Any doubts about a possible war inside the Astana team between Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador were blown away when the Spaniard attacked in the final two kilometres of the stage to Andorra Arcalis on Friday.



Armstrong still had a chance of pulling on the yellow jersey but the gloves suddenly came off when Contador surged away. It was clear he was riding for himself and the denials and false diplomacy has finally been cast aside.



Armstrong used to stamp his authority on the Tour de France on the first mountain finish but this time Contador showed he has the ‘cojones’ to attack Lance Armstrong.



He failed to take the yellow jersey himself but he gained 21 seconds on Armstrong. He is six seconds behind leader Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r) but is now two precious seconds ahead of the Texan. That means he, not Armstrong, is likely to pull on the yellow jersey on Saturday or Sunday if Nocentini falters in the Pyrenees.



Contador’s attack was a body blow to Armstrong’s dreams of pulling on the yellow jersey for the first time since retiring in Paris on 2005 and he was not happy about it, revealing it was not how the Astana had planned their tactics for the stage.  



“It wasn’t really to the plan but I didn’t expect him to go by the plan. It’s no surprise,” Armstrong said with a mix of bitterness and anger in his voice, clearly acknowledging that there are huge problems between him and Contador.



When asked about his own ride, Armstrong claimed he rode for the good of the team.



“When you’ve got a guy away, like I said all along, my obligation is to the team and you’ve just got to stay on the wheel. Schleck put in some good moves, Cadel put in some good moves and Wiggo put in a good move there at the end but you’ve got to stay on the wheel. That’s bike racing,” he said.

 

“The team’s good as you saw there, Klodi was good, Levi is strong, of course Alberto is strong. The team won’t be the problem…”



Armstrong claimed the stage was not suited to long-range attacks like the ones he did in 1999 to Sestriere or to Hautacam in 2000. But hinted that there will be plenty of stage for riders to fight it out later in the Tour.



“I did not expect a demonstration like in some of the other years on the first

mountain stage. The wind wasn’t conducive, you saw a a big group there,” he said.

 

“It’s not a very steep climb, the pace was rather high, with constant rhythm changes because it was headwind, tailwind, headwind, tailwind. Maybe not my specialty but it was not bad considering.”



“We’ll have plenty of days at this Tour when there are only a couple of guys together.”



Perhaps him and Contador and fighting it out ‘mano a mano’ on Mont Ventoux?

TOUR DE FRANCE 2009 LINKS

Tour de France 2009 – the hub: Index to reports, photos, previews and more.

STAGE REPORTS



Stage seven: Feillu wins at Arcalis, Nocentini takes yellow, Contador leap-frogs Lance



Stage six: Millar’s brave bid denied on Barcelona hill as Hushovd triumphs



Stage five: Voeckler survives chase to win his first Tour stage



Stage four: Astana on top but Armstrong misses yellow by hundredths of a second



Live Tour de France stage four TTT coverage



Stage three: Cavendish wins second stage as Armstrong distances Contador



Stage two: Cavendish takes first sprint



Stage one: Cancellara wins opening time trial

LATEST TOUR NEWS




Tour de France 2009 News Index>>




Wiggins, the Tour de France overall contender, has arrived



The Feed Zone: Friday, July 10



Millar happy with Tour performance despite no stage win



Analysis: Fight for green jersey is between Cavendish and Hushovd



Wiggins looking ahead to Friday’s mountain stage



Analysis: Why Contador’s chances rose when Armstrong missed yellow



Delgado criticises Astana for Armstrong manoeuvre



Armstrong: Gaining time on Contador was not the objective



Stage three analysis: Why the bunch split and who gained the most

EXCLUSIVE VIDEOS



David Zabriskie’s time trial bike



Mark Cavendish on the Tour’s team time trial



David Brailsford interview



Mark Cavendish on the Tour



Jonathan Vaughters on Bradley Wiggins’ chances

TOUR DE FRANCE 2009 PHOTOS



Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson



Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson



Stage four TTT photo gallery by Graham Watson



Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson



Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson



Stage one photo gallery by Andy Jones



Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson



Team presentation by Andy Jones



Team presentation by Graham Watson

TOUR GUIDE

Tour de France 2009 – the hub

Tour de France 2009: Who’s riding

Tour de France 2009: Team guide

About the Tour de France

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Tour de France 2009 on TV: Eurosport and ITV4 schedules

Big names missing from 2009 Tour de France

Tour de France anti-doping measures explained

Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish

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  • aNDi (ARMSTRONG FANATIC)

    i guess its time for Lance again to show what he got , i know he has nothing to prove anymore of what he had done in the past . . its a dream for some but i know for him its just a matter of decision . . Its not about whos the leader of the team , its about who deserves to win . . . Personally im really disappointed to the result of the race cause i know theirs someone who is holding back!its time to show up , its time to put the pressure , its time to win & you always deserve it Lance its you fate to WIN …..

  • Ian

    As a brit i’d love to see Wiggo do it, but if he can’t then bring it on Lance. I’ve been a competive cyclist for many years now and I accept Armstong dosen’t always endear himself to everyone but then that’s not in his personality! I love his single minded competitiveness, something we brit’s often lack. He has been phenominal in the past and the Tour itself has been a laughing stock during his absence. This year everyone is talking about it for all the right reasons, because it’s intrigueing and not because it’s a drug fuelled shambles. There has only been suspicion’s about Armstrong in the past and if anything Contador has yet to clear his name. Our own Cav is a similar sort to Armstong and it won’t be long before we start sticking the knife in him. C’mon Cav,C’mon Wiggo and Stick it up them Lance!!

  • John

    Lance’s quote from the day before the “surprise” that so angered him:

    “I know Alberto wants to assert himself in the race, and I don’t need a team meeting to know that he’s ready to go. If he goes, and nobody can hang onto him, then I’ll just stay with the other leaders. That’s the way to be. But I’ll still do my best and get to the top as quick as I can, so we’ll see…”

    Contador isn’t going to give in to the old “Boss” nonsense. This was his team for two grand tour wins last year. It will be his team when Lance moves on. He’s devoted his whole year to this race. ASO denied him last year. If anyone wants to stop him this year, they can do it in the Time Trial and on Mont Ventoux. Contador actually has a contract with Astana, and he’s not the one messing up the team.

  • Birillo

    It is not about the dope. Armstrong should support his team leader unless that leader weakens. I can imagine his reaction had someone done this to him at Postal. He even set up Landis in 2005 so that he, Armstrong, could win the stage – pas des cadeux indeed. Armstrong has many qualities but he is graceless in every sense.

  • TJ

    Quit being Lance haters you uppity, snooty Brits. You’re sounding very much like the French now. All whiney and mad as hell that he’s NEVER been proven to be a cheater.

  • stuart stanton

    Armstrong will regret not staying on the sofa Go Bradley Go!