Spain's Alberto Contador is ready to handle the stress of winning a third Tour de France. Team Astana's star, in a press conference today in Pisa, Italy, said that he learned from the problems with Lance Armstrong at this year's Tour.
"I learned how to handle the stress and those situations, because at the Tour you always give a lot and have to manage your energy well. I think this will serve me, it helps me to mature and to remain cool," said Contador.
Contador is taking part in a weeklong training camp with the 2010 Astana team in Pisa. The team road for four hours today and ended with a visit to Pisa's leaning tower.
The relaxed atmosphere is different from the difficulties that came along with Contador's second Tour win in July. He raced alongside Armstrong at the Tour, but the two were uneasy with each other and their relationship formed a split in the team.
Armstrong left with team manager Johan Bruyneel to form RadioShack. The two have criticised Contador since the Tour ended, saying he let stardom go to his head. Contador said that what they said did not bother him.
"Not at all," continued Contador. "I want to think about the sporting aspects and not the polemics. For me 2009 is over now and I want to think about training and my own goals.
"Could we become friends in the future? In sport, you can never say never. I know that during the Tour things were difficult, but in the future no one knows."
Team Manager Yvon Sanquer joined the team after Bruyneel and Armstrong left to form RadioShack. Though Contador lost all of the riders that helped him win the Tour, he believes that the team Sanquer created can support him.
"This team does not have many big names, but you need to see the team on the road before speaking about it. It will be very different to ride thinking about just one leader."
Contador said that Benjamin Noval, Jesús Hernández and Daniel Navarro are his most trusted teammates. Alexander Vinokourov, with the new signings of Paolo Tiralongo, David De La Fuente, Andriy Grivko and Gorazd Stangelj, will be strong supporting riders for the Tour de France, he added.
"We've got fewer big names in the team than in 2009, but we're stronger because we're united. I've only been with the whole team for a few days, but I'm very happy and I have a good impression. They're all motivated and they want to ride well for the team."
Contador returns to his home in Pinto, Spain, Sunday. He will join his teammates for a second training camp in Spain in January and then start his season at the Volta ao Algarve, February 17 to 21.