The temperatures at the Tour de France approached 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but the rivalry between Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador appears to be cooling off.
At the pre-Tour press conference, Contador was asked about his relationship with Armstrong. The reserved Spaniard refused to take the bait, saying, “There were a lot of things said in the press last year that were not true. I admire him for the rider and champion that he is. That’s what I said before, and that’s what I’ll say again.”
Prior to the start of stage 5, Contador brought Armstrong and RadioShack team manager Johan Bruyneel some gifts that dated back to Contador’s 2009 Tour win. And after the stage, Armstrong uttered his kindest words yet about his rival and former teammate.
Armstrong called Contador’s gifts “very generous,” adding, “obviously he recognizes that he had the support of a great team. That’s a nice gesture.”
Prodded to speak more about their relationship, Armstrong described it as “fine,” and intimated that perhaps more has been made of the rivalry than it deserves.
“Perhaps in the pressroom, or to people in front of the TV, it looks heated,” Armstrong said. “It’s really not. There’s very little said, very little dialogue, and that goes from our team to his team. I think there’s a mutual level of respect there that we have for each other, despite what went on the last 12 months. And I think we’re both tired of the drama, and just looking forward to the next two weeks of seeing who is the best man this year.”
Armstrong took it one step further, complimenting Contador by saying the Spaniard might just be “the most talented guy to ever throw a leg over a bike.”
“I have no problem saying that,” Armstrong continued. “What we saw last year was an extremely impressive performance on all levels, from climbing to time trialing to recovery to motivation to mental toughness.”