Sunday, May 31, 2009

livestrong (and astana) wait for another day

Centenary Maglia Rosa goes to the Russian rider.

Six months ago Asatana was considered the best cycling team in the world. Led by the best rider in the world, Alberto Contador, and backed by a cadre of tested domestiques that included Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Yaroslav Popovych, Andreas Klöden, and Chris Horner. Astana looked poised to potentially take the centenary Giro. Once Contador decided to sit out the Giro to give himself a better chance to win his second Tour, Astana was forced to look to Leipheimer to carry the burden as team leader and Lance, among others, to work on his behalf.

Lance, for his part, seems to have upheld his part of the bargain and his training regime appears to be well on track to peak in July. Leiphemer, who was hyped as a potential winner of the Giro, proved that for as much improvement as he's shown in the last few years, he isn't likely to win any of the Grand Tours.

As Astana regroups and tries to figure out the financial future of the team, it's likely that the lineup for Le Tour will feature Contador as the team leader and Armstrong as his sidekick. It remains to be seen if they can work together for 3 weeks. But if they do work together on the tough mountain stages, it could be difficult for the competition; Armstrong might find himself on the podium in Paris-not the top rung but a rung none-the-less.

This year's tour seems custom made for Astana. It opens with a short time trial and three days later there's a team time trial. Near the end of the race, nested between several mountain stages, there is a 40-km time trail. On the Saturday before the finish, which frequently has been a flat stage that allows only for little drama except a bunched field sprint at the finish, the race organizer have throw the formidable Mount Ventou, in their way. Contador and Leipheimer could potentially vie for time trial stage wins but that part of Armstrong's game appears the weakest at the moment.

No comments: