Torpedoed

Tour de France 2009 stg Grand Bornand

When Alberto Contador attacked on le Grand Bornand and dropped teammate Andreas Kloden, he did more than just dash Kloden’s hopes for the podium. He torpedoed Astana’s historic bid to sweep the podium of the 2009 Tour de France, a feat not achieved in the modern era of the event. Maybe that didn’t matter to Contador, but this should have: He damaged his team’s ability to defend him on the slopes of Mt. Ventoux.

Had Contador not attacked, it is likely Armstrong would have come back to the leaders, if not on the climb, then on the descent. Given the way Kloden had to raise his pace to try to regain the leaders, Armstrong wouldn’t have had to work as long to pull back the gap. In a lead group of Contador, Kloden, Armstrong, Schleck, Schleck and Nibali, there would have been no reason to gift the stage to Frank Schleck, and Astana, with three cards to play, would have had a good chance of taking the stage.

Coming out of the stage 18 time trial, the GC would have still been Contador in the lead, but Wiggins would have been second at 2:28—enough to dismiss him as a threat to Contador on Mont Ventoux, but Armstrong would have been third at 3:06, with Kloden at 3:10, both close enough to have a real shot at taking second and third overall could they drop Wiggins on Ventoux, an act they both have previously managed. Schleck would be an also-ran to this quartet with obstacles on all sides to GC advancement.

With two teammates so close in time to Contador, their defense of yellow would have been easier by neutralizing virtually any attack before it started. Instead, Contador’s attack lifted the two Schleck’s from 5th and 8th on GC to 2nd and 6th.

Tour de France 2009 stg Grand BornandAs it stands now, there are four riders within 34 seconds of each other, each within striking distance of a podium spot. If Contador hadn’t attacked, he could well have had a tranquil ride up Mont Ventoux, but now the Tour organizer’s very wish—fireworks—is guaranteed on the slopes of the Geante de Provence.

Based on his unwillingness to listen to his team director before attacking on le Grand Bornand, and his previously stated distaste for Levi Leipheimer’s podium finish at the 2008 Vuelta, it is fair to surmise that Contador isn’t comfortable having other capable GC riders on his team. In his particular instance, as both the best time trialist and best climber present at the 2009 Tour de France, we must grant that Contador doesn’t need a team to win the Tour. But what of those riders who toiled for him no matter how superfluous their efforts might seem?

Even Eddy Merckx knew when to throw a domestique a bone. Why deliberately torpedo the aspirations of your teammates? Armstrong had already conceded the win to Contador. Contador said he attacked to neutralize Wiggins. What? Wiggins was already dropped. No one attacks a dropped rider. When you attack, you are attempting to drop someone on your wheel, which makes Contador either a liar or not very bright.

If it seems that I have a personal stake in this, a desired outcome, that’s not the case. I find the possibility of an Astana podium sweep to be an interesting and historic outcome, but I also find historic the possibility of Great Britain’s first podium finish. Wiggins’ transformation from Olympic Gold Medalist on the track to Tour de France contender to be fascinating. And should the two Schlecks take the lower two podium spots that will mean Contador will face a very formidable threat in 2010. Maybe Contador didn’t need a strong team this year, but the confidence that would come with finishing second and third could make the Schlecks a force majeure in 2010.

Carlos Sastre won the 2008 Tour de France not because he was the strongest rider, but because he was on the strongest team and the strongest rider in the race—Cadel Evans—stayed with Andy Schleck when Sastre attacked. Evans knew he couldn’t follow every attack and so he chose to stay with the stronger of the two teammates, hoping they would bring Sastre back. He rolled snake eyes on that one.

The 2010 Tour could play out similarly: Contador on a weak team isolated and Frank Schleck attacks and Contador stays with brother Andy. And who would Contador have to thank for boosting the Schleck’s confidence? Himself.

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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49 comments

  1. Da Robot

    The Pistolero showed his immaturity and naivete at Paris-Nice this year. He is fortunate that he’s so strong, because what DS would put up with his crap?

    I like him. He’s an exciting rider.

    But he seems to be punishing Bruyneel and Armstrong (or signaling a lack of trust in their intentions) for not making it abundantly clear that he was their number one.

    There appears now to be zero chance that Contador will race for Team Radio Shack in 2010.

  2. MSPDTX

    The stage wasn’t ‘gifted’ to Frank Schleck and ASTANA. It was ‘gifted’ to Frank Schleck and SAXO BANK.

  3. UtRider

    I think Contador’s attack on le Grand Bornand was obviously a bad decision. However, what I still don’t understand is why, when he realized Kloden had been dropped, did he slow down? By doing that he allowed the Schlecks to catch him at which point he was forced to follow their wheels. Only now the Schlecks were more motivated than ever to ride hard and put time into Kloden. Had Contador continued his attack and not waited for the Schlecks to catch him they might well have let him go, allowing Kloden and maybe Armstrong to regain contact.

    Why do you think he aborted his attack? Surely he didn’t expect Kloden to have the legs to go with him. Right? I just can’t figure out what in the world he was thinking…


    1. Author
      Padraig

      UtRider: you bring up an interesting point. Watching Vs. plus some of the Euro feeds, his attack seemed almost a feint given how quickly he looked back. I was surprised he didn’t put his head down and drill it. Who really thinks he couldn’t have gotten away? But by the time the Schlecks got to him, they weren’t going to sit up long enough to let anyone rejoin.

      Contador is interesting to watch, but I experience a real dissatisfaction due to his strategic naivete. Maybe his whole purpose has been to punish his team, but if that’s the case, he just comes off as petty.

      As for 2010, one has to wonder how many team directors would want a rider they can’t control. There are plenty of directors who would want him just because he’s the reigning TdF champ, but how many of those guys are really smart enough to beat Saxo Bank?

  4. Not a fan

    I think Contador felt disrespected by his Astana teammates over the course of the tour and this was payback. He knows he is not going to be riding for Johan anymore and will most likely sign with a team that has a powerful spanish contigency behind him. He was burning his bridges on purpose.

  5. Rod Diaz

    I have discussed this with a few riding mates. Contador is, I think, no longer riding for the team but himself. I think this is because he distrusts Bruyneel and Armstrong. And I think this is due to the fact that it was unclear who would actually lead the team and get support during the race.

    It is extremely unlikely that Contador would end up in the same team as Armstrong next year, and given that he´s now the team´s best chance to win the Tour Astana has to support him now. If Armstrong/Kloden wer closer in the GC and Contador ran into trouble either in the TT or the Ventoux, they could ditch him. And whether I think this is likely or not is irrelevant – I’m sure Contador wasn’t happy when Armstrong took some time at the crosswind splits and then said ” we’ll figure the team leader on the road”. As it happened, he padded his advantage in GC by putting time on the stronger TT riders on the climb, and now they had to claw that back. Over two days his advantage to his closest rivals has almost doubled.

    He’s not been the best teammate, for sure. But he’ll win the tour. Could this have been avoided had Astana been clearer with it’s leadership issues from the beginning? Maybe. But now he’s almost a lock to win over rivals that he maybe felt included even his teammats. It’s not like this hasn’t happened in cycling before (Hinault/Lemond).

  6. Brian

    You are taking the whole “Wiggins neutralization” thing out of context – like all the other writer’s out there looking to build up this Contador vs. Astana/Johan/Armstrong “controversy”.
    Contador did not say he attacked to neutralize Wiggins. He said the goal for the day was to neutralize Wiggins. Something that had, as you point out, already occurred when Contador attacked. According to Contador, Johan told him to ask Kloden before he did anything and Kloden told him to go ahead and attack if he wanted to.
    Give it a rest.

    * Schleck Brothers – 2010! *

  7. Le Gimpe

    I think Conatador wants a gap that can survive an accident or flat on Ventoux. Who closed the gap on him on his first attack on Sunday? He doesn’t trust Bruyneel or Armstrong and given the atmosphere on the team bus and the sudden unwanted co-star in Armstrong, I can understand. Add to that the pretty obvious fact that he’s not riding with them next year…

    Who do you think Bruyneel would rather win? Pharm$trong is more marketable and knowing what Bruyneel probably knows, more controlable. Is that too sinister? I have a dirty mind.

    I think Contador will fit in on any team that makes him their main GC leader. Contador could have won on Saxo and probably on CassD’, Liquigas and maybe even Garmin. Saxo and Astana are definitely the strongest and wisest. I just hope he’s clean. Sadly, I have an annoyingly dirty mind.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      The problem for Astana is that Bruyneel’s plan–Astana wins the race–was not Contador’s plan–I win the race. Armstrong, to his credit, has ridden like a loyal lieutenant since Arcalis, doing nothing to endanger Contador’s lead. I don’t think Riis would ever hire a rider he couldn’t direct. And with the Schlecks he doesn’t need him. This year Contador could race as a privateer and win. Next year will be different and the Tour, after all, can be won or lost in the planning.

  8. Da Robot

    As I’ve been thinking about this, and let me say first that I think this is mostly about Contador’s tactical naivete, I see that Bruyneel and Armstrong may really have planted the seeds for this sort of rebellion themselves.

    If I was the top stage racer in the world (and winning the three Grand Tours in the space of 13 or 14 months stakes your claim to that status pretty clearly) and then a former champion, no matter how great, came back after more than 3 years off and my DS told me he wasn’t so sure who would lead the team in the sport’s signature event, I would feel pretty aggrieved. I’m not sure I would trust the intentions of said DS or the former champion.

    So on a pivotal mountain stage, the DS I don’t really trust, who I probably know I’m not riding for next season, whispers in my ear to slow down, I might be confused about what to do. What I know is that I can win the stage, and effectively the Tour, if I press on. What I fear is that waiting for teammates means opening the door again for the former champion, and given what’s gone before and what’s likely to come, I take care of number one.

    At least with the Schleck’s you KNOW they’re out to get you.

  9. Da Robot

    Do you think Euskaltel Euskadi could win with Contador? Could Martinez and Landaluze and Astarloza deliver him to enough mountain top finishes to win the race? He’s clearly among the best TT guys already. I’m thinking they could. With a rider of his talent and strength, I don’t think you need Bjarne Riis or Johan Bruyneel to plan a win. I think it’s a matter of having enough climbers to pace him in the hills and enough rolleurs to, excuse the expression, break wind in the flats.

    And it would be really nice to see one of the waning teams wax a little, wouldn’t it?

  10. Not a fan

    Why do I get better analysis from fans than those commentators on VS? I mean they know more than us but yet they never really talk about the real issues of the race, its all slanted towards Lance all the time. I would love to hear some straight talk about things from those commentators just once!

    I think Euskaltel Euskadi has too much of a restriction on their team saying they must all be from the Basque country, thus eliminating a larger talent pool, forever doomed to hunt stages.

  11. George

    Agreed.

    Da Robot is dead on. The kid is full of mistrust.

    I have no complaint with a rider that is more emotional than calculating, though.
    It’s been exciting watching a kid with a mountain of potential beat his rivals, his team, and his director.

    Better a man than a TDF machine.

  12. Da Robot

    @Not a fan

    Right. Contador won’t ride for them, BUT given they had only a handful of wins last season, it says something that even they could win the Tour with a rider of Contador’s talent.

    I think ALL the PRO teams have the lieutenants to make it happen with the right leader (OK…Silence Lotto doesn’t, and BBox, and Skil Shimano probably don’t), but the majority do.

  13. Da Robot

    I should add, and then I’ll stop posting so much (sorta obnoxious, I know), that I don’t know jack. My commentary is uninformed at best.

    The VS guys know what’s going on, but they can’t comment on it for two reasons:
    1) The VS promotions are really built around Lance. The broadcasts are about Lance. That’s how they’re selling their product to an American audience.

    2) They all know Lance and Bruyneel. If they started saying what they think and know, they’d run out of access faster than you could say Radio Shack, Radio Shack, Radio Shack.

  14. Jason

    First of all…Go Padraig!!! Talk about success right out of the gates with your new site! Congrats on the great string of responses and discourse!

    Bottom line, no matter what is being reported by media before, during, and after stage 17 I am just naive enough to believe Contador wanted Kloden to come with him. No matter who is yelling what in his ear I’m willing to believe that at least on Wednesday of this week on the roads in France, Alberto Contador was trying to do his teammate a favor by dropping the Schlecks. The fact that Kloden could not follow obviously caught Contador by surprise and he slowed up while looking back repeatedly to see where his teammate was. Now, whether this whole idea was to give Kloden a deserved stage win, or, simply win a friend in the peloton come 2010, who knows. But the fact that he all but stopped once he realized nobody was on his wheel makes me think Contador believed Kloden was coming with him. If he was gunning for the stage win, he would’ve kept on going. The Pyrennes taught us that.

    Now, on Thursday, I saw something I would’ve said was impossible on Wednesday. So at the encouragement of my best riding buddy ever, let’s give this 2009 victory the proper 90 days for all of the ballots to be properly counted,recounted, frozen, then counted again.

    I really hope it all comes back square b/c I love watching AC go uphill. And I am literally stunned he can now do a TT like he did today.


  15. Author
    Padraig

    Da Robot is en pointe. Somebody tell him NOT to shut up. These comments are lively and terrific.

    What the Vs. boys know and what they say has, as some would say, a delta.

    As for what team Contador could win with, I’ve said my piece. He could have been on Skil-Shimano and he’d still be in yellow. Next year, I don’t see things happening that way. If has to race a confident pair of Schlecks, he’ll have to be on the attack at the foot of many climbs.

  16. Jason

    And to just give credit on some great comments/points above:

    – Contador will be on Caisse d’ Whattheirnames…yes, he can win any race on any team so long as there is not a TTT. Lotto and Cervelo proved that point once again this year so there’s no way he’ll wind up on Euskatel (not enough $$$ there anyway). I would bet Santander comes in as a co-sponsor just to bring on AC. They will buy out his last year with Astana and begin to believe in themselves for a change. LL Sanchez and Valverde will finally have their brother in arms at their side.

    – Can’t blame Contador for any mistrust, I probably would feel very similarly, but he definitely has an issue with explaining himself when asked. Still, I’d probably do poorly in that regard as well if I was convinced the whole world was against me.

    – But yes, AC screwed up big and made Saturday pure hell for himself and delightful for all of us to watch!!!!

  17. Henry

    I think Bruyneel has only himself to blame for creating the situation. He tells Contador he is the leader and then allows Armstrong to tell the press the leadership position is yet to be decided. Contador was convinced Bruyneel was working to put Armstrong in the top spot at his expense. Contador may not have the tactical savvy and experience to respond to such a situation but once your leader is convinced he has to fight his own director and team to win you created a recipe for disaster.

    Bruyneel seems to have wanted to have his cake and eat it to. Put Armstrong in yellow if possible but have Contador as a back up if not. Armstrong looked like he was trying to pull an Ali-Foreman on Contador beating the younger less experienced rider by getting in his head while doing the rope a dope and hoping for an opening to take the jersey in the stages that played to his strengths. Well Contador was having no part of any of it and has let his legs do the talking. Have all his responses been strategically well thought out? No but he is in an impossible situation that I don’t remember any leader facing recently.

    Will another director not trust AC? Nonsense. With a director and team dedicated to delivering AC to the top spot (like the teams that were 100% focused on LA for his 7 tour wins) you can be sure AC would be happy to follow direction. Would Armstrong have put up with another rider challenging his leadership and the director going along with it in his hay days? Not for a second.

  18. George

    Sadly it’s true. Armstrong controls the cycling media (in the states) through the attention he brings and the connected money. I do appreciate the attention he brought to the sport,

    and wow has Henry made a good point. I know that if I had the 4 headed monster that Astana is (was) I would dream of a mapei sweep too. Bruyneel created a split camp that he couldn’t reconcile

    The more I think on this, I can’t tell who gets Contador in the the lotery. Caisse d’Epargne has Valverde, Rabo has Menchov, and Euskatel won’t take him.

    Does Contador have the cache to build a team on his own?

  19. Alex Torres

    Some really insightful posts here indeed!

    I think every one of them did their best to accomodate their interests and needs, and succeeded at that. JB had to make way for Lance with Contador on the team. Lance in his turn was trying to come back and maybe win (maybe? who am I kidding here? LOL). Too bad for them Contador had his too – win Le Tour once more – and did his part as best he could, to make sure no one would get in his way. Even if that mean he had to detonate some “podium sweep” plan by a team he knows for sure he won´t be in next season.

    It was there for us all to see, even before the Tour: this situation could only lead to a building tension. As much as I like and admire Lance and JB, Contador is just different in style. He comes from a different culture, speaks a different language. But he´s a winner with as much desire and determination as strenght. How could he put himself 100% in the hands of such made-in-heaven, once-in-a-lifetime partnership like JB & LA? I have to give him that too, like Da Robot I sure would be at the very least confused. I guess when he had to pick one, he stuck to his legs, for that he could trust.

    As for his future… I guess we´ve seen that Contador can be directed alright, as long as the threat comes from outside, not from inside like it happened with Levi in ´08 and Lance in ´09. Or maybe not. But the Schleck Brothers part, I have to agree entirely: if they step on the podium this year – certainly with the help of Contador – they´ll become serious competition for him in 2010.

  20. MCH

    Padraig

    Brilliant site and great insight! The question I’ve been asking friends is: are Contador’s actions impulsive, emotional outburts, stupid, or based on spite/revenge. Sadly, I think the simple answer is, yes. All of the above. His action remind me of a basketball player who has no respect for his teammates and/or expects to be traded: I’m gonna get mine and screw the rest of you. What he forgets is that the Astana machine has done a shi* load of work for him during each of tour wins. Neutralizing breaks, chasing down rivals, and specifically in this Tour, giving him a nice cusion with the TTT win. The incredible strength and depth of Astana should not be ignored. No other team that will have Contador in 2010 will have this depth. Certainly not the rumored new Spanish wonder team!
    Could Johan / Lance done more (anything) to head this off? IMO, no. As Pedro Delgado very aptly stated in an interview a couple of days ago, “two stallions in the barn always leads to trouble”. At least Lance has respect for his teammates. The same can’t be said for Alberto. While I respect his talent, I don’t respect the man. I wish him luck next year, he’s going to need it.

  21. Stephen

    Perhaps I’m naive, but it seems that if Contador was able to drop Kloden so quickly and the Schlecks were able to bridge with such relative ease, wouldn’t the Schlecks ultimately have dropped Kloden with or without Contador’s attack? Even if the Schlecks were able to catch Contador because he slowed up for Kloden (and I’d have to watch it again to see if I agree with that), Kloden wasn’t able to go with them. Either way, Kloden gets dropped sooner rather than later.

    Arguably, Kloden’s biggest mistake was not sitting up and waiting for Armstrong, recovering a bit and then working with LA to bring back the front three. Given how close Nibali and LA ultimately finished to the winners, could they (LA and Nibali) have caught Contador, et. al. with Kloden’s help?

  22. b

    I reckon its obvious from watching the replay (20 times).

    – Contador wanted to get a bigger gap on Wiggins and Schlecks.
    – He rode with Kloden and the Schlecks until Wiggins was really gapped, then with Kloden firmly on the back of the Schlecks, he made the jump.
    – Contador’s idea was that Kloden would stick with Schlecks, and he get a few seconds on them by the top.

    – So Contador jumps away in his normal style…
    – …looks over to Schlecks to check they aren’t following. OK.
    – …looks back to Kloden to check he’s safely on Schlecks’s wheel. Doh!.

    So then he stops.

    Sits up, waits for Schlecks, sits on their wheel again. And waits for Kloden to catch up.

    But somehow Kloden has just lost it, and goes rapidly backwards.

    Now Schlecks see what’s going on, and ride a faster tempo to lose Kloden.

    Meanwhile, Contador is kicking himself for dropping Kloden and looks back every 3 seconds to see where the hell Kloden has gone – but it’s all over for Kloden.

    I don’t think you need to read any great conspiracy or breakdown of the team or Contador being “unmanageable” – it was just a simple mistake made on the road where he didn’t realise how much on the limit Kloden was.

    Personally, I reckon most of the time people make mistakes rather than intentionally being bastards.

  23. Henry

    F1 champion Fernando Alonso has announced he would like to build a cycling team around Contador for 2011. I’m sure the list of suitors to attract AC will be long but he needs to find a Bruyneel caliber director that can do for him what Bruyneel did for Armstrong.

  24. Rich

    Contador leaves me with a sad feeling in my stomach as I feel I am being cheated. Cheated as I think that his performances are unbelievable. Much has been written about the theoretical calcualtions on his performance. Even if these figures are 20% out they still place him in the best climbers ever recorded, and history tells us that those scores were aided and abetted by the evil enemy EPO.

    Ironically even thought the Team has been devided he couldn’t have won it without them and no rider can win a Tour, especially a Grand Tour on his own. If they decide to put in anothter TTT, he’d be screwed. Cast your mind back to Paris Nice this year where he looked on course for a win. He ended up crumbling and lost it due to poor tactics and not eating properly.

    As a Brit I want to give a shout out to Wiggo (that’s Bradley Wiggins). I’m really proud of him and regardless of where he finishes it is a great achievement. He’s lost over 7kg (a bit like LA did) and has got his head in the right place and become a true Roadman. I am left slightly frustrated by JV in that he should have supported him more and had Christian work for him earlier. That could have been the difference between getting on the podium or not. As this would be a great shout out to the peloton that you can do it clean, this in itself would have been a greater message to the world than another Yellow Jersey which has dark cloud over it again.

  25. swissarmy

    I agree with b. I don’t see much sinister intent in Contador’s move other than trying to better his own standing in the GC. I’ll go with Alan Ginsburg’s adage of “first thought, best thought”–when I watched it live my first thought was that Contador was being himself in trying to take command of another stage by attacking when he did. Once he saw that Kloden was dropped it looked like he realized his mistake in that he was then isolated with the Schlecks with a long way to go before the finish. If you’ve ever been in a three man break with two team mates who are selfless and tactically astute you know they can put you in a world of hurt. Contador kept looking around like he wanted Kloden to come back, possibly even to allow Kloden to try to win the stage, but Kloden was in trouble at that point and it was too late.

  26. Jared

    I agree with b as well. He kept looking back and seemed concerned that he dropped Kloden. I think he realized right away he screwed up.

    Maybe he didn’t feel he was being challenged enough by the Schleck brothers and wanted to let his legs fly. Isn’t cycling, or at least climbing, all about trying to hurt your opponents as much as possible? I really don’t think there was any ill intent with his attack. He just showed, once again, that he is a young and somewhat immature rider.

    I was hoping the Schlecks would catch Contador off guard and attack him while he was looking back. No such luck there.

  27. NinjaPonyDad

    OK, so we don’t have this figured out , maybe never will. It is my opinion that Contador (the 2007 winner TDF) doesn’t get to race in 2008 because his team is banned…..so this year he gets to, and Lance decides HE wants to race on the same team. If I were Contador, recognising the conspiracy looming between Bruneel, Armstrong, Leipheimer, I would have done just as he did…..put his individual stamp on the race. Catch me if you can. Yes, the opportunity for a three way sweep was there but with what guarentee, he already felt ripped off because of last years’ ban and now he has to put up with the “drum roll kid” on his return to cycling? It seems to me that Lance and Bruneel created the drama, and Contador squelched it…….He’s young strong and cool …let him win, I mean really, you can’t stop him.
    My $0.02.

  28. Alex Torres

    Sure. But 7 in sequence?

    Well…maybe that fear is (consciously or not) behind Lance´s determination to win again. Who knows. Everything is possible.

    I guess if Contador can really mobilize this much structure and support around him to help him winning… Well that´s exactly what Lance and others before him did (Coppi, Merckx, Hinault come to mind). I see that as a decisive move to a great champion and a real boss.

    Yes, it can happen.

  29. velomonkey

    Pradig and Da-Robot is right, Conti would have or could have won on nearly any team. Also, when you pick apart these small things and nit pick the guy, the same has to hold true of LA. Here are two examples I saw:

    Frank was dropped, the guy was done and back with Wigo and LA. LA moved to Wigo’s wheel and almost came to a literal stop. On a 8% gradient going again takes a lot of power, Frank wasn’t part of the melee and punched it and caught back up. So, did LA cause Frank to catch back on?

    Also, on the previous stage, Conti was out and LA bridged up and he brought everyone up to the group. And I mean everyone – Sastre, VDV, Evens – they all came. We also saw Johan basically scold the group to “do nothing, Lance is back on.” I’m not a DS, but if I was, that’s not how it goes down in my book and show me anywhere in LA’s seven wins where the entire group bridges thanks to your team mates move and you do nothing.

    I wish LA would just go away and allow the new blood to get their due (no pun). The guy was soundly beat by Schleck and Conti and also got to ride the defensive which Frank and Wigo didn’t have.

    Wigo is a bigger story.

  30. Robot

    What we’re seeing with Contador is unprecedented almost. He’s 26 and has 4 Grand Tour wins. By comparison, Armstrong was in his 30s before he hit that mark. So what if Contador wins a Tour a year until he’s 33, the same age Lance was when he won in 2005? That’s 7 more, for a total of 11, same as Merckx who won more Grand Tours than anyone else.

    To hold that kind of form and dominance would be frightening, and there is NO guarantee that he could do it, just given the likelihood of injuries or team dynamics.

    But, this kid will rank among the all time greats. No doubt about it.

    He’s already won more than LeMond, Gaul, Fignon, Delgado and Bobet, all legends of the sport. And again, he’s only 26. One more Tour win puts him in company with Gimondi, Binda and Bartali.

    Does anyone think he won’t win ONE more?

    In all of this debate about who is doing it right, Lance or Alberto, there is a common conception, at least on this side of the pond, that Contador is some sort of upstart. The guy has nearly 50 professional wins. He’s entered 5 Grand Tours and won 4 of them. He is the top cyclist in the world today, and he’s entitled to make racing decisions for himself, just as most of us would argue that Armstrong is entitled to do.

    Of course, if Greg LeMond is right and Contador is on the juice, you can chuck everything I’ve just said.

  31. RMM

    Alberto was given every reason to be suspisious of the Bruneel/Armstrong coalition. From the outside, it looked like AC was bearly talking to JB and LA during the race.
    It was obvious from the getgo that Astana’s management cared more about LA than about Contador. Remember, Contador needs to get a contract for next year and a win at the TdF could make a difference of millions of Euros in salary and endorsements.
    Considering these factors, is it any wonder that Contador may have made a few selfish moves to insure his own future?

  32. Ron

    Contador said he attacked to neutralize Wiggins. What? Wiggins was already dropped. No one attacks a dropped rider. When you attack, you are attempting to drop someone on your wheel, which makes Contador either a liar or not very bright.

    Pat : Good post as usual for RKP.

    First of all, if I were you, I would hesitate to place a black mark against Contador’s intelligence, for you need more facts that a simple press conference statement to judge someone’s brightness. Its like declaring that President Obama was not bright because he made some remark on TV that didn’t suit one of the listeners.

    Secondly, what’s wrong with making a move to get rid of Wiggins? The latter performed remarkably, but thats exactly what must have made Contador see him as a real threat. Don’t forget, before Stage 17 where Contador made this so-called ‘tactical error’ in the climb towards Le Grand Bornand, Wiggins was 1’46” off the leader’s jersey. Something petty as that cannot be protected very well on a long climb, especially if something goes wrong. A flat tire, crash etc is enough to topple your position. By the end of Stage 17, Wiggins was way down there, which meant he had to do more work in the following stages just to get back to the 3rd position he was on the GC before that Stage 17.

    You made a pretty narrow remark when you said that one attacks only when he wants to distance himself from the person immediately behind his wheel. If you believe in chess and the permutations of moves that look weird at first but are done only to secure your position in the long run, look at bike racing the same way. It is chess, except it is played on two wheels. Strategy is what makes bike racing fun to participate in and also watch.

    Ron
    Cozy Beehive

  33. Ron

    Robot said (July 27, 12:28pm) : He’s already won more than LeMond, Gaul, Fignon, Delgado and Bobet, all legends of the sport. And again, he’s only 26. One more Tour win puts him in company with Gimondi, Binda and Bartali.

    Robot, I have never seen anyone mix up their history facts as much as you. Contador has not won more than Lemond, if you’re talking about just the Tour de France. Lemond has 3 wins and Contador will match it next year if he wins. Same goes for Bobet.

    Alfredo Binda didn’t even win a single Tour de France for heaven’s sake. The man won 5 Giro d’Italias.

    Bartali won 2 Tours.

    Felice Gimondi won just one Tour but has bagged the triple crown of cycling.

    What are you drinking? :)

  34. Robot

    @ Ron

    I don’t drink. What are you reading? I was talking about Grand Tours, not Tours de France. AC has four, two Tours, a Giro and a Vuelta. LeMond, who never won the Giro or Vuelta, has three.

    I think you’ll find all my numbers, again, for Grand Tours, to be correct.

    I thought it was only Lance Armstrong who didn’t know about the other two big Tours.

    I keed. I keed.

  35. Ron

    @Robot : My apologies then. When you said ‘one more Tour win’, I thought you were talking just about the Tour de France. Afterall, not many calls the Giro the ‘Tour’. Its the Giro. And the Vuelta is the Vuelta. The Tour has a distinction of its own, its own place in history and legend unlike the other two. But you’re right, one more grand tour win will place him next to those greats you mentioned.

  36. Da Robot

    @Ron

    These are silly semantic arguments. No apology necessary.

    If I got this one right, I will certainly get future posts wrong.

    It’s in my nature.

  37. Alex Torres

    All of Contador´s wins, or at least the really significant ones, came under Bryuneel´s direction, with the support of the most experienced roster in perhaps cycling history when it comes to win Grand Tours. Contador is without question one of the greatest of all times, and certainly the strongest rider of his generation – no wonder Lance and JB picked him up early.

    But it remains to be seen what he can do on his own, under another guidance, with a different structure. The same goes to his capacity to gather all the support that a rider of even his stature and strenght needs for consistent winning. I mean all those things big and small, from having a good capacity and agility to attract, inspire, command – and keep – good riders around him, the dedication of a good director and mentor (how many available out there right now?), the support of good mechanics and managers, soigneurs, coaches, etc..

    And most of all, his hability to make or at least attract money to fund all that for years, as to create a stable, consistent and well oiled machine revolving around his ambitions. Since Coppi changes the sport forever, all the greats have done that to some measure.

  38. Alex Torres

    Is it me or Lance is up again trying to pull a “Kloden” with Schleck Jr. for the 2010 TdF? Or is this for real? The guy sure has an eye for talent, and he has smelled blood that´s clear, but I wonder what´s on his mind about that move (that is, if the move is really a move – but where there´s smoke…) One thing´s for sure, this is going to be an interesting and exciting season next yr… :-p

  39. Jason

    Contador had every right to attack on le Grand Bornand. Armstrong may have conceaded overall victory to Contador prior to the stage but Contador couldn’t trust Armstrong and who could blame him after Amrstrong’s act of treachery on stage 3. Fair enough that Armstrong bridged the gap but to get 2 teammates to pull on the front when the leader of the team is in the group behind! I wouldn’t trust Armstrong as far as I can spit.

    Chapeau Contador and well done on winning the Tour de France!


    1. Author
      Padraig

      I can’t agree that Armstrong committed an act of treachery on Stage 3. It was an Astana teammate who opened the gap that led to the split. He simply couldn’t follow and Contador was on his wheel. The real question is why Contador didn’t simply bridge of his own accord. He was clearly strong enough and initially the gap was small. I’m not criticizing him; I just don’t understand why he didn’t jump across. And honestly, even if Armstrong had been behind Contador and offered to take him across, do you think he would have accepted the help? His quotes indicate a pretty substantial personal dislike for Armstrong.

  40. Jason

    Padraig, your answer still doesn’t explain why Armstrong got 2 of his teammates to pull on the front of the lead group once the split had opened up. Armstrong new Contador had missed it. In getting his teammates to pull he was aiming to put even more time between him and whoever didn’t make the split of which one rider was Contador. If Armstrong was acting as a team player no Astana riders should have been going anywhere near the front of the lead group. Basic strategy, surely you can see my point? I maintain it was an act of treachery and you know what else, a desperate move by Armstrong to boot. He should be ashamed of himself for that move.

  41. Sophrosune

    Absolutely correct, Jason. Bruyneel is to blame as well. Look, Armstrong was in the right place. Chapeaux. But they should have never pulled. They added maybe 10 seconds with those pulls and managed to make Contador very distrustful. If you want to challenge someone’s tactics, you can challenge both Bruyneel and Armstrong for that one, especially since it was so counterproductive to their aim of having Lance win the race.

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