The month of July was glorious thanks to Lance returning to the Tour de France and the exceptional coverage provided by Versus TV. Their Race Tracker was spot on for giving me everything I could want out of the race. Awesome, awesome, awesome.
One of the interesting dramas that played out both on the road and in the press was the tension between Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador. (This Yahoo Sports article sums it up if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) I know that there were two big egos at play and this rivalry/tension/whatever-you-want-to-call-it, but was it nothing more than that? There was something in the back of my head telling me that there was more.
Everything I heard, or read from Lance during the Tour that seemed negative towards Contador, including his post-Tour Tweets, centered around teamwork. Even on the podium, when Astana won the overall team victory, you can see Lance is surrounded by the team, whereas Contador is off on the end.
Then I got the e-mail newsletter from Livestrong.com that provided the “other shoe” that I was looking for. From Chris Carmichael’s wrap-up:
He may not have the same leadership style as Armstrong, but for the moment he has the strength to win anyway. If there’s an improvement for Contador to make, it’s in his ability to marshal the efforts of his teammates and create an environment within his team that breeds unity and loyalty.
So their conflict did center around teamwork. Sure there were too many cooks in the kitchen, but Armstrong played the supportive role of a teammate when Contador needed it, which shows that this wasn’t all about Lance. Contador can’t say the same thing. A perfect example is Lance’s compliments of this year’s performance.
“Contador is that good, so I don’t see how I would have been higher than that, even in the other years,” said Armstrong, who won the Tour seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005 before retiring. “I think his performance this year would have beaten my performances in ’01 and ’04 and ’05.”
Of course I don’t see this rivalry as a bad thing. Quite the opposite. I think the 2010 Tour de France is going to be epic! Lance will be riding with his new team Team Radio Shack and the powerhouse juggernaut support team that he’s built up over the last decade. Contador’s future is not so clear.
As of this writing, it’s unclear which team he will be riding for. I believe he still has a year on his contract with Astana, but it’s expected that most of the team will go with Lance. So even if he stays with Astana, it would be in name only. Couple that with the fact that both of his Tour wins have come under the supervision of Johan Bruyneel and, at least according to Wikipedia, “Contador dropped out of school at the age of 15 and has very little education” and I see Contador’s assets getting more and more diminished.
However it plays out, I can’t wait for it to play out at the 2010 Tour de France. An epic rivalry at an epic sporting event, with epic coverage courtesy of Versus means nothing but “Epic win” in my book any day. I get giddy with excitement just thinking about it!