On the eve of the 2010 Tour de France presentation, race director Christian Prudhomme may have ignited the slow fuse to next year's edition by congratulating Alberto Contador for his tactics during this year's event.
Prudhomme commented on the fact Contador "disobeyed" team orders during the seventh stage to Andorre Arcalis, where he attacked in the final kilometres and quickly gapped Astana teammate and seven-time Tour champion, Lance Armstrong.
"The route of the last Tour de France was wonderful, exciting and capable of producing a great race, although we had to wait. Fortunately, Contador disobeyed orders at Arcalis, attacking his boss, so finally I didn't have to wait that long," Prudhomme told the Reuters news agency.
Although Armstrong played down the episode in the moments after the stage finish in Arcalis, by Tour's end the pair weren't on speaking terms, the young Spaniard apparently disobeying orders again on stage 17 to Le Grand-Bornand en route to taking the overall classification, finishing 5:24 ahead of the American by race's end in Paris.
Assuming Armstrong's new RadioShack team and Contador's Astana squad are granted invitations to next year's Tour de France, Contador and Armstrong will line up against each other when the race begins in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on July 3.
And as the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) prepares for its annual unveiling of the Tour route tomorrow, Prudhomme's comments add a little fuel to the fire that may burn brightly when the grand depart in Rotterdam kicks off what should be another intriguing three weeks of racing throughout France.
According to Prudhomme, that racing should include plenty of attacking, if riders play to the strengths of the route - including the surprises he says are in store - and compete in the spirit of the "legends built by riders who attack a hundred kilometres from the finish".
Prudhomme was also pleased with the lack of Tour doping scandals this year; in 2006 Floyd Landis' postive control for testosterone mired the event in controversy whilst a year later the Michael Rasmussen and Alexandre Vinokourov cases stole the headlines and demonstrated the work required to rid the race of the doping scourge.
With the help of the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD), ASO managed to limit the damage done by doping headlines in this year's event, for which the Tour boss expressed his gratitude. "The French Anti-Doping Agency has confirmed that there was no suspect case of doping in the last Tour," said Prudhomme.
"This means that the fight against doping is working; there is more work, but it is obvious that cycling is changing," he added.
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