The duo may have kept things relatively civil during the Tour de France but now that the race is over, it seems the gloves are off between Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong, first and third overall at the French Grand Tour. On Monday Contador finally gave his full thoughts on the team situation. During the Tour he had played down talk of conflict, saying that the media was exaggerating the tension between the two race winners and that things were better than rumours suggested.
However as the finale drew closer, the cracks were definitely starting to appear, with both Armstrong and team boss Johan Bruyneel publicly faulting Contador’s tactics after Wednesday’s stage to Le Grand-Bornand. Then on Saturday Armstrong chose to go for a meal and wine with the sponsors of the new Radioshack team rather than attend the Tour win celebration for Contador.
On Sunday the chemistry between the two on the podium was notably very cool, with no congratulation of the Spaniard’s win; by Monday, all pretence at diplomacy was ditched by both riders.
“My relationship with Lance Armstrong is zero," Contador said in a Madrid press conference, according to AFP. “He is a great rider and has completed a great race but it is another thing on a personal level, where I have never had great admiration for him and I never will."
Armstrong responded via his Twitter feed on Monday evening, and was clearly angry. “Seeing these comments from AC (Alberto Contador). If I were him I’d drop this drivel and start thanking his team. W/o (without) them he doesn’t win.”
He then followed that up with another message, referring back to comments he made when Contador got the hunger knock in Paris-Nice and lost the race lead.
“Hey pistolero, there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’. What did I say in March? Lots to learn. Restated,” Tweeted Armstrong.
While both riders are heading in different directions in 2010, Armstrong to Radioshack and Contador to an as-yet undecided team, both are still contracted to Astana for the remainder of this season. However it now looks highly unlikely that either will compete alongside the other again in 2009.
Armstrong concluded his ‘gloves-off’ by re-Tweeting a comment by friend and Trek Livestrong director Axel Merckx. “A champion is also measured on how much he respect his teammates and opponents. You can win a race on your own, not a Grand Tour.”
Contador has not responded as yet, but this could run and run.