By Bjorn Haake
Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Andreas Klöden... most teams would be happy to have just one of those Tour de France podium finishers as a captain. Astana has the luxury problem of fitting them all in, but there seem to be no problems between the four. It is all for one - the strongest rider.
Leipheimer simply wants to improve as a cyclist. "If you are around the best, you become the best that you can be. To be around champions like Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador makes me that much better," he said.
For Klöden, there was another important aspect to it. "This year we had so much fun in the team. We not only won many races, but we had fun doing so; that is very important to me."
Klöden also stressed that he and Leipheimer had his own chances throughout the year. He won the Tour de Romandie; Leipheimer took out the Tour of California. They get their chances for the smaller races, but have to be content with teamwork in the Grand Tours.
Leipheimer finished third in the 2007 Tour de France and second in the 2008 Vuelta a España to Alberto Contador. But the American also points out that he doesn't have the pressure at the races, like the highly-fancied Contador.
Klöden has spent many years in the professional peloton already, but welcomes Armstrong's presence. "I can still learn a lot from him. He is very, very professional." To see Armstrong work so hard for his comeback at the camp was amazing to see for Klöden.
The German did point out that there is always a chance. "Nobody is perfect and anybody can have a bad day." He will be ready to step in, should the need arise. He re-iterated that the team is very close, even after the non-invite to the Tour. "We stayed together and won both the Giro and the Vuelta. That was fun for me, too."