Revisiting That Whole Astana Thing

Jul 28 2009

3716165955_1209c799abOn paper, Astana had one of the best Tours in recent memory. First and third is hard to fault, especially when considering that the squad dominated the critical moments of the race, and met every challenge of a resurgent SaxoBank squad. So I should be recanting everything I said about the team back in June…right?

I’m not so sure. It’s rare to have two prima donnas taking catty swipes at each other so soon after a competition. Even “Kobe how my ass taste?” took a full year to bubble up. You think both Lance and AC would be willing to keep their yaps shut; Contador made some pretty compelling arguments with his legs over the past three weeks, and Lance’s Tour palmares speak for themselves as well.

I think it’s safe to infer that there was enough friction between the two to make the 40 seconds Lance stole in headwinds on Stage 3 seem like a slight bump of shoulders. it’s tempting to credit Johan Bruyneel for ushering his young charge to the line, but given the Belgian’s comments after Stage 17—and the fact that Contador seemed to feel compelled to pad his lead against his own teammates—it may be that Contador’s ’09 win will be viewed in spite of Johan’s leadership, not because of it.

It’d be going a bit far to say that Johan wanted the Spaniard to lose—”We Might as Well Win”, right? But I get the sensation that had Levi Leipheimer not made an untimely exit, Johan might have cooked up a little breakaway magic between his three lieutenants to humble Contador, or at least take some of the spotlight off his performances and put it on to the rest of the Astana team. Certiainly, Stage 20′s crawl to the top of Ventoux could have put SaxoBank over a log if Astana could have sent a rider up the road while retaining a numerical advantage behind.

As a final, strange footnote, perhaps the most unexpected outcome of the big freeze between LA and AC for me has been the reaction of the European press. You’d think it would be the French, who’d long nipped at the Texan’s yellow-clad heels, to be the ones to revel in his “demise” (if one can call finishing on the TdF podium a comeuppance).

But instead, the French have warmed to the man they once dubbed “The Iguana”, and it’s been the reporters from Spain, where Armstrong formerly had his European base of operations, that have trumpeted his supposed fall from glory, and fanned the flames between the 7-time Tour winner and the reigning champ.

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12 Responses to “Revisiting That Whole Astana Thing”

  1. Sophrosune July 29, 2009 at 3:02 am #

    I first saw this story on the “What’s New” blog over at Competitive Cyclist and have since been telling everyone that has an interest in the race and I come in contact with about it. I think it explains pretty clearly why AC finally felt compelled to speak out against LA.

    When Contador talked about how difficult it was at the hotel and how the problems between the two had spread to the staff the following article from the Spanish publication Diario Sur entitled “A Tale of solitude” http://www.diariosur.es/20090727/deportes/ciclismo/fiesta-privada-contador-20090727.html explains these comments as well as his mother saying on Spanish TV that AC didn’t have a team for the TdF only his family.

    Here’s a translation: “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.”

    When you add in the following podium antics of LA as told by racejunkie: “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 neither LA or Bruyneel for that matter even offering congratulations.

    This story does not have two sides where both sides of some culpability. There is just one side in which a LA unable to win the TdF with his legs tried to do it through any other means necessary, and finally the victim of these attacks spoke out.

  2. rainbow July 29, 2009 at 4:49 am #

    “There is no I in team” .not so say’s me, except and epically when there is a ‘Lance’ in ‘team’. Lance knows this to his full advantage, he got all the team help, when he needed it, four riders sent back for a routine wheel change always three around him in the Peloton. The only time Alberto found team support was when he followed Lances wheel (an image available each time the camera scanned to Mr Armstrong. The only I in team lance cares about is himself, (Johann knows it too, the most disappointing performance on the Astana team was that of Bruyneel, this tour will go down as a Big Black X under managerial skills) but getting back to the I, Initially I couldn’t see it so I Looked harder and the I saw the I in TEAM that Lance was referring to. From the ‘t’ take the cross bar and drop it to the bottom of the t, bring the ‘A’ forward, take the’ m’ and cut it into two n’s rotate the second n 90 degrees anti clockwise, join on the ‘e’ and we can now see the only I in team that Lance is concerned about, team= l_ance .

  3. Bandobras July 29, 2009 at 9:36 am #

    MY God do you spend all the rest of your time watching the View or Oprah?
    It was a bike race. Contador is stronger than Lance or anyone else right now. Lance did what he could to win and couldn’t. Get over it and get a life.
    I think your estrogen patch needs replacing to forestall the menopause a bit longer.

  4. DJ July 29, 2009 at 2:46 pm #

    No matter how lame the victory salute or the hat that goes with it, AC was clearly the best in this TdF. The way he won it, on and off the road (Sophrosune’s story is truly appalling) deserves admiration. The admiration I had for LA has taken a beating this tour. Of course he’s a great champion, and by announcing that his comeback is primarily about raising awareness for his fight against cancer and cycling without pay you can’t really fault his motives, nor his ability if he can still finish third. His display of bad manners over the past three weeks (and in the lead-up) however has been appalling. Maybe there’s no I in team, but if a team has a celebratory dinner, there’s no I in no-show either. I’m really looking forward to next year, when clean, open racing will decide who’s boss in this day and age.

  5. Sheriff July 29, 2009 at 9:07 pm #

    I am surprised people are looking foward to next year to see whos the best contador is the best he won it against all odds and with a whole team to help him next year he will dominate.

  6. oprah July 29, 2009 at 10:46 pm #

    how about announcing your new Team Radio Crap the day contador seals the yellow jersey? pure class.

    too bad bandobras can’t get his pint sized brain around the tactics and scheming that go into “just a race.” why can’t we just all make them arm wrestle? it would make pinheads like you not have to think about icky strategy. right, bandobras?

  7. Sophrosune July 30, 2009 at 2:49 am #

    Poor, Bandobras. He thinks his misogyny can translate into insults of others. Sad display. But I have to say it’s a typical reaction of LA Lover when faced with the truth about their idol. They lash out like petulant children grasping onto anything in front of them. Sadly, in Bandobras’ case, it’s his hatred of women.

  8. luc July 30, 2009 at 9:06 am #

    Well Said Sophrosune.

  9. iworedettos July 30, 2009 at 11:13 am #

    marginally interesting:
    http://nyvelocity.com/content/features/2009/2009-tour-argument#comment-63500

    yet i still don’t care.

  10. kkhart July 30, 2009 at 1:09 pm #

    Watching the tour, it was apparent early on that Contador was not getting the support he needed from the Astana team. Since he won anyway, despite all the platitudes about how the TdF can’t be won without the team, it makes me wonder how much more he could achieve with a team that actually worked for him. If he gets one, Lance has no chance.

    Lance has been a petulant child this Tour. He is not owed a win, he needs to earn it – if he can. And that sulky nonsense on the podium was disrespectful to the sport.

  11. Josh July 31, 2009 at 8:21 am #

    In a shocking development, the ‘Lance abandoned Alberto at the hotel’ story made it into the American media, albeit safely hidden deep in an article about Aspen honoring Lance for buying a house there. Just ponder a $40,000 monthly mortgage payment…

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/31/sports/cycling/31aspen.html?ref=sports

    The story seems far fetched (I imagine Astana has someone in charge of race-day logistics) but it’s an indication of how bad the atmosphere might have been.

  12. il Ciclone Rosso August 1, 2009 at 12:10 pm #

    Interesting develpoments….. Further confirms my opinion that the world revolves around LA, in his opinion. You can’t argue with his accomplishments and his performance this year was really much better than I expected; no problems there.
    My issue is with his consistent bad manners exhibited throughout the Tour and the classless way in which he handles his affairs. Not characteristics I would want my kids to emulate.

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