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Contador distances his teammates with controversial attack

Fränk and Andy Schleck lead race leader Alberto Contador on the Col de la Colombière.

Fränk and Andy Schleck lead race leader Alberto Contador on the Col de la Colombière. (Image credit: Sirotti)

The Tour de France drama inside the Astana team camp was supposed to have ended when Spaniard Alberto Contador assumed the team leadership and the maillot jaune in Verbier on Sunday, but he may have caused more friction with his attack near the top of the Colombière today.

While Contador looked to distance himself from Saxo Bank brothers Fränk and Andy Schleck, he not only succeeded in dropping teammate Andreas Klöden, who was third overall behind at the start of the day, the eventual split pushed the German further away from hopes of a podium finish in Paris.

With Contador clearly the superior time trialist amongst the top three, and now having nearly four minutes on Armstrong and more on Klöden and Wiggins, he has given himself a large buffer coming into the final two decisive stages. But Bruyneel said following the stage that he did not see the necessity in the attack.

There is still a chance for Astana to stack the top three, but it will take devastating time losses in the 40.5km time trial tomorrow by the brothers Schleck.

Armstrong did not play into the reporters' hands by second guessing his Spanish teammate. "I am going to bite my tongue on that one," said Armstrong of Contador's attack today, but he did question the move in his Twitter update.

While Contador insists his motives for the attack were tactically sound, and that he was told he should attack by Klöden, there was speculation amongst the Tour press corps that the Spaniard does not need to make niceties with his Astana teammates because Armstrong and Bruyneel are planning a new team for 2010, with an announcement on a sponsor coming tomorrow.

Contador is contracted with team Astana through the end of 2010.