Astana completes Tour selection
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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Astana completes Tour selection

by Steve Jones at 1:07 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Astana has revealed the remaining riders for their Tour de France roster in July. Notably off the list is Benjamin Noval, the roommate and close friend of the Spaniard Alberto Contador. Team manager Johan Bruyneel said, "We need to keep the team interests in mind." The decision to leave Noval off was tactical, pointing out that Paulinho is a better climber.

In addtion to the six riders mentioned earlier, the final lineup for Astana includes Sergio Paulinho, Gregory Rast and Dimitri Moeravjev.

The absence of Noval likely won't sit well with Contador, but Bruyneel appointing the 2007 Tour winner as team leader could have a calming effect.

"After winning the Tour in 2007 and then becoming the fifth cyclist in history to win all three Grand Tours, it's hard to find a better stage race rider than Alberto," said Bruyneel.

The question that remains is how Contador will handle all of the pressure that comes with being the number one favorite for the Tour.

In his decision for Contador Bruyneel commented, "He has worked very hard, earning the right to represent our team as the leader this July."

After a more than three year absence from racing, Lance Armstrong looks poised to take on the role as leader should Contador falter.

"After three-plus years away from competition I'm very happy with where Lance's form is leading up to the Tour," said Bruyneel.
The seven-time Tour winner finished a remarkable 12th overall in the Giro d'Italia last month.

Bruyneel added: "I think racing the Giro was a very smart decision and really prepared him for July. He's worked very hard during his comeback season and I know he is extremely motivated for the Tour de France." 

Based on his performance in Italy, one can expect the Texan to be on his best form for July's big event. If Armstrong's best form of today is close to what it was at the time he retired, Contador will certainly have to earn his role as team leader each day.

The rest of the Astana lineup includes Andreas Klöden, Levi Leipheimer, Haimar Zubeldia, and Yaroslav Popovych - all of whom could arguably be team leaders if they rode for another team. That means, at least on paper, for Astana to lose this Tour de France there would have to be an implosion of epic proportions amongst their ranks. One might ask whether Noval was kept off the start list to help prevent that sort of situation. Perhaps the question can be best answered by the fact that Chris Horner, a rider close to Armstrong, was also left off the roster.

Astana for the Tour de France:
Lance Armstrong (USA)
Alberto Contador (Spa)
Andreas Klöden (Ger)
Haimar Zubeldia (Spa)
Levi Leipheimer (USA)
Yaroslav Popovych (Oek)
Dimitri Moeravjev (Kaz)
Sergio Paulinho (Por)
Gregory Rast (SWI)

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