It was my understanding that Astana had a tacit agreement among the cyclists on their team, that Contador would ride for Armstrong in the Giro and that Armstrong would return the favor at the Tour of France for Contador with the Spain grand tour up for grabs. Am I wrong?
I think there is a decent chance that Armstrong only came out of retirement so he can be fawned over by the press and the fanboys. He may not care about winning at all. He probably was not too pleased that the New York press was making fun of him last year.
He originally said in his first true press conference he was coming back to ride the Tour. Later on there was talk about what else, and he hinted that he'd ride the Giro to win, and may not ride the Tour. That didn't last long.
The latest is that he's aiming to peak in the first week of July, and hoping for a top 10 in the Giro.
It's going to be interesting because at some point Astana has to choose a leader, and if they throw everything behind the wrong guy, they could end up screwing things up.
Personally, I think Lance is going to do all he can to win the Tour, even if that means pushing Contador aside. I just don't think he can do it. I think the three years off, the age, the fact the Tour is mountainous this year with little TT km's, and the fact that there are more climbers willing to attack him at just about any time, all will make his winning an 8th Tour a tall order.
well you can get 12-1 on an astana 1-2-3 in the tour.. thats where my money is going..
with schleck and evans at 9's and 11's e/w
im also considering a few quid on cadel to fail a drugs test during the tour but cant find a bookie that will offer me odds..
personally re armstrong winning i think he, contador and probably levi will hit everyone pretty hard between the three of them early in the mountains.. come mont ventoux i think at least two of those three will be well clear and can battle it out for themselves.. we shall be sat in a parisien bar watching it all on television...
(actually if anyone is in paris this year.. maybe a saturday afternoon mont ventoux beer could be in order.. we found a great bar last year just along from moulin rouge that does pints for 2e50, puts the cycling on the big screen for us, and feeds us free crisps all day..)
I think it's interesting that LA has changed his tune from focusing on the giro and helping AC win the Tour, to going for a good placement but not a win in the giro and a win in the Tour. He's twittering all about the recon he's doing - of TDF stages.
It's almost like AC's one day bonk in P-N is all the excuse LA needed to see himself as the leader for the Tour. After all, AC "still has a lot to learn..."
Also interesting is that JB is still singing the old tune... Lance is mainly focusing on the Giro.
Well, I remeber LA promised Heras ,he will help him in Vuelta in exchange for Heras suport in TdF. Being Lance NotSoStrong he never show his 'royal' face in Vuelta. So, Heras had to take some boost subst to be able to win Vuelta. Otherwise Heras never took such a substancies when he was riding for US Postal. Nor Hammilton...Strange, imediately after rider was quiting Posties/Discovery they take drugs. But of course, they never did when they was LA s team mate...How dare somebody to have such an infamous thought? I don't know why the TdF authorities don't give Him the 8th victory wihtout participating, it's obvious He will win again, who else? For those who may think LA is God himself,the last sentences was a ironical
Clearly LA wants to win the Big One. He may take 8-9 months to get in shape but he has done this before and knows how to peak. If he beats Contador in the tough prologue in Monaco it will be tough not to support him. Otherwise it will be for Alberto.
I don't quite understand why people always question LA's motives. He just wants to win, what's wrong with that?
After seeing Lance ride the time trial in California and seeing the results of some of his main rivals a few weeks later, I think Armstrong is in over his head this time. Yeah, its a long stretch of time from the TOC to the Giro, but man...did he ever stink up that TT.
I just don't see him at the top in Italy. Honestly, do you think he can beat Basso in Italy? Basso is putting up some good results already and has a decided tifosi advantage in the Giro.
And will Lance ride for Contador in France? C'mon, now. Astana has all the makings of T-Mobile back when Ulrich and Vino were vying for top-dog accolades. For France, Astana's big concern is likely to be team members choosing to ride for one guy and not the other. Not a pretty picture, certainly not a winning formula.
He wasn't THAT bad in the TOC ITT, he finished in 14th, just over a minute back!
I do agree though, his focus will be on winning the Tour, and Contador will be just another racer in his way. Actually, better than that, if he can win the Prologue, and be in the Maillot Jaune, or even after the TTT, I think we'll see him try to assert himself as the then de facto leader of Astana, and the peloton, psychologically. I still think there are several things working against him however:
1) Three years off is a long time, no matter who you are.
2) He'll be 38 I believe.
3) He appeared a bit overweight at TOC, but not simple fat, but upper body muscle, which may be harder to lose.
4) There are less TT kms here than when he won his Tours.
5) While a great climber in his day, he won his last 4-5 Tours behind a Postal/Discovery team that set a fast pace over cols on each mountain stage, discouraging attacks and safely delivering him within striking distance of the finish. That's not likely to happen this time with Contador on his team. No way AC sets pace for Lance. He's too competitive, and as Levi said (with affection) AC likes to crush his rivals on the climbs. Others are likely to attack as well, and earlier in stages, often on penultimate climbs, trying to force mano-a-mano Royal Breaks we used to see in days of yonder.
6) There appear to be more aggressive climbers today than when Lance was winning his Tours, guys willing to attack him any chance they can get and isolate him. I'm sure while he's well liked by half the peloton, but even those that like him would love to drop him and have his head on their mantle. I don't think we're going to see a Lance/Cadel Evans dual up the mountain passes, like we did with Lance/Jan, Lance/Basso, etc. More like Lance versus several Pantani's, while...
7) ...Lance hasn't really shown the ability to truly accelerate on the big passes in several years, probably dating back to 2004 at best. When someone else attacks, and AC chases, how well do you think Lance can follow, and keep following?
8) There is less doping in the peloton. Not a reference to Lance, only that it's less likely we're going to see the same 40 guys riding fast up the climbs together day after day, until a few are shed at the end, then come back the next day not very tired and ready to go again. I think we'll see more racing like the last 3 days of this year's Paris-Nice.
Adding to this, peaking is going to be a real challenge, with the Giro and it's big climbs early in the race in early May, and the Ventoux the final climb of the Tour in late July. A climb that while Lance actually rode well up it, said he never liked. And finally, Lance's love child is due in July, which might be a real "distraction". Or great excuse to just head to France for fun, and maybe win a stage and drop out to be with the new baby.
What's the betting that with 5 "Tour contenders" as they are called we see a repeat of the first mountain stage of the TdF 2003 when Heras and Chechu stormed off the front like a runaway express train ? If I were someone like Sastre, watching Contador, Armstrong, Kloden, Levi, and Zubeldia line up at the front just prior to a climb I'd be very nervous indeed.........
Those nerves haven't been apparent at the two major Euro stage races of the year, have they? It was quite clear, particularly in Paris-Nice (and what a superb race that was) that any air of superiority Astana might once have had is no longer intimidating - witness the way Rabobank took them to pieces with a brilliantly crafted attack.
The problem for Boss Hog is that those USDiscatana stalwarts aint getting any younger.
It's great fun watching the Lance/Giro spin shifting as the spring progresses. Back in the dead of winter, we saw big splashy headlines about how excited he was to try and win the 100th Giro-- but now it's clearly being portrayed as a Tour tune-up. Anyone else out there wonder if LA will even show up for the whole Giro now?
My inner cynic is watching for something like a minor injury in training, forcing him to sack the Giro and instead spend the month of May "recuperating"-- i.e. previewing Tour stages, or maybe having one of those private training camps with Levi and Dr. Ferrari on Tenerife like in 2005. My inner optimist, however, is hoping that he'll stick with the Giro and race it hard and clean.
He should beat Basso pretty easily based on the numbers Basso has posted on Mapei website. Lance averages closer to 500 W in his time trials and on the mountains (sometimes even more) and Basso was under 400 W in Tirreno.
Contador will be a big problem for Astana this summer I think. He will be ****ed when Lance is raised to team leaders' position in Tour. Astana will put 2-3 minutes on every other team in TTT and ITTs will decide the order within Astana. You can be sure that Lance will win Conta in ITT in July. You will see Astana train in the mountains with passengers begging for mercy.
There's been no agreement that I know of that Contador would ride for LA @ Giro, and LA riding for AC @ TdF. Contador was never scheduled to ride the Giro. His single focus (from beginning of team training camp) was to concentrate 100% on the TdF. Lance originally scheduled his races this way:
It has always been stated that the strongest rider would be team captain @ the TdF. LA has stated such, as has Bruyneel.
Here's how I see the Astana Team shaping up for the TdF (barring injuries):
1) Alberto Contador
2) Lance Armstrong
3) Levi Leipheimer
4) Andreas Klöden
5) Haimar Zubeldia
6) Chris Horner
7) Benjamin Noval
8) Jose Rubiera (Chechu) or Yaroslav Popovych (depending on which one rides the Giro in support of Lance)
9) either Tomas Vaitkus, Sergio Paulinho, or new rider Jesus Hernandez (see above).
I think that they will need someone who can ride a long time in the front on flat portions of daily stages. Hence, Vaitkus gets the nod.
They are on paper, definitely the strongest team (perhaps ever).