Although he says that he feels stronger than last year, seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has conceded that former Astana team-mate Alberto Contador will be very hard to beat this July.
In an interview with Spanish paper El Pais published on Monday, Armstrong, now 38, admitted that as he grows older Contador, 27, will only get stronger. But he also stressed that he’s not overly bothered about winning an eighth edition of the Tour de France this summer…
“I am 38 years old, Alberto 27 and improves every year. I see it, other people see it, Alberto sees it. It’s not in my favour,” Armstrong told El Pais. “You go to the race and see who is best.”
“I do not need [the win] especially. Only as a reward for all of the hard work. The next Tour will be a great story, the rivalry with Alberto, what happened last year… That’s good for the Tour, but it won’t change my life to win it or not, nor the life of my children.”
The Texan appeared to avoid being drawn into commenting on the personal spat that saw the Astana team split into two during the 2009 Tour de France. Both riders ended up making less than flattering comments about the other to the media, and Armstrong left Astana to form his own team for 2010, RadioShack.
“Alberto is a nervous person, which isn’t a bad thing,” Armstrong said of Contador. “So am I. We always think we must do more, work harder, to be better. All the great champions are like this, they all have a bit of insecurity in their life, and have to compensate for it.”
Wiggins ‘in good shape’
Armstrong also said that he was impressed with Briton Bradley Wiggins’ form at last week’s Tour of Murcia in Spain, which both riders contested.
“Wiggins is strong, he looks good,” Armstrong said. “I didn’t see him in March last year, but he’s already thin.”
Armstrong placed seventh overall at the end of the five-day Tour of Murcia. Wiggins came third, largely thanks to his third place in the race’s decisive individual time trial.
In last year’s Tour de France it was probably Wiggins, rather than Contador, who was Armstrong’s closest-matched rival on the road. The duo fought through the mountains to clinch the final podium spot behind Contador and second-placed Andy Schleck.
Armstrong came out on top in that particular battle, placing third to Wiggins’ British record-equalling fourth.
Contador has shown the strongest early-season form of any of the Tour de France prospects – winning the Tour of the Algarve. The Spaniard is currently riding Paris-Nice where he opened his campaign strongly with fourth in the 8km prologue on Sunday. He ranks as overall favourite for the win at Paris-Nice.