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Contador and Armstrong reveal details of 2009 Tour de France rivalry

Joe Robinson
14 Apr 2020

The power struggle between the two over a decade ago was clear for all to see

With racing on hold at the moment, arguably the most interesting cycling story to come out over the Easter weekend was details surrounding Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong's intra-team rivalry in 2009.

At the time, both were riding for Astana and both attended the 2009 Tour de France with aspirations of adding another yellow jersey to their palmares.

Contador was the champion from 2007 and the favourite for victory while Armstrong, at the time of racing, was still a seven-time champion, returning from a brief retirement to target an eighth Maillot Jaune. 

By Paris, Spaniard Contador was slipping on a second-career yellow jersey having beaten Andy Schleck by four minutes 11 seconds into second and teammate Armstrong into third with a 5 minutes 24 second deficit.

However, beyond the racing, it was the internal politics of the Astana team and the power struggle between Contador and Armstrong that really defined the race. Now, a decade on, the Spaniard has revealed more details surrounding the battle in an extended interview with YouTuber Valenti Sanjuan.

'The 2009 Tour started with the controversy between Armstrong and me over who was the leader,' Contador revealed. 'There was tremendous tension. Even for our teammates.

'Before starting the Tour I went to speak with Lance directly in his room and he said, "For me, it is better that you win the Tour than I win." That was the day before the first time-trial. Then I saw him put on Twitter: "Tomorrow in the time-trial we will see who is the leader." It was a waste of my time and I missed a siesta.'

Contador then revealed that the team even tried a series of mind games, which saw the Spaniard purchase his own time-trial wheels from rival team Milram for the Stage 1 TT after only being supplied with older generation wheels.

After mounting tension that saw Armstrong and the Astana team attack Contador on Stage 3 in crosswinds, the pair came to blows on the team bus after Stage 7 when Contador overtook Armstrong on General Classification.

'Armstrong told me, I hadn't respected the team tactics and I told him he hadn't respected me all year. He stopped me there and said, "OK, Pistolero". Then he came up to me after everybody else had left the bus after the meeting and said, in Spanish, "No me jodas" [don't f**k with me].'

The duo remained evenly matched throughout the race until Contador launched a stinging attack to Verbier on Stage 15, a move that all but secured yellow for Contador but almost cost Armstrong the podium.

That move buried the speculation surrounding who was leading the Astana team at that race and a week later, Contador was collecting a second-career yellow jersey.

Armstrong managed to hold on to a podium spot, which has since been stripped from his palmares - as we all know.

And while it is from a period that Armstrong rightly offers little comment on, he did offer a word on the power struggle with Contador via his Instagram page, and unlike the usual approach of the American his words were quite humbling. 

'There was a little buzz in the cycling world about a recent interview that Alberto Contador did and I've been asked a lot to comment on this,' said Armstrong.

'But there's really no comment. What I will say, and I guess this is a comment, and so I will say, is that the best man won in 2009.'