Tour ends for some and begins for others
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"I have not launched any attacks because I am simply trying to survive," admitted two-times Tour de France winner Alberto Contador of Spain on Monday. The comment during a press conference came as the Tour riders took advantage of a rest day to recuperate after what has certainly been an extremely tough first week in the world’s greatest bike race.
Contador, who is third overall is one of the leading favourites to win a third Tour victory and with two weeks still to go he is well placed to be able to do so.
But even though the Spaniard, riding for Astana is behind overall Tour leader Cadel Evans of Australia who snatched the overall leaders’ yellow jersey on Sunday and second placed Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, the three riders are only a handful of seconds apart.
Being one minute and one second behind Cadel Evans means that for the moment at least, Contador can allow himself to take it easy.
So his comments on Monday are being seen as a warning that he is perhaps keeping his stamina ready for the Pyrenees mountain stages in a week’s time before launching a bid to take the race lead.
But even though it is still too early to say who will win this year’s race, one person who is no longer in the running is seven times winner Lance Armstrong of the United States.
In the seven years he won the Tour from 1999 to 2005, the Texan only ever once crashed. Since his return to professional cycling in January 2009, Armstrong has won nothing, and has crashed a total of seven times.
Currently 39th in the overall ratings, having lost over 11 minutes on Sunday and now situated 13 minutes 26 seconds behind Cadel Evans, Armstrong has seen his chances of winning another race evaporate.
At the end of Sunday’s disasterous 8th stage between Station de Rousses and Morzine-Avoriaz, during which he crashed three times, a resigned Armstrong admitted that his Tour was now over.
Whether Armstrong should have returned to the Tour de France remains a subject of conjecture. But whether you admire him or despise him, July 11th 2010 will go down as the day when it all ended for the Tour de France’s greatest-ever champion.
Not only was his Tour over, but also his career. After years of an almost despotic reign on the Tour de France it was on the Col de la Ramaz on July 11th 2010 that it all ended for Lance Armstrong.
Well, almost. Armstrong is not the sort to go quietly and he has always liked to make it clear he would designate a successor.
A few years back his favourite was Ivan Basso. Now he may well order the other members of his Radio Shack team to boost the chances of fellow team mate and fellow American Levi Leipheimer.
There are even rumours that Armstrong favours Andy Schlek. The main objective is to prevent Armstrong’s arch enemy Alberto Contador from winning a third Tour de France.
As the French newspaper L’Equipe wrote about Armstrong "knowing you are not going to win doesn’t mean you have to lose everything".
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