RadioShack manager Johan Bruyneel tips Alberto Contador 2010 Tour de France
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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bruyneel tips Contador for Tour win

by Bjorn Haake at 7:51 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 

Like Lance Armstrong recently, Johan Bruyneel also thinks that Alberto Contador is the Tour de France number one favorite, if he rides like last year. In an interview with Spanish sports paper Marca, Bruyneel talked about his relationship with Contador and gave an outlook on the 2010 Tour.

Bruyneel could have stayed with Contador and Astana in order to win another Tour. But things had become difficult with the Kazakh team. There were the financial problems - and Alexander Vinokourov.

"His return was a big obstacle. Nobody talked to me before he gave a press conference - before the Tour de France - where he announced his return with Astana and if I wouldn't be ok with it, the only choice would be him or I [to stay with the team]."

This was in a time when Bruyneel had already lost his belief in the project, although he noted that he had already achieved many of his goals. "Astana was a three-year project, but after only two years we had created the best team with respect to our results."

His plan was to retire, but the new RadioShack project canceled that plan, and the prospect to work with Armstrong was intriguing to Bruyneel. "My relation with Lance is like it is. We are like brothers and nobody can change that. With Albert I always had a good friendship, but never the strong ties that I have with Lance."

Bruyneel added that the relationship between his 2009 top riders was impossible to continue. "These are two very ambitious riders, two born winners and two great champions. In the beginning I thought they could support each other, but I was wrong. When Lance announced his comeback with Astana, Alberto didn't like that and when something is off to a bad start... They are two completely incompatible riders."

Difficult relationship

The contact between Contador and Bruyneel has fizzled out. "We sent each other some Christmas greetings and that was it. It is normal that the relation cooled off a bit and I want to give him time to to understand some things. It is logical that there is a distance now and especially after I formed a team with a lot of his former teammates. But I am not angry with him and there is nothing we can blame on each other. I think after some time we can have a good relationship."

This wasn't always the case during the Tour when Contador complained about the lack of support. It was said that his brother Fran had to 'rescue' him once after a stage, when all the team cars had already left. There was also the famous wheel affair, where Contador bought his own wheels. Bruyneel clarified the details.

"Trek bought a set amount of special wheels from the supplier and one of those were for Alberto. Someone in his entourage saw that Lance had wheels in a different color, because they featured the Livestrong logo. They told Contador that those wheels were better. So Alberto spoke to Trek and bought another pair."

Looking ahead to the 2010 Tour de France, winning the overall looks pretty complicated for RadioShack. "Contador has very few weak points and if he rides like he did in 2009 I don't know how to win it. He demonstrated that he is the best in the world. He won the last four Grand Tours he rode.

Bruyneel even thinks that Contador can beat Armstrong's numbers. "But it is very difficult. To win seven Tours, there are a lot of determining factors, but I have no doubt that Alberto is on his way."

So the question for favorite of the Tour was easy to answer for Bruyneel. "Contador is the favorite, so he is the one to carry the pressure of the race. He is the best climber in the world and in the time trials he is the best among the [overall] favorites. But the races you have to race and in the Tour there are downhills, cobblestones, wind... Although it will be difficult to surprise him, because in the Tour normally the favorites are prepared."

Bruyneel doesn't see a two-way battle between Armstrong and Contador, come July. "Let's not forget that there are many other racers, like for example Andy Schleck, Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso or Alejandro Valverde, who for me is always a favorite where he races." 

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