The Reuters global sports blog
Contador is out on his own — literally
Alberto Contador is closing in on Tour de France victory having won the 18th stage on Thursday, a time trial in Annecy.
If he succeeds, and I have no doubt he will, the Spaniard will owe it to nobody but himself.
Since the Tour started –- and even before –- Contador has felt like an outsider at Astana. Team manager Johan Bruyneel is much closer to Lance Armstrong, who was gunning for an unprecedented eighth victory in the world’s greatest race.
It all started when Armstrong announced his return to competitive cycling last September. Two months later, the Astana riders were in a training camp in Tenerife with Armstrong, Bruyneel and Contador holding a press conference.
After that, I spoke to Bruyneel and he said he had been a bit bored since the American retired after his record seventh win on the Tour in 2005. Had Contador’s 2007 Tour victory not really thrilled Bruyneel?
Since the Tour started, Armstrong’s presence has failed to get to Contador, who has snatched every opportunity to prove his worth.
He was the favourite in the opening time trial (2nd behind Cancellara), he beat all the Tour hopefuls in Arcalis and won the stage in Verbier. On Wednesday, he did not need anyone’s help to resist the Schleck brother’s relentless attacks.
Behaving like the race boss, he did not work during the descent from the Col de la Colombiere, awarding one of the Schlecks the stage win in compensation.
Far behind was Armstrong, who was the perfect team mate on the day –- until he criticised Contador again for attacking in the final climb on Wednesday.
PHOTO: Astana rider Alberto Contador of Spain wears the leader’s yellow jersey on the podium after the 17th stage of the 96th Tour de France cycling race between Bourg Saint Maurice and Le Grand Bornand, July 22, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard