The recent announcement from Astana that Lance “I’ve never taken performance enhancing drugs in my life” Armstrong will definitely start the Tour de France next year has reignited the debate about his place in the team, or rather the place of 06 winner Alberto Contador.
Word from the camp is that Lance was the 3rd strongest rider during the first few rides. During the training camp in Tenerife, Armstrong pledged his support to Contador who he described as the best rider on the planet at the moment. But many (probably including Alberto) doubt whether the ultra competive, 7 time tour winner and part time douchebag will fully accept the roll of superest of the super domestiques.
It will certainly make for an interesting tour and I’m sure have other teams hoping the super team will implode over conflicting loyalties. Contador must be pissed: just turned 26; approaching his prime; only the 5th man to ever win all 3 grand tours; leading the strongest team – having had to sit out last year’s tour he must have been dreaming of making up for lost time with another victory on the Champs Elysee. Then Armstrong rolls back into town.
I’ve never been a fan of Lance. Firstly he never stops talking about having never taken steroids, which everyone knows that makes him a pussy. Nothing wrong with a man growing breasts, or dying of a coke and ‘roid enduced heart attack at 34 like the 49kg pirate, Marco Pantani (RIP – future Dead Ball Icon).
Secondly he has always been way too intense and wins way too much. Jan Ullrich was more chilled out and he was German. He won in ’97 and then proceeded to come 2nd 5 times and round it off with a 3rd and 4th. In the off season he was busted for Ecstacy and was perenially harrassed for gaining weight. Meanwhile Lance was probably busting his ass training up Alpe d’Huez, all the while not taking performance enhancing drugs.
Thirdly is the dickheadiness. I know in pro sport you gotta kinda be an arrogant dick to win, but when you’re that much better than everyone else a little more sportsmanship could be shown. In 2003 Ullrich was trailing Armstrong by only 15 seconds on general classification, when on the last major climb of the tour up the Col de Tourmalet Armstrong crashed and Ullrich waited. Soon afterwards Armstrong attacked (Ullrich was a powerful tempo rider, but lacked Armstrong’s explosive spurts – don’t laugh), winning the stage, along with the 20 second time bonus.
He won the tour by a minute. Lance always had a bad relationship with the press, especially the French and always came across as surly in interviews. After the Pirate beat him in an epic mountain top finish, he made fun of Pantani’s huge ears, calling him Elefantino, which I’m guessing possibly caused him to overdose on coke a few year later. And finally there are a couple of other Grand tours Lance, the Giro and the Vuelta – how many times have you won them?
I don’t know who I want to win in 09. As long as it’s not Lance. I’ve always liked pure climbers and the way they attack the field, which means I like Contador or Sastre more than the conservative wheel sucker Evans, or time trialists like Cancellara. And I loved Pantani and Rasmussen, although the death of the former and drug allegations (although never proven) of the chicken mean that neither will be at the start line next year.
And Frank Schleck’s temporary suspension from CSC after (yet-to-be proven!) doping allegations means another skinny rider will probably be absent from the peleton next summer. He and his brother Andy did a huge amount of work for Sastre this year, with CSC Saxo Bank one of the few teams that would have fancied themselves to challenge Astana.
In other news it’s great to see New Zealand’s presence in Le Tour next year will probably double with news that Hayden Roulston has joined the new Cervelo team of 08 winner Carlos Sastre. As long as he can stay healthy and shelve his love of bar fights for six months he should be lining up in Monaco alongside Garmin-Chipotle’s resident Kiwi Julian Dean.