Don’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.
The Tour de France is still more than eight months from now, but the much-awaited duel between Alberto Contador and his illustrious challenger Lance Armstrong has already begun.
The Spanish champion and the American veteran, third this year after an impressive comeback following 3-1/2 years in retirement, both attended the 2010 route presentation in Paris on Wednesday.
Seated in the second row of the Palais des Congres, they were only separated by Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck, one of the riders hoping to settle the dispute with victory on the Champs Elysees on July 25.
Contador and Armstrong shook hands on Wednesday, but the tension between the two was already palpable.
The Spaniard, who has won every Grand Tour he has raced since claiming his first Tour de France in 2007, will be the hot favourite when next year’s event kicks off in Rotterdam.
He is the best climber, and Fabian Cancellara — not an overall contender — looks like the only man able to beat him in a time trial.
With four stages in the Pyrenees and a total of 23 passes, it is hard to imagine that Armstrong can compete.
But the Texan is 38 years old and has the experience that goes along with it.
While Contador is still unsure about his future — Astana ? Garmin ? Quick Step ? — former Astana man Armstrong has already set up his new team, bringing Levi Leipheimer and probably Andreas Kloeden to RadioShack.
Enough with the nagging mind games: that’s basically what Alberto Contador told Lance Armstrong when he moved ahead of the American with a brutal attack in the final ascent of the Tour de France seventh stage.
Lance Armstrong was agonisingly close to taking the yellow jersey for first time since his last Tour de France triumph in 2005.
It is THE question the Tour de France caravan has been asking in the crowded restaurants of Monaco: Can the returning Lance Armstrong really live in peace and harmony with Alberto Contador, the 2007 winner and the American’s team leader?
Last week, Alberto Contador did not win the Dauphine Libere, a warm-up race for the Tour de France. He finished behind Alejandro Valverde and Cadel Evans and that you might think that would be a big worry with less than a month to go before the Tour starts on July 4 in Monaco.