Three teams have a particularly good chance to field the winning rider in the 2010 Tour de France.
They happen to be the teams of the top three finishers in the 2009 Tour: Alberto Contador’s Team Astana, Lance Armstrong’s Radio Shack, and Andy Schleck’s Saxo Bank.
One of those there riders, and also Andy Schlecks’s brother Frank, also at Saxo Bank, are the favorites for the top step of the podium at this year’s Tour.
There are plenty of other great riders out there, but adding up the strengths of the support riders, the experience, the recent racing records, and the all-important intangible—Will, Desire, Competitive Drive, call it what you will—these four riders have the most of everything needed to win the Tour.
Contador vs. Armstrong—Astana vs. Radio Shack
Two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador is probably the best cyclist in the world. He can climb as well or better than any other rider, he can ride time trials, he can descend, he can ride fast in any situation.
What Contador may or may not have, is the ability to ride with a team. A lot of bicycle racing is strategy and teamwork, and Contador’s performance in the last Tour showed that he is completely willing to throw the team orders—and the team—under the bus to gain personal glory.
That didn’t hurt him in 2009 because he was on the best team in the Tour, guided by arguably the best team manger. Team Astana last year is this year’s Team Radio Shack, including Lance Armstrong and manager Johan Bruyneel. With Greg Rast, Yaroslav Popovych, Andreas Kloden, and Lance Armstrong supporting him, Contador had the freedom to ride for himself.
This year may be different. Team Astana 2010 is not a weak team by any means. But it is not the old Team Astana, and other than Alexandre Vinokourov, is devoid of really big riders. And Vinokourov might well harbor his own Tour hopes. Would he be willing to ride as a domestique for Contador?Contador has faith in his team. “I know that in 2010, my team will be loyal, ready to make sacrifices so that I can win another Tour de France,” he told Sky Sports.com “I have no doubt about it."
"What is done is done. It gave me experience. Last year's Tour gave me a lot of maturity and I think I can now deal better with tricky situations."
Can Contador make it to the top without the strongest team behind him? Is Contador a strong enough rider to win the Tour on his own? Perhaps Team Astana will be able to protect and support Contador well enough that his natural ability will carry him up the podium.
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