VeloFidelis said:Do you really think a 38 year old guy has aspirations of winning the Tour next year?
Hello to everyone and VeloFidelis
I would bet that he does. Really. Even though, as you said...
Lance has always had more to gain politically by just doing well in the TDF, rather than by winning at someone's expense. He doesn't need the controversy or the win, which is not to say he hasn't been competing for it.
Indeed, Armstrong gains a lot by being in the TdF. I kind of despise the guy to be honest, so I take some pleasure in the spectacle of his lost dominance. I think he knows that his (relative) weakness is a sure way to attract sympathy from everyone, even his critics. He was smart enough to retire before he went through the proverbial Merckx/Indurain end-of-legacy-bonking, and orchestrated his return as a total win-win situation.
Armstrong is a smart guy, he knows how to handle his PR and his image on the whole, so you would expect him to know that his time is most likely up soon.
However, as any human being, he has his contradictions. Many other athletes did not see the writing on the wall (as someone worded earlier). While he is pretty good in the PR game, he still have a lot of aggressive outbursts (his twitter, etc...). And given his very competitive spirit, I would believe he still think he can win a TdF. That doesn't sound too farfetched even to me (but maybe I was traumatized by his reign). Sure, Contador (and a couple others) is out of reach, but Armstrong still managed to be in the top 10 GC. A lot can happen in a race: accidents, bad days...
There's some wishful thinking there, I don't believe either he has a realistic chance at winning the Tour 2010. I wouldn't put it past him to be slighty blinded on the issue though. Maybe I just bought his public persona, Will-of-Iron and such, though.
VeloFidelis said:Messy?... Yeah possibly. But the thing that seems to be lost in that logic is exactly the egos involved here. Bruyneel, Armstrong and Contador all want to win above all else. That is a force that will bind them together more than split them apart. The key is defining what each of them has to win and lose.
I think this year's TdF is the proof that the team is too small for their egos (and almost right off the bat, 6 months in after LA went back), and that their desire to win is not mutually beneficial. There have been a lot of back and forth on this forum about "a team can have multiple leaders", and I agree that it is the standard setup for big teams on this TDF, but in the LA/JB/AC case it just can't work: That is now how Bruyneel build his teams, and that is not how Armstrong races the TdF. It is pretty clear that the Radio Shack team is built for and around Armstrong and he alone.
You say that Bruyneel is the one most aware of Contador's talent, yet on this TdF, he was very public about his preference: Contador has been continually scolded and even in the ITT, Bruyneel chose to ride behind Armstrong and not the Maillot Jaune, I mean... really? He sure didn't take any gloves at all.
I do not think Contador will accept this any longer. He is head and shoulders above everyone on this tour, I am not sure he needs Bruyneel or armstrong to win. Sure Astana 2009 is a monster team, but will Radio Shack be as strong? The rumored lineup is interesting, but is it that much more interesting than Caisse d'Epargne, which has other advantages for him (it's Spanish for one...)? To the point of enduring the same drama?
(Caisse d'Epargne signed Moreau by the way, seems to me like an obvious move to prepare next year TdF using a very experienced vet... another thing: it has the Pro Tour licence. I know Radio Shack is almost guaranteed to be featured in big races because of the Lance effect, but who knows what can happen...)
On to the final point: despite all this speculation, at the end of the day, Contador is contracted to Olympus. So even though all this speculation above could be right, Bruyneel could in theory "force" Contador to race for him.
But I think it is doubtful though. If Contador does not agree, things will get messy: there's no way (esp. after this Tour) you could argue in public that Contador should ever take a back seat to Lance or to not align him in the great races. This could turn into a PR disaster dragging out for months and I do not think Armstrong want that, it would drain his image as well.
On the other hand, selling Contador last year of contract would be very profitable. His monetary value is at the highest right now and that's the last chance of selling him (unless he prolongs the contract). Why suffer the drama when you can make big bucks by avoiding conflicts?
So I agree with you that in a logical world, LA would know his time is up or soon to be up and that JB would know he needs to prepare the future. But facts seems to point out it is not the case and that those big characters of theirs push them in unexpected directions. Therefore, I think some of the speculation here has some merit.
Thanks for your time.