Lotto team manager Marc Sergeant has said that with no team time trial in the 2010 Tour de France route, there could be a possible chink in Alberto Contador's armour, with the Spaniard aiming to defend his second Tour de France title next July.
Sergeant, who is still hoping to strengthen his team around Cadel Evans after releasing Thomas Dekker and Bernhard Kohl in 2009 for taking the banned substances EPO and CERA EPO - the latter having never raced under Lotto colours - believes that without a team test against the clock, Contador will struggle to impose himself on the race as he and his team did in 2009.
"The two aspects that harmed us last year were that Astana had a very strong team and then that in the time trial they put over a minute into the next team and over two and half minutes into us. From then on they had control over the Tour. It will be different next year," Sergeant said.
However, despite no team time trial Sergeant still believes that Contador will be the number one favourite: "I've said it before but if you're born in this generation and you're at the start with Contador it's so hard to beat him in a big tour and it will be the same again next year," said Sergeant.
"If there is an opportunity or a weakness it might be to do with which team he's in. If it's Astana then we know it won't be as strong as last year."
As for his team leader Evans, Sergeant believes that despite his poor showing at the Tour de France in 2009, the Australian deserves to be backed again, pointing to the fact that Evans has only once finished outside of the top ten - last year - and doubled as the runner up in 2007 and 2008.
"We have Evans and he's proven over the years that he's a good leader and just because of what happened this year doesn't mean that were going to say that we want someone else. We have Jurgen Van Den Broeck who is one year older and more experienced but clearly Cadel is number one, Van den Broeck is number two and we have the team to build around Cadel."
As for new signings, Sergeant remained tight-lipped despite the fact that the September embargo on transfers had already passed. "We can still come up with a surprise in that department he said." Asked if that included a rider like Bradley Wiggins, Sergeant laughed. "Not that big of a surprise," he said.
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