Friday, January 16, 2009

Contador: Armstrong return ‘better than imagined’

Speaking to L’Equipe after receiving the Velo d’Or prize this week in Paris, Contador said having Armstrong around should only help him.

“When I first heard about (Armstrong’s comeback), I was racing the Vuelta. Such news can be destabilizing at a time when full concentration was necessary, especially with the chance to win the Vuelta,” he said. “It wasn’t the best news at first, but later I spoke with Johan Bruyneel about the new configuration of the team. At first, I didn’t think that ‘cohabitation’ would be possible, but now the situation is better than I could have imagined.”

Contador and Armstrong will share leadership duties at Astana during this year’s Tour, likely the only race they will start together in the first half of the season.

Contador also said he’s not worried about closer ties between Armstrong and Astana boss Johan Bruyneel.

“The relationship between Armstrong and Bruyneel is strong. They came together to the team and the won together the Tour. Their relationship is stronger than I have with Bruyneel, but I don’t think this will be an issue during the Tour,” he said. “We won’t race together right now. We might coincide during the Dauphiné, but one thing’s sure, we’ll be together during the Tour.”

Armstrong is set to make his comeback debut next week while Contador will debut his season at the Tour of the Algarve in Portugal in February.

Armstrong’s comeback has another advantage: The Texan is attracting most of the attention from the media.

“He’s a big champion who can help sell the sport. His comeback has a lot of advantages, if only for the weight that he brings with the media,” Contador continued. “It might seem trivial, but it’s more quiet for me and there’s less pressure. It’s obvious that Armstrong has a presence.”

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