Five-time Tour de France champion Miguel Indurain believes that Astana won't go in to this month's Tour with a 'preferred' rider and the race itself lacks a clear favourite.
"I do not believe Astana favours Armstrong or Contador,” Indurain told Reuters. “Armstrong may have disturbed the peace of Alberto [Contador] a little but not enough to call Johan Bruyneel's plan for the race into question."
Indurain cited the fact that other big-name riders were mainstays of the team when he said that there wouldn't be major conflict within the squad. "The team also has several other fronts [to contest the overall classification], whether that be [Andreas] Kloden or [Levi] Leipheimer... Bruyneel knows how to handle these situations," said Indurain.
While popular opinion has indicated many people believe that Astana will suffer due to its multitude of star riders, Indurain believes that it will enhance the team's chances. "All the riders are men who can be trusted, which can help solve a lot of different situations; they can be expected to help and they're people who will give more than just their all riding on the front," he added.
Indurain also believes that Bruyneel is right in not publically airing any allegiance or plan for the team's Tour strategy. "At the Tour you have to work with clear ideas and change your tactics when there are problems, but you talk about it and do it, but don't make it public," he said.
Astana may have the cards to play in its illustrious deck but Indurain is convinced that there is no clear favourite for the Tour. The 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 champions will be riding this year's edition and even their support riders are contenders. "There is no clear favourite," he said. "This Tour is difficult because the early stages are hard, so are the Pyrenees... and if you can pay for it if you are not strong near the end," he explained.
At a ceremony to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his Tour de France victory, 1959 Tour champion Federico Bahamontes was unequivocally throwing his weight behind Contador as favourite for the title, however. "I bet that Contador will be able to fight for the win," said the Spanish climbing legend.