This El Pais article has been bouncing around the 'net for a few days now. A reader translated it and sent it in.
An Italian journalist asks Alberto Contador if he thought Johan Bruyneel, director of the Astana team, preferred Lance Armstrong to win the Tour. He smiled, his eyes brilliant, “Good question. Ask Johan that instead of me. I won one. That counts.” Contador won what he defined the “double Tour, of the hotel and on the road.”
(Contador: The day after Arcalis was psychologically the worst of the Tour. The Spaniard had to come down from Mt .Ventoux in his brother's car.
On the road and in the team's kitchen, you can review the history of Contador being by himself in his second tour in 2009.)
1. Abanicos en la Camarga
"The tactic for not getting the yellow too early was so as not to burn up the team," Bruyneel said. "If I would've had gotten the yellow, I wouldn't have had to reliquinsh it. I would've defended it," Armstrong said. Acquiring the yellow jersey in the first week was a priority in Lance's strategy that was happening to paralyze any initiative that Contador might have had to establish his own hierarchy in the team. After realizing his (Lance’s) limits and the talent of Contador at the time trial in Monaco (22 seconds in favor of the Spaniard’s) the Texan found his opportunity on a roundabout and in a change of the wind on the Camarga (the place this happened) which is open to the Mediterranean.
“I was just behind Alberto at that moment,” said Rojas, the Murcian sprinter from Caisse d’Epargne. “He was on Paulinho’s wheel who in turn was behind Zubeldia. Seeing that, I didn’t worry when I saw that Paulinho moved to the side, and Alberto got separated. I thought that the ones who were in front were not too far and that with a sprint, we could have caught them but as soon as we rounded the curve, I saw that we were really far away, that they had discarded Alberto.”
After the circle of his friends from Columbia, and in spite that in the front group was the leader Cancellara, Armstrong made Zubeldia and Popovich work on the front with Alberto in the back. The difference at the finish line was more than the 41 seconds that allowed Armstrong to recover for the leadership in the team. This gave the Texan the reason to pound Contador in his twitter with the same style that he used during Paris-Nice criticizing Contador’s lack of intelligence, tactics, and lack of respect for “The Boss”.
“A winner of seven Tours know how things are going,” Armstrong reminded Contador two days after the team time trial in which Astana destroyed the Tour in which the Texan ended up fractions of a second from the yellow. An example of a punishment, they left him at the back of the peloton, being beaten up by the wind from the coast on the way to Perpignon without any teammates, not even his loyal Paulinho with him. “I felt sorry to see the way they were treating him,” said the Belgian Champion, Tom Boonen. “They were trying to break him.” But Contador, a “hard-head”, in Armstrong’s own word, had some ideas of his own as he demonstrated in Arcalis.
2. The frustration of Arcalis
Contador, as concentrated as he was in controlling his tongue in order not to get into the provocations of Armstrong, he bit his legs more than what he intended on the first mountain in Andorra where he was planning to attack with 5 km left in order to catch up with the yellow jersey contrary to Bruyneel’s wishes because Bruyneel didn’t want to show Armstrong’s strength too soon. Contador had doubts – the wind was blowing too much from the front which put a brake in the attacks that they were hoping to come from Evans, Sastre, and the Schleck brothers, the losers of the time trial. He didn’t want to be the first to attack, it would’ve looked too ugly. Finally, Evans made a move with only 2 km remaining when the one from Pinto made a move. Little space to catch up to the leader – he ended up 6 seconds from Nocentini and two seconds ahead of Armstrong. “The next day in Arcalis, was psychologically the worst of this Tour,” Contador finally admitted responding to the criticisms from the duo Bruyneel-Armstrong. “I always obey the instructions from the team,” repeated Armstrong. “I have won 7 Tours.” From that moment on, he stopped considering the Spaniard a member of the team, acting as if he, Contador, simply didn’t exist. Contador was left without defense; if at least he would’ve attacked from far away and conquered the leadership…After that, he found refuge more in his little group of support: his mechanic, his masseuse, Paulinho, his brother-manager-comforter, and his press agent. While membersof Armstrong’s side on the team didn’t hold back in showing their sentiments, the rest of the members, the independent guys, impartial ones, the ones that thought of only the good of the team, they found themselves in a balancing act. They couldn’t show any signs of happiness or unhappiness for the actions of one or the other so it wouldn’t be misinterpreted because the pride of the champions are very susceptible; also, they had to calculate the hours that they would wear the different team jerseys: the blue Astana, the black Trek….All in order not to throw more fuel on the fire since the fire couldn’t be extinguished.
3. En ingels, no
In English, no
From the beginning, Contador decided to offer his press releases in Spanish with translations in French. The English fell outside of his capabilities. Many people understood that as a territorial demarcation like a reply to the power of Armstrong in the English-speaking press. Bruyneel always thought that it was better for him to express himself in his native tongue even though he recognized that “Contador speaks English better than what people think.” The truth is that this decision hid a message to Armstrong in his particular war of nerves. Many in the media were surprised with the absence of the manager Bruyneel in the press room with Contador. Bruyneel, his director, only showed up at the first press conference in Monaco. Later he, Bruyneel, chose to withdraw from sight: “If not all the questions come to me and it’s not about taking away the limelight from the protagonist.”
For others, it looked more that Bruyneel wanted to isolate himself from Contador. The truth is each one of them has his own agenda of communication. It happened the third week, “the week of Contador’s glory”, was tainted with Armstrong’s news: the criticisms in twitter, interviews with a few journalists, and finally the announcement of his new sponsor. Beaten on the road, Armstrong turned to the battle of the images. Always in English.
4. Armstrong, le ‘roba’ el coache
Armstrong steals the car
If he had any doubts, the time trial of Annecy erased them right away. Contador did his preparations: a ritual training and warm-ups. But when he requested a car to go to the start line, he found there was none available. Armstrong made sure all the cars were used to pick up his family and friends upon their arrival that day in France. Contador, the leader of the Tour, had to go from the hotel to Annecy in his brother, Fran’s, car while Armstrong’s troop had all the Astana cars waiting for them. The psychological warfare reached its moment of guerilla warfare; it was childish. The virtual elimination of Contador was a result of Armstrong’s domination, the day he announced his new team.
The car turned out to be the point of disagreement. On Mt. Ventoux, Contador, the last one to come down because of the appearances with the media, came off the mountain again with his brother’s, Fran’s, car, accompanied with his girlfriend, Macarena. He was obligated to the press room at the bottom of the mountain as required by the leader of the race. It was the worst moment for him to go down when all the spectators were going down the road as well. At one time he was almost bumped by another car – without danger. It surprised the people to see the leader so unprotected in that cluster of cars, people and bicycles. The car was yet another issue facing Contador.
5. El desayuno mas amargo
The most sour breakfast
Lance Armstrong, dressed in his warm-up suit and cap, came down for breakfast in the Astana hotel. He finds the table empty and sits in one corner. Following is Alberto Contador and he sits on the other side of the table. There are no words, no look and no gestures between them. Then the rest arrive. The atmosphere is tense. It’s the day after the stage that ended in the Grand Bornand, the day of Contador’s attacked the Schlecks and he threw away Kloden’s chances. It was Contador’s worst moment, something like the night of the long nights for an arrow in calculation. Armstrong’s twitter was hot. The Texan was saying that he chose to control his tongue. Levi Leipheimer from the distance, accused the Spaniard of taking the German from the podium. Bruyneel didn’t buy the leader’s argument for why he attacked.
The heavy word of Astana fell that day on top of Contador. There the delicate threads that still held the team together were broken. And there, Armstrong said “enough” to the guy who was breaking his present and future plans. Probably, that day Contador was left without moral support from his team and he heard more than ever the sounds of silence. Life was never easy for Contador on Astana, but on July 22, he experienced absolute war, the feeling of being outside of his home. That day, Armstrong decided that the kid had gone far enough. Contador preferred to be quiet instead of lamenting. Armstrong and Bruyneel were already working in finding the other team in which Contador would be on.
6. Agua en el Ventoux, champagne en el hotel
Water in Ventoux, champagne in the hotel
A mistaken scene on the way to Ventoux left in the memory of many, the difference of Bartali or Coppi – no one will know who offered water to whom. Italian society was divided as well 50 years ago with those idols. Contador refused to accept Armstrong’s courtesy – an offer of water in the Caisse d’Epargne water bottle. “I was in the breakaway when the group of Armstrong and Contador caught up with me. I was on the left of the road when Contador got to me. I offered him my bottle because I saw that he didn’t have any water and I am his friend,” says Ian Gutierrez, who is number one in breakaways (in the entire Tour did 581 miles by himself.) “But, I extended my arm with the water when Armstrong who was a little behind me grabbed it on the fly taking it from Alberto’s reach. After drinking it, he offered it to Alberto, but he passed. And he was going to keep it when I reminded him it was mine and for him to return it.
This detail reflects the patronizing feeling with which the winner of 7 Tours considers not just his relation with his team but with the peloton. He was also the one that decided when to toast the champagne the winnings of the team: in the middle of the jubilee, the night of the team time trial and not without being cold to Contador when he won the yellow jersey in Annecy. “A funeral to celebrate the yellow jersey,” another member of the team said. Owner of his champagne glass, in tradition going into Paris, knocked glasses with everyone except Armstrong.
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