The Miss

Tour de France 2009 Verbier

Johan Bruyneel’s personal website states he is the “most victorious sports director.” It doesn’t distinguish which sport.

As marketing claims go, this is one that is tough, if not outright impossible, to refute. The man has guided four different riders to an incredible 13 Grand Tour victories—each of the Grand Tours with two riders. Since he retired from racing and became a sports director he has only missed a Grand Tour victory in one year: 2006. You’d have to add the resumes of Jose Miguel Echavarri and Cyrile Guimard to even come close to his achievement. Bruyneel is nothing if not a king maker.

As to those other sports, Don Shula is considered the greatest NFL coach of all time and his Super Bowl record is 2-4. Chuck Noll is 4-0 and he’s only considered fifth best. Phil Jackson’s 10 NBA Championships is a record in that sport. It has taken the New York Yankees several owners and 77 years to amass its 26 World Series titles. And based on my limited research, no FIFA coach comes close to these records.

So one can reasonably make the argument that Bruyneel is the best coach in professional sports.

Does a sport director have an obligation to achieve more at a Grand Tour than win the overall classification? Of course, the answer is yes. There are stage wins, classification jerseys and, yes, overall classification places at stake.

What makes the ’86 La Vie Claire team memorable? First, second, fourth and seventh on GC. In addition to Greg LeMond’s yellow jersey, Bernard Hinault took the polka dot jersey, Andy Hampsten won the white jersey for the best young rider, the team took the team classification and Hinault took the combativity award. And then there were the six stage wins: one each for LeMond, Nikki Ruttimann and Jean-Francois Bernard and three for Hinault.

Astana may have gone into the 2009 Tour de France as the most talent-rich team ever assembled, but this was one supergroup that flamed out before the album was finished. Astana had five riders who had previously finished in the top five on GC; ultimately the team placed two riders in the top five. The team’s only two stage wins came at the legs of Alberto Contador.

So how is it that a team with so much promise couldn’t deliver more? There are several reasons. First, the course worked against them. Because Bruyneel places such emphasis on achieving the overall win, individual exploits that gain team members stage wins (such as George Hincapie’s stage win at Pla d’Adet in 2005) were reined in due to the lack of mountaintop finishes. Overall, the team conserved its efforts in order to be prepared to defend the yellow jersey.

Next, the competition was good, really good. Armstrong stated that he was better than 2003; we have no reason to disbelieve him. The Andy Schleck was a little better on the climbs, Wiggins was better on the TT and Contador was better, well, everywhere. It’s tough to win stages if the field isn’t constantly on the defensive. In ’86, LVC had the competition almost invariably on the defensive.

Finally, Armstrong played the role of teammate as it should be played. While some may see him making the stage 3 split as an offensive move, it was really a defensive move—he didn’t instigate the move but made sure not to lose time. Hinault showed what it looks like to have a teammate attack the yellow jersey on stage 19, the day after the finish atop l’Alpe d’Huez when the team’s leadership was supposed to have been decided. Andy Hampsten said it was one and only time he ever chased a teammate.

The difference between La Vie Claire and Astana is one of inversion. On La Vie Claire, the rider who freelanced was the lesser rider, Hinault. On Astana, it was Contador who went off the playbook. However, the lack of stage wins or other distinctions really can’t be blamed on that, it’s the fact that Armstrong simply didn’t attack Contador on the mountain stages.

The greatest failing of Astana in 2009 was Alberto Contador’s attack on stage 17 on le Grand Bornand. Without that attack the Schlecks would not have moved from fifth and eighth on GC to second and third; it is the single biggest reason Andy Schleck finished on the podium.

Attacking and undermining a teammate’s GC position—two teammates’ positions, in fact—isn’t an unwritten rule, it’s written. Don’t take my word for it. Andy Hampsten said, “A racer in 2nd can’t work with an opponent in 3rd to move them both ahead one place.” While the situations aren’t exactly the same, Hampsten was referring to the reason why LeMond wasn’t permitted to work with Stephen Roche in a breakaway in the ’85 Tour.

I know there are riders out there who think Contador’s attack was justified, but it hurt the team by moving Armstrong down a spot on the GC at the finish in Paris and ensured that Andreas Kloden had no shot at the podium. A sweep of the podium spots (even though it was unlikely Kloden would have overcome Bradley Wiggins) would have been an historic distinction in the modern era for Bruyneel. It would have been a fresh feather for the sport’s best director.

So what went wrong for Bruyneel? In short, Contador. Contador exposed his naiveté to team goals following the 2008 Vuelta by saying after the finish of the race, “I will only say that it’s not normal that someone that is supposed to be working for you finishes less than one minute back in the GC.”

Contador was insecure. Why? Team leadership is earned; it’s not an elected office, and had Leipheimer leapfrogged him in GC on the climb up Navacerrada, what would he have had to be upset about? Any team’s first goal should always be to win the race. For some reason, Bruyneel’s goals for the team weren’t Contador’s goals.

Bruyneel’s job was to reassure Contador that he was the strongest Grand Tour rider in the world. Despite more than adequate evidence to back this up, he didn’t succeed. When Armstrong came out of retirement, the problem only got worse. Put yourself in Bruyneel’s shoes. What would you have said to Contador?

I would have told him, “Relax, let Lance play his games and play his hand. It’ll be good for us. It will confuse the competition in the early days of the race. Rest assured, you’re the strongest rider on the team and you’ll have everyone’s full support. And once Lance knows you’re stronger, he’ll have your back.” Had Lance proven to be stronger, Contador’s freelancing couldn’t have done much to hurt the team. At that point Bruyneel would have been free to say, “I’m sorry Alberto, but my first duty is to win this race and you’re simply not strong enough.”

It’s hard to imagine Bruyneel would have said anything different. But whatever he said, it didn’t work. That’s the stunner. Many sports writers would spin this as Bruyneel’s great failure. I’ve met the man and couldn’t say that to his face, so I won’t say it here. Besides, I just don’t see it that way. It’s a miss, something that didn’t go to plan. I’m sure it is a frustration that has him stymied. Imagine playing a game of chess and not being certain where your queen would move next. It might check the king, but leave a rook open at the same time. Thanks bro.

Contador’s actions will give some of the smarter team directors pause. Even if Tralfamadoreans carried the Schlecks off to mate with Montana Wildhack, I don’t think Riis would hire Contador next year. Will Vaughters still want him if he believes he won’t take direction? Rest assured, he won’t have any trouble finding other employment. There are plenty of teams that want him and three or four that could potentially pay him what he’s worth.

The problem is that even if he didn’t need help this year, he’ll need help next year against Saxo Bank, Radio Shack and Garmin—if they don’t sign him. And thanks to that parting shot about not respecting Armstrong (You may not like him, but what sort of rider wouldn’t respect his accomplishments?), we can all rest assured that even if Radio Shack can’t beat him, they will send nine men to ride against him.

What might make the 2010 Tour de France most memorable is if the sport’s greatest director can defeat the sport’s greatest Grand Tour rider … with a lesser rider.

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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46 comments

  1. Henry

    Contador’s response on the road may have shown a lack of tactical savvy and experience but once a manager loses the trust of an employee and said employee is convinced his manager is changing the deal, going back on his word and undercutting his position you can no longer count on that employee staying with your gameplan. Armstrong may have been purposely trying to add to Contador’s insecurity and screw with the younger riders head in order to accomplish his own goals, encouraging a frenzy of press speculation (which would add to Contador’s suspicions), guaranteeing a split between Contador and Bruyneel and forcing team members to ‘take sides’.

    The Schleck’s agent Giovanni Lombardi said to “L’Équipe” in response to rumors of Andy going to Team RS: “Andy has clearly seen everything Alberto Contador has lived through in this Tour, and no one can imagine he is going to get into all that knowing what his ambitions are for next year”, said Lombardi.”

    That statement on behalf of Andy Schleck is pretty much identical to the statement Contador made post race about never racing on the same team as Armstrong after his personal experience with him.

    Riis said before the race: “To me, it’s obvious they should have one leader and to me, that leader is Contador,”… “If I should take a guess, that’s the way it is going to be. If they have other plans, then it’s going to be funny to watch.”

    I don’t think Armstrong in his day would have put up with a public challenge to his leadership going into a tour for one second. He would have had the offending team member cut from the squad and had Bruyneel’s head if he didn’t back him up. I don’t see Contador having a problem attracting sponsors, managers or team mates because of this years tour (other then Armstrong and those with a vested financial interest in Armstrong). As incredibly talented athletes go he does not score all that high on the prima donna/hard to deal with scale. He does need a team built solely around his ambitions which is what Armstrong had for 7 tours, but he has the talent to justify that.

  2. Luis Diaz

    It was Andy and Frank response to Contador’s attack that allowed them to move up in GC.

    It looked like Contador expected Kloden to come up with the Schlecks.

    It is impossible to know what would have happen without Contador’s attack. In other words, it’s all conjecture. The race would have been different. Another situation (an attack by Saxo, for example) could have dropped Kloden.

    Once Contador found himself alone with the Shlecks, he played it right, riding away with them and separating himself from all the TT threats.

    Any good team director should want Contador on his team. He will win again.

  3. Tony

    “it’s the fact that Armstrong simply didn’t attack Contador on the mountain stages.”

    on which day did Armstrong have the legs to attack Contador?
    He didn’t attack because he couldn’t. That fact that he didn’t attack says absolutely nothing about his willingness to emulate Hinault’s attack if he thought he had a chance in hell. That scenario is also just speculation, but no more inaccurate than your speculation, based on the facts at hand.

    and this : “And once Lance knows you’re stronger, he’ll have your back.”
    is naive, at best.

  4. Alex Torres

    I agree in part with you, Henry. I just wonder whether talent alone would be enough to build a superstructure to work around his ambitions. And more important, a consistently good and stable support to keep him going strong years to come. Not that I think Alberto is stupid or anything, far from that. But it takes something else than legs and lungs and race savvy to keep money flowing, riders good enought to give support yet not challenge you, a good director with a short, medium and long range plan… all those things and a lot more.

    In that regard, his youth may be good but then it can turn against him too. It all depends on his capacity to keep things working around him smoothly, like Lance did (and still do, as we can see). Besides, he´s on the rise and that´s one thing. We´re yet to see the real Contador once he starts getting the same kind of reaction and treatment every dominating rider gets after a while on the top. He´s fresh now but he won´t be news forever.

    Perhaps he´s just a bit young and naive, and will overcome that easily and soon. But word is out there already, I agree with Padraig. And he´s going to face serious competition in 2010. It´s not like he´s twice as good as everyone else or anything. Andy and Wiggins are just two that raised to the task this year, but we can already see a couple more coming up to challenge for the top. Not to mention Basso and others like him with clear ambitions and good teams to give support.

    What seems to annoy and piss some people is the fact that Lance and Bruyneel know how to play the game with such maestry that in the end, they play by the rules and stay within the limits while at the same time being able to do whatever it takes to win. Whether or not we appreciate the style, we must admit it´s incredibly effective.

    Yeah, for guys like Contador that means take it or leave it, but so what. Good – or bad – for them. There´s always a choice. But Lance proved once again he has a rare talent besides his strenght: to mobilize other talents to build onto his and work for his objectives like few people can, be it about sports or anything else. He said he wanted to ride again and everyone said amen immediately – not even Contador put up enough of a good fight, and ended the Tour with Lance in his tail.

  5. Robot

    I’m in agreement with Henry. I think Bruyneel’s mistake with this Tour (if you can be said to have made a mistake after putting two riders on the podium) was hedging his bets with Armstrong. Clarity and transparency make teams work best. Contador felt threatened. All that talk about Astana riding for the “strongest rider” left him believing, I think reasonably, that Bruyneel would pick Lance if he could.

    Bruyneel knows how to win Tours, and he’s won another one, but knowing how to sweep a podium is a whole different ball of wax. Again, if this can be deemed a failure, I think it lies with Bruyneel and his man management, rather than his tactics, not with Contador.

    At root, I think it’s entirely reasonable for a DS to ask a rider to sacrifice his finish place for the team, if the overall is available to another rider. I do NOT think it’s reasonable however to ask the top stage racer in the world to step aside, or even consider stepping aside, for a former champion who’s been out for four years. Even the suggestion of that scenario is a trust breaker, if you ask me.

  6. Jon

    your naive Padraig. Armstrong was a rival who happened to wear the same kit. The head games he played going back to the spring sent a clear measage to AC. Contador raced the race he had to to win. I’d expect nothing less than Armstrong too. Good god man, remove the yellow wrist band and see how the race really played out.

  7. RMM

    As I have said before, Contador saw the writing on the wall before the rest of us. He knew that Astana was a temporary stop for him and that Bruneel and Armstrong were united, perhaps against him.

    Contador was left to think that the team may have a secret agenda against him. While asking Contador to sit up and allow teammates to remain on his wheel seemed like good team strategy, one can easily see why Alberto would think that perhaps he was being asked to wait for more threatening reasons.

    While many DS’s may think that Contador can’t take direction, there will certainly be one’s who read the situation from Contador’s perspective. If you were AS and in his situation, would you listen to a DS when he asked you to allow teammates to remain with you, when those teammates were so close to you in the GC and when they had publicly dithered around the question when asked who the leader of the team was? I wouldn’t. I’d attack and put as much time into them as possible to punctuate my leadership. In fact, I wouldn’t have blamed him if he attacked Armstrong directly.

    Alberto shouldn’t have trouble finding employment. Hopefully Bruneel learned a lesson about leadership in this tour.

  8. Jason

    Padraig, I’m finding it really hard to agree with some of your views;

    you said – “As to those other sports, Don Shula is considered the greatest NFL coach of all time and his Super Bowl record is 2-4. Chuck Noll is 4-0 and he’s only considered fifth best. Phil Jackson’s 10 NBA Championships is a record in that sport. It has taken the New York Yankees several owners and 77 years to amass its 26 World Series titles. And based on my limited research, no FIFA coach comes close to these records.”

    Run a comparison against Alex Ferguson of Manchester United, see what he has achieved and get back to me. That’s coming from an Arsenal fan.

    You said – “The greatest failing of Astana in 2009 was Alberto Contador’s attack on stage 17 on le Grand Bornand. Without that attack the Schlecks would not have moved from fifth and eighth on GC to second and third; it is the single biggest reason Andy Schleck finished on the podium.”

    In hindsight even if Contador had waited on le Grand Bornand Andy S would still have finished on the podium. At best Kloden would have finished 4th with Wiggins dropping to 5th.

    What gets me most about your comment ‘The greatest failing’ is your negative view. Astana finished 1st and 3rd remember? Contador won the Tour for the second time. He has won all the grand Tours. He’s only 26. You think directors are going to be put off from signing him for their team because he took off on stage 17 against team orders? Dream on. I’m not a major fan of Contador by any means but look at the facts. Today Contador turned down a 16m euro offer over 4 years to stay an Astana. Looks to me like directors and team owners are going to be fighting over each other to sign the greatest cycling talent of today.

  9. Sophrosune

    This post takes the most facile of accepted thinking and posits it as holy gospel. It is absolutely and unequivocally absurd that Contador’s 15-second acceleration on Stage 17 cost Kloden a place on the podium.

    Then you bring in Hampsten’s quote and you expect us to ignore or forget that Contador was in the Yellow at the time of that attack. If the Yellow jersey feels he has to attack at least one of the closest racers to him on GC, then he should do it. Whatever mistake you want to attribute to that move (i.e. isolating himself), it would have nothing to do with saving or losing a podium place. Just plain crazy talk. And needs to stop.

    And Contador said he did respect Armstrong as a great champion but that he did not ADMIRE him on a personal level. You do understand the distinction here, don’t you? Or does your apparent confusion really the result of you simply trying to satisfy your silly argument.

    And why did Contador finally come out with these comments? Read it and weep Armstrong apologists. First from Diario Sur entitled “A Tale of solitude” http://www.diariosur.es/200907…..90727.html:

    “It happened on Thursday, a few hours before the Annecy ITT. Contador came downstairs to the entrance of the Palace of Menthon, the luxurious Astana hotel. The Tour was on. He looked right, then left. Nobody, nothing. No Astana cars or helpers. Cold sweat. Quick time check. Where are they? The hotel is several kilometers from the start. There he was, the leader of the Tour, in flip-flops, bag in hand and alone. He went to the hall looking for an answer: Armstrong had ordered the helpers to go pick up his wife, kids and friends to the airport. Contador left his room last because he was the last one starting the ITT. Armstrong had managed to take away his means of transportation. The straw that broke the camel’s back. Hot flashes, he was rabid. He called his brother Fran. He came to pick him up by car and took him to Annecy in a private vehicle. He left last and finished first. His best victory. In the ITT. In solitude. The same way he has won his second tour.

    Contador’s toughest climb was not recorded in images. It was narrated by others. It was fought in the hotel and the bus: during one stage, Armstrong sat his guests at the very back of the bus, right in Contador’s usual seat. One more provocation. Armstrong to the luxury suite. Contador to sleep with Paulinho, the only ally. Same deal during the entire tour. Mouth shut, listening to Armstrong’s jabs: it doesn’t take a Nobel prize to figure out what happens with side wind. Contador didn’t reply in the hotel. He did on the road. He attacked in the first mountain finish in Arcalis. Without permission from Bruyneel, Armstrong’s DS. That night the Astana hotel was a funeral. Red eyes from the Texan (anger? crying? not sure). The first cyclist that stood up to him. And he did it in silence.”

    And then Racejunkie’s description of Armstrong’s podium antics:“notably reaching over to shake 2nd place finisher Andy Schleck’s hand heartily while virtually ignoring Contador, rudely not even glancing at his own 3d place trophy proudly given to him by the race organizers and pissily ogling Alberto’s instead, and, icing on the cake, blasting by the neatly single-filing riders on his squad at the best-team presentation so he wouldn’t have to stand next to the guy who’d beaten him and he could nestle in among his own happy servants instead.”

    And now as reported in the NY Times http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07…..ref=sports:

    “El País, a Spanish newspaper, reported that on the Mont Ventoux stage of the Tour, Ivan Gutierrez, another Spanish rider, said that he offered Contador his water bottle but that Armstrong picked it off and drank it himself, then turned back to say something to Contador. El País also reported that Armstrong took the last Astana team car after one Tour stage and left Contador stranded, forcing him to get a ride with his brother.”

    Bruyneel’s biggest mistake had nothing to do with Contador, it was instead tying his personal ambitions entirely to the coat tails of Armstrong. New job, back to driving around movie stars and being a real media focus in a way that being the DS of Contador could ever provide him.

  10. Rod Diaz

    I don´t agree that Contador was naive. He was shrewd, and spoke on the road instead of waging a twitter war.

    Armstrong said, in no unclear terms, that the team would work for the strongest rider. Even when Bruyneel had stated that AC would be the team leader, the actions on the road certainly didn´t reflect that. Even after he blazed through the prologue showing he was in tip-top shape.

    With his attacks Contador cemented his lead, almost doubling his gap to 2nd. spot after the Alps stages. With that Gap and Andy Schleck in 2nd it almost guaranteed that he’d get team support in case he had a mechanical since it was paramount for Astana to win the race and he made himself essential for that. Good teammate? No, not really. But a significant part of his team was hoping beyond hope that Armstrong would win, too. Of course it hurt the team, but he took the race in his own hands and made DAMN sure he’d be the best alternative for an Astana victory, and end all the threats from his own team.

    I don’t think this is a normal situation, and in fact few racers would chase their own teammates. But what if your teammates are also racing against you? You mention Hinault, it’s not like the AC/LA situation is the first time this has ever happened. Using the blog’s own words, even when Contador demonstrated he was the stronges (not only in the team, but in the whole race) Armstrong never acquiesced to that. Lance DOES show his allegiance to some of his mates/friends (Levi). But even his old mates are not exempt from his Alpha antics (Astana DID help chase down George Hincapie and prevent him from getting yellow). It’s normal, Armstrong has been the leader of his team in all situations except this last tour; who really expected him to play second fiddle in “his” race?

    BTW, check your sources too. Contador never said he didn’t respect Armstrong’s accomplishments. I speak Spanish and watched the interview. The scandalous tidbits transcribed online (Velonews, etc.) have been retracted :)


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Everyone: Thanks for the passionate comments, even those of you who might think I’ve lost my marbles.

      There’s a lot to consider here, but let me say that the central question I’m posing is “what went wrong?” That’s what I’m most interested in addressing, but the El Pais article that Sophrosune references (new this morning) I think gives us our real answer. Contador quotes Fausto Coppi, speaking of “a single man in command.”

      Disagree with me if you like, but I think there’s a problem when you have a rider, no matter how talented, who thinks he knows better than his director. The El Pais article also clarifies that while Bruyneel and Armstrong both criticized Contador the evening of the finish at Arcalis, it was Contador who ignored the two of them moving forward. Interestingly, there’s also a quote from a Caisse d’Epargne about how Paulinho couldn’t follow Zubeldia’s wheel on stage 3. Paulinho was the rider Contador requested expressly for his loyalty … rather than his strength. It’s another reason why I find Contador’s thinking suspect.

      There’s a refrain that Bruyneel placed all his bets on Armstrong. I just don’t think the record supports that. The idea I advance is that a director wants his riders to achieve the best they are able. If you show up at a race with the nine best riders, why wouldn’t you want to take the nine top spots in results? Contador has shown he has a problem with that and (call me simple-minded if you wish) I can’t understand why. Jon wrote “Armstrong was a rival who happened to wear the same kit.” I think that illustrates Contador’s perception, but in reality the situation was far less hostile to him.

      When I do the math from Bruyneel’s standpoint I get this:
      Priority One: Above all else, win the race.
      Priority Two: Keep the peace.
      Priority Three: Allow Lance to play his hand; for sponsorship purposes a win by him is worth more than a win by Alberto.
      Priority Four: Protect Alberto because his is likely the strongest rider in the race.
      Priority Five: Failing a win by Lance, make sure he finishes as high as possible; it will be good for sponsorship.

      I’d be interested to hear reasons why he wasn’t thinking that way and why Contador shouldn’t have played along. From a standpoint of strategy and logic, I just don’t come up with any other answers.

  11. Henry

    In any human endeavor a team is only effective when all the players goals are aligned. I would never, ever, ever enter into a business relationship where my success was not in the counterparties best interest. I wouldn’t care how much blather their was about teamwork and working for the common goal – having a partner with a vested interest in a different outcome then the one you are working towards is a recipe for failure.

    For years Bruyneel and Contador’s goals were in perfect alignment. Lance’s goal was for Lance to win the yellow jersey and Bruyneel’s goal was for Lance to win the yellow jersey. No alternate agendas or co-leaders, one singular and laser like focus on a common goal. Result, 7 tour wins.

    Astana came to this tour with competing and incompatible goals. Look at the outcomes that were in the best interests of the chief protaginists:

    1. Lance – win the yellow.
    2. Contador – win the yellow.
    3. Bruyneel – sweep 1-2-3 on the podium and put Armstrong in yellow

    1. and 2. are self-explanatory. As to #3. sweeping the podium is a DS’s wet dream. No director has ever accomplished it and probably none ever will. For Bruyneel it would have secured him a place in the history books as the greatest ever. For the yellow jersey it would be a footnote to his victory. Bruyneel would have gladly risked Contador’s yellow to try and make a sweep possible. Contador not so much, especially for a DS he did not trust and with a team mate who was public about his desire for yellow.

    Armstrong in yellow would have been like rocket fuel for the launch of the new Bruyneel/Armstrong business venture. Can you imagine the media frenzy and attention to Lance’s new team had Lance won? Versus would have exploded in an orgasm of marketing ecstacy, instead we got a Lance did great for an old guy and a team launch before the tour’s end to grab some of the spotlight. Doesn’t have quite the same marketing mojo.

    Bruyneel said that Armstrong and Contador were incompatible but the real problem was that he went into the tour with goals and agendas that were incompatible. Contador knew that Bruyneel had a financial interest to favor Armstrong over him. In a situation like that I don’t care what people say, if you believe all the statements to the press about teamwork I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. Follow the money and look who stands to gain from which outcomes and act accordingly.

    To make a sweep possible Bruyneel needed the absolute trust of Contador. Without it Contador would want to put as much time as possible between himself and his competitaors both on the team and on other teams. When Lance publicly contradicted Bruyneels statements at the Monaco press conference he killed any chance of keeping Contador on board. When Bruyneel backed off his earlier statements and conceded to Lance the inter team competition was on and would only end at Annency when Contador locked up the yellow and so was willing to work for Lance as he was no longer a threat on Ventoux.

    All the actors acted in a completly rational way given what was in their interests. Contador just managed to ensure that his goals were not sacrificed to the interests of the other players. Good for him.

  12. Sophrosune

    Brilliant post, Henry. Finally some sensible thinking here. I don’t like to imagine where
    this pathetic need to either demonize or denigrate Contador comes from, but it has just gotten to the point of silliness. Contador is just a bike racer (a very good one) that wanted to win, and had to overcome his so-called team in order to do it.

  13. Henry

    “When I do the math from Bruyneel’s standpoint I get this:
    Priority One: Above all else, win the race.
    Priority Two: Keep the peace.
    Priority Three: Allow Lance to play his hand; for sponsorship purposes a win by him is worth more than a win by Alberto.
    Priority Four: Protect Alberto because his is likely the strongest rider in the race.
    Priority Five: Failing a win by Lance, make sure he finishes as high as possible; it will be good for sponsorship.

    I’d be interested to hear reasons why he wasn’t thinking that way and why Contador shouldn’t have played along. From a standpoint of strategy and logic, I just don’t come up with any other answers.”

    I don’t think that is inconsistent with what I wrote. I think those priorities came into conflict with with each other. Armstrong did not show up for the Monaco conference and contradicted Bruyneel immediately throwing a monkey wrench into Bruyneel’s plan on day one. Armstrong was worth more to Bruyneel then Contador and that may not have been all financial there might have been a personal bond as well. Contador was very aware of that.

    On sponsors: check the market cap of Radioshack and compare it with Banco Santander and Renault and I think you will find the sponsors Alberto is lining up are bigger then Lances. So Lance might be worth more to Bruyneel and the USA market but that is not the whole picture.

    Yes, Contador demands a team centered totally around him. That is not the only model for a team and certainly not the most egalitarian but Armstrong is the last guy to criticize Contador for that. How where his teams any different? All the talk about teamwork in the press was just a cover to advance his agenda which coincided with Bruyneels by the time the race started.

    Bruyneel should have let Contador out of his contract the minute he decided to bring Armstrong on board. It was ridiculous to think he could keep Contador as an ace in the hole for his own agenda.

  14. Henry

    Let me just clarify when I say Bruyneel’s own agenda, I mean one different from what he promised Contador when he signed on.

    Maybe the deal was Levi get’s the ToC, Lance the Giro and Alberto the TdF. Everybody gets cake, everybody’s happy. Armstrong’s accident took the Giro off the table and he came to the Tour feeling great and thinking he could take yellow. No way could Bruyneel accommodate 2 tour contenders on the same team.

    Priority Two: Keep the peace.
    Priority Three: Allow Lance to play his hand; for sponsorship purposes a win by him is worth more than a win by Alberto.

    Pick one of the above because you can’t have both. Contador didn’t need Lance to finish on the podium to get sponsors. That was an issue for Team RS only.

  15. Robot

    Yeah. I think the key point that Henry brings up is the RadioShack launch. They did it before the end of the Tour, which lacks class. It also lets you know that JB and LA are working on a project that they know (and likely AC knows) doesn’t include AC.

    So wouldn’t it become obvious to you, if you were AC, that JB was more interested in LA winning than you?

    I’d argue it would, and I think AC was smart (or insecure) enough to see that he had to take what was his, rather than waiting to see if JB was going to come up with a plan to accommodate everyone’s best interests.

    I guess the key question is how early did AC know about RadioShack? And if he didn’t know pretty early, then what does it say about JB that he would demand loyalty and obedience from AC, without giving him the basic respect of telling him about future plans?

  16. Alex

    Well… if the game is really this one-for-one dogfight instead of all-for-one-one-for-all… If things happened as they´re saying, then Contador is not only road savvy, he´s also backstage savvy as well, I suppose. He indeed kept his mouth shut during the Tour and even now, though he´s speaking through others. Maybe that´s his way of playing mindgames.

    I´m starting to revise my opinions and honestly beginning to think that if Contador has such mental toughness to endure this much of psychological torture, this discerning capacity to act to his ambitions even under such extreme pressure (and “friendly fire”), all this backed up by the physical strenght he undoubtedly displayed in this Tour… then we´re indeed seeing the birth of a Merckx-status cycling legend.

  17. Henry

    Everyone keeps coming back to Contador’s attack on Stage 17 as a huge tactical blunder. He should not have attacked and if he did he should not have shown indecision and hesitation letting the Schleck’s bridge the gap.

    But Luis’s comment about: “separating himself from all the TT threats” got me thinking. What if the looking back for Kloden was an act. What if it was the Schlecks he was waiting for? Everyone was talking about what a monster TT Armstrong would do. Who would you rather have on your wheel in the TT Lance or Andy? Maybe it was a Machiavellian move to put a nail in Armstrong’s coffin going into an event he is strong in. If I was trying to face down the combined tactical experience of Lance and Johann I’d want to make sure I killed Armstrong’s chances dead beyond saving before I felt safe.

    Of course in front of the cameras he would have to say he was looking for Kloden.Once he felt secure he had no problem following team direction and riding for Lance on Ventoux even if by then he hated the guys guts. Just a thought.

  18. Marco Placero

    Wow I sure can’t match the excellent armchairing by all you guys, thanks, I learn a lot from all of your analyses.

    My guess is that Specialized will pay whatever it takes to construct a team retaining the Schlecks. If Trek tries the same in order to woo their Gallic hearts, would the Schlecks also look at Bruyneel, Armstrong, Leipheimer, Kloden, Popovich, Horner, + 2 young guns as sufficient wattage (cerebral as well as pedal) to entice the Schlecks’ move to Radio Shack? Lance could slide a few coins into the pile out of pure revenge motivation.

    The antics of this year would only add clarity to the Schecks’ demands vis a Radio Shack alliance. And they’d back that with the sweet confidence that they could drop Lance like a dirty shirt on next year’s climbs if things got nasty again. Contador’s worst nightmare would be to not have the Schlecks to play against the Shacks. If it happens and Contador wins again despite, he will have earned hopes.

    Remember, at that level racing is about honor (thanks again Tim Krabbe), but all the stuff prior to the race is about business, including the puffery from Andy Schleck’s agent.

    Shhh everybody, I’m still dreaming that Johan Tralanceadorean carried the Schlecks off to mate with Montana Wildhack and create MontAndy WildShack.

  19. grolby

    I just can’t agree with the idea that Contador’s attack was wrong, a tactical blunder, or otherwise a misstep. The writing was on the wall well before stage 17. After Contador’s attack on Arcalis, Bruyneel and all of Lance’s cadre on Astana went to the press right away to talk about how his attack was “not according to plan.” What’s really important is what they didn’t say. They didn’t say, “Alberto has shown incredible strength and we are pleased.” But he did, and they should have been. They didn’t say, “We could hardly wish to be in a better strategic position at this point in the race.” But that was also true. They didn’t even say something more neutral, like, “Alberto surprised us with his attack, but he has shown that he is very strong right now.”

    Instead, Bruyneel went in front of the media and did exactly what the best coaches, including Bruyneel, know they should never, EVER do. He criticized his star rider, and not only did he criticize him, he criticized him for trying to win the race. It’s clear that, at that point, the cat was out of the bag.

    Look at the way the best directors talk about their riders’ performances; they never talk like that, least of all after a rider has shown strength. Bjarne Riis is well-known as a hard-ass sport director. He wants his riders to win. He is disappointed when they fail, and he undoubtedly lets them know. But he keeps the criticism inside the team bus. He expresses his disappointment to the media with platitudes and general sentiments. “We tried our best.” “C’est la vie.” “That’s cycling.” Because Riis knows that the greatest sin that he can commit as a DS is losing the trust of his athletes. Bruyneel is no dummy, he knows that too.

    I don’t think that Kloden had the snot to hang in with Contador and the Schlecks, in any case. I don’t think he was strong enough to finish on the podium. Leipheimer was the best hope Astana had for a 1-2-3 sweep, but Andy Schleck was incredibly strong and I think putting his podium place at Contador’s feet is a bit unfair. Maybe he wouldn’t have had second without Contador’s attack, but I think it’s foolish to be so confident about it.

    In any case, stage 17 might be remembered as the moment when Bruyneel missed his chance to sweep the podium, but I think it makes more sense to remember stage 9 as the moment that he irrevocably betrayed Contador’s trust – and lost any hope of Contador’s cooperation in getting that podium sweep. Well. C’est la vie. That’s cycling.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Wow. Thanks everyone for the considered responses. Interesting thoughts to be sure. While I don’t agree with everything everyone wrote, I really don’t want to deconstruct each of the responses and refute them point by point. These views deserve better than nitpicking. The one point I’ll make concerning the Radio Shack launch is that Bruyneel and Armstrong may not have had much say in the timing. Radio Shack may have made that decision (they likely did) and Bruyneel and Armstrong may not have fought it, considering Contador a lost cause.

      Everyone: Your personal view of Contador’s attack on 17 illustrates who you think is correct. I think the calls should be Bruyneel’s so I think Contador was wrong. If you think Contador had the right to race for himself, you’ll think he was correct and Bruyneel had it coming. I hadn’t previously considered how a single attack could serve as a litmus test for authority.

      As for the rather Machiavellian thought that Contador may have actually wanted Kloden dropped, egads, that’s a possibility. Contador may have thought he was racing against his team, not just Armstrong.

      Re: Banco Santander and Renault, yes, they arguably have deeper pockets than Radio Shack, but European companies, as a pattern of expenditure, have rarely spent on marketing what American companies do. Would they really fork over as much as Radio Shack has been sold on?

      Marco, thanks for the great parsing of my Vonnegut joke; we needed a moment of levity.

      My friend Bill McGann challenged me by asking who I thought was right in 1987 when Roche disobeyed Boifava and attacked Visentini. In my reading, I see Boifava differently than Bruyneel. I think Bruyneel knows what he is doing, while I don’t think anything like that of Boifava; I think he’d be right at home in Silence-Lotto–a team of exceptional talent and incompetence. And though history has proven Roche correct, he was certainly wrong at the time. Had he not attacked, the team wouldn’t have won either the Giro or the Tour, but there’s no question he disobeyed his director. While I’m not really interested in a complete rehash of the ’87 Tour, I thought it might be helpful to illustrate what I see as a significant difference: Carrera Jeans couldn’t really have done better than just win. Astana had the capability of doing much, much more and the strong strategic hand of Bruyneel, I believe, could have guided the team to something memorable (in a positive way).

      Again, thanks everyone for the comments; you’re the smartest no-BS readership out there. You keep me on my toes.

  20. Henry

    Padraig great insights and a great take but you really have to answer two questions:.

    1. “why Contador shouldn’t have played along.”

    Why would he play along with a plan to put Armstrong in yellow?

    2. The team Lance and Johann were really working for was team Radio Shack not team Astana. Contador was not on that team so what did Alberto owe to Team RadioShack?

  21. Henry

    Think about point #2. The sponsors you say they needed to attract where they for Astana and Contador? No. So who went off the reservation? Was it the team leader or the team director?

  22. Henry

    And what about Lance the “team player”. DId he come on board to support Astana and Kazak cycling :). Or was he using Astana that it’s sponsors had paid good money for to launch his own competing team.

    So who was freelancing Lance or Contador? And how is it OK for the director to use his bosses venue to launch a competing business venture while still on their payroll? Even inviting his future business partner into the company to get it started? Maybe that’s why the Kazaks had no problem coughing up $21 million plus for Contador but couldn’t find the money to pay Bruyneel? Sorry for the triple post.

  23. Jason

    Padraig, you are simply the man. I can’t even bring myself to read through all the responses above. But nicely done for stimulating the conversation!

    Personally, I think you hit the nail on the head. JB thought he could manage the situation and for one reason or another (which we’ll never know) at the end of the day he could not. AC’s comments post Tour shed a lot of light on his frame of mind during the race. What is it with the frail egos and feelings of top-flight pro bike racers????

    I’m still willing to think AC sat up after Klodi fell off, but again, after the slop being thrown around in the media immediately after the Tour, who the hell cares??? At 26, at that level of sport and ability, and three Grand Tour wins you should know how the game works by now. Especially when you’re top dog.

    It will be interesting to see where AC lands, but I still think one of the established teams will find a new sponsor based on the belief that signing Contador equals GT wins aplenty. He’s got the palmares to back that up currently. But it certainly will be fun to see EVERYONE in the peloton gunning for him.

  24. Fausto

    I think the sweep idea is crazy, Kloden proved he did not have the legs to stay with AC attack, he would not have had the legs to stay with Andy or Frank attacking. They would have attacked and not settled for riding in with the two Astana riders. Kloden, as a good team mate, would have been the one to help follow the attacks and position his team leader with him in the break. He was not able to contibute. AC attacked and slowed realizing Kloden popped but also showing he was alone anyway, it would have happened if Andy attacked to.
    I think unless Lance was acting the whole lead up and begining of the tour to psych out the competition in order to release AC surprise attack, he thought he was the team leader, wether JB told him or not. If I was AC I would have freelanced too. Lance after his Monaco performance, “too early to tell who is best” after the split, “i am smartest” after the attack “I am a victim because my team mate won but I didn’t approve of it”. Every day in the press he dismissed his team mate and when he was down, it was “too early”. The man is a control freak and came back to the sport to prove something.
    Getting third place was not what he came back for so why would AC assume that LA was just going to easily hand over his team to him?

  25. Lachlan

    I think Padraig’s tour priorities list above probably gets it about right. A tricky balance, but probably one that from JB’s personal point of view he pulled off pretty well.

  26. maryka

    One thing everyone’s forgetting about Stage 17… Contador and Kloden had a long chat before Contador attacked. A friend of mine told me later that on French TV, Contador said that he and Kloden had agreed that he would attack the Schlecks, hoping to drop Frank Schleck. Turned out the Saxo rider was just too strong, and Kloden didn’t have the legs he thought he did to stay with them. So regardless of what Bruyneel, Armstrong, et al. have said, just remember that Contador did not make the decision all on his own to go and “attack” a teammate. Of course, once he was away with the Schlecks and saw that Kloden couldn’t follow, he had to keep going. At that point, defending the yellow becomes paramount and teammates become unimportant.

  27. bikesgonewild

    …i think padraig’s original post made a lotta sense…

    …as i see it, bruyneel was dealt a very strong poker hand w/ armstrong’s return & i’m sure his game plan was to achieve the “best case” scenario by winning as much as possible & not just pick up the odd pot here or there…there’s no denying the man’s overall cycling credentials & so why wouldn’t he strive to accomplish “guimard-ian” achievements in this tour ???…

    …contador’s insecurity & subsequent personal game plan, levi’s wrist, kloden’s not being quite as “on” as he might be, vino spouting of the day before the race all played against that (hey, stuff happens) & i’m sure acted as distraction yet he placed his riders 1st & 3rd…i’d also venture to suggest the bruyneel might have assumed his top two riders would spur each other on…after all, his original “main man” has always risen to the challenge no matter what the source of adversity…

    …speaking of poker hands, i think contador tipped his the very day armstrong announced he was coming back to work w/ bruyneel…blame the lance-ster for playing psychological games w/ the kid but the young man essentially started that little contest talking about support from other spanish riders, should he need it…problem was, he was up against one of the most serious players the game has ever produced & he got nervous when he looked at the odds…

    …& it’s no mistake that armstrong maintains a solid relationship w/ eddy merckx, arguably the literal best at dominating the sport…learn from the best & apply it…the game is on before the race begins…

    …anyway, bottom line, the kid had the legs & looked brilliant at times but he certainly didn’t work w/ the team…he was well supported & he used the team for his own agenda, he got what he wanted & immediately burned his bridges…if he’s lucky, he’ll hope to find a directeur sportif who’s smart enough to both marshal that energy & build a cohesive support system around him…if, he can get out of his astana contract…

    …& despite the naysayer’s, the “old fart” did just happen to podium after that long layoff…so, talk about the incentive to come back even stronger next year…whoa…thank you, alberto…

  28. Henry

    I think all the teamwork talk is ridiculous. It must have been galling for Astana’s Kazak sponsors to see the team manager whose paycheck they were still signing bring on board his future business partner in order to form a competing team on their nickel – much of it recruited from star talent on their payroll. To add insult to injury they announce the new team during the Tour, trying to steal as much attention as they could from Astana’s victory.

    The falling out of Bruyneel and the Kazaks’ had nothing to do with Contador but by the time the tour started Bruyneel was working for a new boss even though he was still collecting a paycheck from Astana. Wonder why Bruyneel was having a hard time getting the Kazaks to sign a check when immediately after the tour they cough up $21.7 million to keep Contador on board?

    As far as respecting your director’s game plan – there is plenty of evidence to suggest it was Armstrong calling the shots not Bruyneel. When Armstrong and Bruyneel announced conflicting strategies for team leadership it was Bruyneel who was forced to change his position and not Armstrong. Has Bruyneel ever taken his disagreements with a team leader to the press during a race? Was it a coincidence that his changed behavior mimicked Armstrongs? The most effective DS in cycling history could not even organize transportation for the yellow jersey to a stage start because his new boss had requisitioned all the team cars to squire around his entourage.

    By the start of the tour there were two teams. Team RS with Armstrong as team leader and Bruyneel his faithful lieutenant and what was left of Astana. The fact that Contador wasn’t riding for Team RS should be no big surprise. The fact that the Kazaks were pissed that they were footing the bill for both teams should be no surprise either.

  29. bikesgonewild

    …i beg to differ…i believe the financial situation was very real initially but was resolved when the “higher ups” realized just how negative their whole cycling future was appearing…they’ve still got vinokourov waiting in the wings…

    …& you’ll recall, vinokourov stepped up in monte carlo, the day before the tour’s start & unleashed his mandate…”either bruyneel does it my way or he won’t be managing this team…it is my baby”…

    …bruyneel had no need to fight that…all he wanted was a strong cohesive showing from what was arguably the best team in the race before he moved on…he’s golden, either way…on top of that, he has a partner in armstrong, not a boss…they knew their previous exploits + a good showing would bring in future sponsorship money…armstrong didn’t have to win, just ride well this year…at 37, after 3 1/2 years off, no matter how this race played out, it was a win/win for armstrong if he used his intelligence & he did…

    …bottom line for astana’s kazak backer’s:- the record will always show astana placed riders in the first (1st) & third (3rd) podium spots + first (1st) overall in the team standings for 2009…so for that, they’re golden but it ain’t gonna amount to a hill of beans as far as vinokourov racing the 2010 tour…ixnay, nada…

    …bottom line for bruyneel:- the record will always show that he managed astana to those two podium spots & the team win…but, if everyone had been on the same page it might have been first (1st), second (2nd) & conceivably third (3rd) although kloden beating schleck didn’t appear likely…

    …anyway…as regards the transportation scenario…bruyneel was confident his yellow jersey rider wasn’t gonna quite the race, so there’s a little payback for not playing the team game…contador’s exploits not only affected armstrong’s standings but also bruyneel’s record…so it was a case of “hey, ‘berto…MEH, baby, life’s a bitch, ride yer bike !!!”…

    …final bottom line:- bruyneel, armstrong & contador all land on their feet…it’s a given…

  30. Adam

    Henry, Astana may have been annoyed that the RS team was recruiting while still in the Astana stripe, but isn’t getting Armstrong riding for zero salary the deal of the century in sporting terms? I think the publicity he bought them more than outweighs all other considerations.

  31. Henry

    “but isn’t getting Armstrong riding for zero salary the deal of the century in sporting terms” Not if he walks off with your team and team director at the end of the season.

  32. Adam

    Henry, But the team he’s walking off with was essentially always Lance’s team. If LA had come back to the sport in 2010 only with several months notice to ride for RadioShack, everyone who is going to make the move to RadioShack at present would still have done so.
    As I see it Astana’s management has serious inability to not self destruct: the team was built around Vino and Kashekin, after they got busted they got a life line by landing Contador (from the same background as those two infamous Kazaks) and now can’t retain him regardless of how much money they throw at him. To the rest of the core team that was reliably winning stage races around the world they witheld their salary for several months this year.
    How does it all end up being Lances fault? Plus, my oringinal point; Lance rode for free, and nothing is going to overshadow that the amount of publicity that man provided (if, only for 12 months) was priceless.

  33. Henry

    Adam I was not assigning blame.

    It’s no surprise Bruyneel and Levi, etc, are going with Lance. Just spare me the “there is no I in team platitudes”. Lance wasn’t working for Astana and its sponsors he was working for himself and his future business plans. I have no problem with that.

    I do have a problem with him and Bruyneel making AC out to be the bad guy because he insisted on having the deal he signed on for. He never signed up for Lance’s team or to work for Lance. Bruyneel did have a commitment and responsibility to live up to the deals he made before LA showed up and I wonder if Bruyneel would have worked something out with Astana if Lance hadn’t come out of retirement.

    The Kazaks couldn’t hold on to AC not because he had any problem with them. The team he had signed on to was gone and after this years experience he will be very cautious about choosing his next home.

  34. Henry

    The only thing I blame Armstrong for is forcing Bruyneel to change his strategy going into the tour from doing what every cycling team in Tour history has done -having one leader -to a nonsensical plan of we will figure out who is leader later, because it suited Lance. It was Armstrong who publicly disobeyed his DS’s plan before the race even started. Because he is who he is he was able to force the DS to do what he wanted.

    A cycling team is not like a Football team. Everyone gets a ring after winning the super bowl even the guys on the bench. It is the team that is recorded in the history books. Only one man gets the yellow, he gets the prize money as winner and it is for him as patron to dole out his winnings to his team, it’s the yellow jersey that is remembered in the history books. It is a much more autocratic and hierarchical system. The leader of a cycling team is like a feudal lord going to war. His domestique’s are glorified for leaving it all on the road and falling on their swords for their leader. And a leader is leader until he shows weakness in his performance that would result in an inability to lead the troops to victory.

    As Riis said before the race it would be funny to watch if Bruyneel went into the tour without a leader. Suggesting such an idiotic strategy to Armstrong when he was leader would have gotten you thrown off the bus.

  35. Sophrosune

    Henry, I agree with what you say, but I think there is more to hold Armstrong accountable for. His bush league tactics of leaving Contador without a team car, swiping water bottles intended for Contador, and Twitter attacks of his teammate and team leader, all add up to me as one of the poorest displays of sportsmanship I have seen in any sport. I have no reason to prefer Contador over Armstrong except for the facts. If that puts me in this so-called Contador camp so be it. I prefer to think of it as being on the side of decency.

  36. Henry

    Sophrosune, I think all of that is just background noise. Trashtalk, when Contador should have or shouldn’t have attacked, who did what to who over breakfast, etc, etc,. It all was all a result of team divided and I blame that on Armstrong abusing his relationship with his old friend and partner Bruyneel. What would it have cost Armstrong to go along with Bruyneel’s original plan and let his trusted friend finish his commitments to his team and team leader before moving on.

    It was not like Lance was ever a real threat to Contador anywhere but in the press and on Twitter. What did dividing the team gain him?

  37. bikesgonewild

    …what’s w/ blaming lance & only lance for the team car issue ???…i’ll say it AGAIN…

    …if bruyneel wasn’t comfortable w/ the situation, it never woulda happened, armstrong’s wishes or not…wake up & get a clue…

    …this wasn’t just about armstrong…bruyneel, as arguably the most successful directeur sportif in tour de france history (what say, mr mcgann ???) & had a major stake in seeing “his team” walk away w/ as much of the cake as possible…

    …armstrong has an amazing record BUT so does bruyneel…let’s not lose track of that simple fact…he is, in his own right quite amazing & just as proud of his record & wants to add to that…

    …contador, as is noted by every major journalist in the biz, whether they agreed w/ his tactics or not, did acknowledge that the man acted of his own accord, in his own best interests only, rather than that of himself & the team…he wasn’t gonna lose the damn jersey but lost placings for teammates…

    …ERGO, bruyneel, as well as other team members besides armstrong, (repeat – besides armstrong) had the right to feel put off…the “team” might have accomplished more in this case but contador, in sealing his own fate, affected the outcome for both other riders & management, ie: bruyneel’s stellar record…

    …the fate of contador & the jersey was sealed w/ no worries…bruyneel allowed the team car issue to happen as if to say “‘berto, no matter what you see here, this IS a team…if you wanna find yer own way, fine, then find yer own way”

    …i’m seeing a lotta limited perspective when i read some of these comments…

  38. Alex Torres

    Why Armstrong did what he did and not differently? Maybe it´s because he´s Armstrong and not someone else. I mean, can´t fight a man´s nature. It´s what defines him. He´s a winner, and if he can´t win, he might as well (huh??) try his best implode his competitors.

    Poor sportsmanship? This is professional, highest level competitive cycling, and it´s not like he put a stick into Alberto´s wheel or tried to poison him or anything (history is full of those and worse). Car and bottle issues, are just background noise, too. OK, he tried to desestibilize the guy with some not-cool manoeuvres, but I´m with bikesgonewild here: if he wanted to find his own way, then go for it on his own. Besides, that´s what he did during his winning years. He beat the hell out of his competition´s psychology on the months leading to the Tour, and also during it. That´s part of Lance. That´s part of the game.

    Contador is a big guy, and he proved he can take a hit quite well and shake it off. Good for him! In the end, he got his second Tour, Lance made it back to cycling and into the team, got his deal for 2010 (and a nice 3rd place to spark his fire back), Bruyneel put 2 Astana on the podium and another one close… I think everyone got what they were looking for.

    My 2C

  39. Larry T.

    AC was simply stronger. He won LeTour against Astana as well as Saxo, Garmin, etc. LA may find some dope that’ll take 10 years off his age but I doubt it. The Belgian brags he’s the winningest cycling coach ever. Padraig (once LA was convinced he could win TdF) could have DS’d LA to 3 or 4 TdF wins, as he was close to unbeatable back then. What I find interesting is the races The Belgian has LOST! How did he lose the 2009 Giro with all these strong guys on the self-proclaimed “world’s best team”? Same with Paris-Nice. Just like a lot of ego-centric people, when the team wins it’s ME, ME, ME who deserves the credit but when the team fails to win it’s always blamed on some individual rider who’s “immature, got a lot to learn” etc. Let’s see how The Belgian does with LA past his “sell by” date and without AC in the next few years before we proclaim him as the best director ever. I believe there are others in cycling history who won lots of races with more than one or two stars on their teams for a longer period than The Belgian has, so far.

  40. jfo-ny

    Man, I am tired of the armstrong kool-aid drinking people who think LA could have won the tour or will be in with a chance next year. AC was always going to win and did – in spite of his “team”. Bruneel blew it, he could have laid down the law but copped out with the “course will decide” approach. Everything he said was pure CYA. He sought to offend none but achieved the opposite. The Schlecks made the race and they, along with AC will continue to dominate the tour for the next 5 or so years. Ped, your points only work out if you take the LA/JB view exclusively, AC was greeted with a US (ok-VS network) media blackout until his win was sealed, not one interview until after stage 17. Good god I’ll be glad when LA is finally hammered into the ground and even then roll, sherwin and ligget will make excuses…

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