the full support of Astana, Contador will likely find support from other Spanish riders, like Sastre whose win last year in the TdF was called a joke by Armstrong. Sastre’s Spanish team would gladly help Conatador win the tour this year if it might pursuade him to join their team after he leaves Astana. He’s the real deal and will likely dominate the tour for the next several years the way Lance did before he retired.

Posted by Old school | Report as abusive

As Charlie Mottet said, going for the yellow jersey by Contador at this point would be hari kari. Contador was lucky he just missed the yellow. Defending the yellow at this point would put the team in strategic bind.

Contador has some real power in his legs and climbs well. It will be interesting to see how Contador’s legs compete with Lance’s and Levi’s experience. Lance is the MASTER with head games. He also has some loyal buddies on other teams who would be more likely to help Lance than Contador (if their team isn’t in position). He’s in it to win.

Posted by Chuck Staples | Report as abusive

Contador did prove one thing: he doesen’t care about the team. And according to all reports, the team got that message loud and clear and are now flocking to the guy who executed the team plan to perfection. The thought that lance could not have responed is rediculous. If he jumped on Contadors wheel, than any other GC threat could have jumped on his, which could have ended in disaster. Right after the Contador attack, wiggins attacked, and Lance nailed it down immediately, proving his strength. Contador sucker punched Lance for only 2 seconds… Yet another stupid mistake by a rookie rider. Lets also not forget that the Contador 2007 victory was by default. 2007 was a joke and a fluke. Contador is strong, but has no tactical awareness, and now no team that will support him. Contador=spanish armada, a paper tiger.

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive

Thought there was only one team leader and that was Johan Bruyneel.. and he is there to get the overall best results for the entire team- TEAM not just one rider. Contador may have taken points and made the headlines but he cost himself dearly. He showboated at the cost of Astana- and when he looks around in a time of need, and there will be one- it will be interesting to see the response. Leadership is not an assigned position- many components to include respect. Bruyneel has it and I think Armstrong has it but maybe Contador is too young, inexperienced and selfish to assume it.. at least not yet.

Posted by Brisance | Report as abusive