Get Ready for Part 2 of Armstrong VS. Contador

News & Results

07/1/2010| 0 comments
by AP, with additional commentary by Roadcycling.com
Lance Armstrong (Team RadioShack). Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Lance Armstrong (Team RadioShack). Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.

Get Ready for Part 2 of Armstrong VS. Contador

In final Tour de France appearance, 7-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong takes aim at former Astana teammate Alberto Contador.

In final Tour de France appearance, 7-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong takes aim at former Astana teammate Alberto Contador.

Lance Armstrong is giving the Tour de France one last go, and two-time winner Alberto Contador is the man to beat again when the three-week cycling extravaganza starts on Saturday.

The Tour goes on under the near-perennial doping cloud, but with a rivalry between former teammates Armstrong and Contador now in the open, their race will hopefully overshadow any drug cheats during this 97th Tour.

The nearly 200 competitors will start not in France but in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam on a 3,642-kilometer (2,263-mile) trek across Belgium, then clockwise around the French north, east and south before heading up to Paris for the finish on July 25.

Aside from the short prologue, organizers have scheduled only one individual time trial on the next-to-last race day. The course layout offers a bouncy and bracing run over cobblestones, and treks through the Pyrenees that will be crucial to the outcome.

The sport has already had another bumpy ride this year.

Swiss star Fabian Cancellara has been hounded by repeated questions about whether he used an imperceptible motor in his bike frame while winning the Paris-Roubaix race - claims he has denied as ridiculous. But the International Cycling Union, or UCI, will deploy a scanner to help make sure such contraptions aren't on hand at the Tour.

Armstrong - by far cycling's biggest star - has been on the defensive over doping allegations from former teammate Floyd Landis, the fellow American who was stripped of his 2006 Tour title for cheating.

The 38-year-old Armstrong, who'll be seeking an eighth victory at his 13th Tour, has had other knocks. He crashed out of the Tour of California, and two bouts of sickness disrupted his training plans.

In recent weeks, he has showed impressive, if not spectacular, form: He placed third at the not-so-difficult Tour of Luxembourg, and second at the mountain-rich Tour of Switzerland.

Contador, who stayed with Astana after Armstrong bolted last year to join Team RadioShack, looks nearly invincible. He won the Paris-Nice, the Tour of Algarve and the Vuelta de Castilla and Leon, and placed second in the Criterium du Dauphine.

Taking a page out of Armstrong's old playbook, Contador has limited his racing days this year to focus on peaking for the Tour.

Armstrong knows his work is cut out.

"It will be very hard to win the Tour," he said this month at the Tour of Switzerland. "With my age, and the explosiveness of the other guys, my own struggles with the time trials in the last couple of years ... We'll have to be smart, to be a bit lucky, to play the team card a little bit.

"There are a handful of guys who are bigger favorites than me."

He could have been talking about the Schleck brothers, Frank and Andy; Ivan Basso, the Giro d'Italia champion; and Cadel Evans, who twice placed second at the Tour de France. Longer shots include Russia's Denis Menchov, Britain's Bradley Wiggins

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