Alberto Contador is in a better position to win the Tour de France without Lance Armstrong in team Astana, according to team director Giuseppe Martinelli.
"I see Contador is secure and, above all, Astana is his team now," said Martinelli. "Before it was Johan Bruyneel's and Lance Armstrong's team, with Contador alongside."
Italy's Martinelli joined the team after Bruyneel and Armstrong left to form team RadioShack. As directeur sportif, Martinelli has led riders to four Giro d'Italia wins and one Tour de France victory. Team manager Yvon Sanquer hired him to work with Contador.
"I found a humble and welcoming boy," said Martinelli of his visit to Contador's home in Pinto, Spain. "He is very serious and linked to work. He showed me his home, but also his trophies and bikes - this means something to me. But, clearly, I still don't know him as well as Bruyneel."
Bruyneel and Armstrong have criticised Contador, 27, in recent months, saying he let stardom go to his head. Martinelli disagreed and said he expects more attacks to come before Contador attempts to win his third Tour de France, July 3 to 25.
"There will be a lot of attacks from the two, maybe the two strongest men in cycling, Bruyneel and Armstrong. I think Contador has the capacity to manage what will come."
Contador is the only active rider to have won all three Grand Tours. He won the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España in 2008 in addition to two editions of the Tour de France.
Martinelli won the Giro d'Italia with Marco Pantani (1998), Stefano Garzelli (2000), Gilberto Simoni (2003) and Damiano Cunego (2004). He also won the Tour de France with Pantani in 1998.
The Astana team is in Pisa, Italy, this week for its first training camp.