Contenders talk tough ahead of Tour’s team effort

2007 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador (Astana) prepares to start his time trial.

2007 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador (Astana) prepares to start his time trial. (Image credit: AFP)

Former Tour de France champion Alberto Contador believes that today’s team time trial could give his Astana squad its first chance to distance general classification rivals like Silence-Lotto’s Cadel Evans. Contador, a favourite for this year’s title, believes the 39 kilometre time trial could provide a chance for the super-strong Astana to exploit the Belgian squad’s comparatively weak roster.

"It is the one time trial where we could distance him, because he will be a rival very difficult to distance in the whole Tour,” Contador told “[Our main rivals] are Saxo, Garmin, and also Columbia. Those three are the likeliest candidates for the victory.”

Another general classification contender, Cervelo TestTeam’s Carlos Sastre, will have his team’s full support for today’s stage. Team sport director Jean-Paul van Poppel says the Spanish rider is the only member his team-mates will wait for.

"We know what we have to do and we expect to have a good performance in the team time trial,” said Van Poppel. “It's a stressful day for all the riders, but we only have to have five together at the finish line. So long as Carlos is one of those five, that's all that matters.

“We know he is in good condition and we are ready to protect him,” he added. “I think we can make a big surprise in the team time trial."

While Contador doesn’t consider the defending champion’s squad a threat on today’s stage, Sastre himself believes the squad will be in the mix. Describing his team as strong and experienced at team time trialling, Sastre said Cervelo is on the same level as Columbia-HTC.

"I expect us to be close to the favorites,” he said. “I believe the differences between the top general classification contenders will be fairly small because we all have strong teams and good equipment. We're basically on the same level."

Evans wasn’t making any bold predictions over his team’s chances for today’s stage. “Of course it is important,” he said on “We will do our best as we have been thus far and the clock will say the rest.”

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