Contador looks stronger than ever … even in a weaker team

March 15, 2010

SPORT-DECADE/CYCLINGDon’t tell Alberto Contador his team is weak. He won’t like it and he might be right in saying Astana are stronger than some would think.

Last year, Contador was part of an Astana team featuring Americans Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer, and German Andreas Kloeden. That team was labelled as the strongest ever but Contador did not enjoy much of his season despite winning the Tour de France.

Since Armstrong and manager Johann Bruyneel defected to U.S.-funded team Radioshack for the 2010 season, things have radically changed for Contador.  The team may not be as strong as it was but Contador is feeling on top of the world — crediting the support network for his Paris-Nice victory at the weekend.

 “I feel that I can trust everyone and everyone can trust me in this team,” Contador said. “Everybody is behind me. I have a good relationship with (team manager) Yvon (Sanquer). Every time I need something, I get it from him quickly.”

Confidence is paramount for a rider like Contador, who is under tremendous pressure to win a third Tour de France this year. He will be able to rely on other riders that were not on the Paris-Nice race and these additions will be crucial.

Former Tour champion Oscar Pereiro (“his analysis of the race is extremely precious,” says Sanquer) should be joined in the Tour de France roster by the experienced Alexandre Vinokourov.

With such a captain, Contador should not worry, especially since the talented Maxim Iglinskiy is expected to be there too. Italy’s Enrico Gasparetto, who won a tough stage on the Tirreo-Adriatico race on Sunday, could well be included to protect Contador in the mountains.

While last year Contador felt isolated despite being surrounded by the likes of Armstrong, this year he knows his team mates will look out for his best interests when the race towards Champs Elysees kicks off in July.  That could be the key to his third Tour title.

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