In his latest blog, Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel sheds some light on the internal relationship between himself, 2009 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong… and attempts to heal some of the wounds.
Both Bruyneel and Armstrong have been subjected to a lot of flak for their post-Tour comments in response to statements made by Contador about his poor treatment by the team during the Tour. The Spanish press, in particular, have been quick to criticise both Bruyneel and Armstrong.
Having been bullish in previous statements seemingly aimed at Contador, particularly via Twitter, Bruyneel now seems to be on a damage limitation exercise.
“A few years ago, I never would have imagined winning my ninth Yellow Jersey,” writes Bruyneel. “Seven times with Lance Armstrong, now twice with Alberto Contador.”
“A lot has been written and said about the war between Lance and Alberto. I always knew that the race would decide who would be the leader of the team,” Bruyneel continued.
“I know that some people thought that since I have a special relationship with Lance, that I would make decisions that influenced the race for Lance, however this is the contrary. My main concern was winning the Tour de France – whether it be with Alberto, Lance, Levi or Andreas.”
The Belgian also revealed that Armstrong had told him that he would understand if Bruyneel chose the younger Spaniard over himself as team leader. “With Contador you are ‘good’ for five, six years”, Armstrong is quoted as saying.
Armstrong announced during the Tour de France he would be leaving Astana to set up a new team for 2010 sponsored by US-based electronics retailer RadioShack. Bruyneel is almost certain to go with him, as are US team-mates Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner.
Contador himself has not made public any decision on his future choice of team. If he does stay at Astana, the squad may have to find a new manager and deal with the sticky problem of Alexandre Vinokourov’s intended return to the squad after a two-year ban for blood doping. It’s unlikely he’ll be going to RadioShack.
“Now people want to know if Lance can win the Tour next year?” writes Bruyneel. “I don’t know. I think his comeback is already a big success. I’ve never expected that, after four years, he would end on the Tour podium. And he was there on the podium together with the best stage race rider of the world and the biggest talent…”
A compliment to Contador, even if he is not exactly named.