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Here are some reactions from the main players during Wednesday’s Tour de France presentation:
Alberto Contador – 1st overall: “My authentic rival is Andy Schleck. Looking at the time trial, it’s better for me than last year. This Tour is better for me than last year, especially with a stage finish atop a climb so difficult as the Tourmalet.
“If I have good legs, I can take out a lot of time in the mountains going into the final time trial. Astana was the most-watched team during the past year. We have nothing to hide. I don’t have any problems. I hope to be the leader of the team, but I still don’t know where I am going to be racing. Concerning a rivalry with Armstrong, I don’t see it like that. I see Andy Schleck, myself and Armstrong as the favorites. I won’t look just to Lance, but rather watch all my rivals.”
Andy Schleck – 2nd overall: “At first glance, the entire Tour looks hard. The first week with the classics-type courses will require special attention. The second week, we’re already in the mountains with the Jura and Alps. Those stages will be harder than they look on paper. And the third week is brutal. Tourmalet is a classic, big climb, which I like better anyway. The final time trial doesn’t suit my abilities, but I am improving and I will have to adapt. Contador will be the man to beat.”
Lance Armstrong – 3rd overall: “I think it’s going to be a lot more open than last year. There isn’t the team time trial and a lot of guys will be missing that. I was one never to say this Tour is harder than another.
“They’re always hard. And the strongest rider always wins. (The rivalry with Contador) is good for cycling, but honestly, I think he and I could do without it. It’s good for the events. The buildup to the Tour, in April, May and June, will be really intense. I think the Schleck brothers will be good and I think Wiggins can come back.”
Mark Cavendish – six stage wins: “I think it will be hard to win six stages again next year. I see a maximum of eight stages that could be sprints, but that’s not counting breakaways and other factors.
“It’s a hard Tour than last year and it will be harder for me to get through the Pyrenees, but I will have to make it to Paris if I hope to win the green jersey. I should have won the green jersey this year, so of course that’s a goal. I won’t sacrifice stage victories to chase the green jersey. Winning stages is the priority. We’ve lost some big riders, but I believe the sprint train is still intact and we’ll be even more focused next year for the sprints.”
Thor Hushovd – green jersey: “This year’s Tour is even better for me to try to win the green jersey again because the final week is very hard. The Pyrenees will prove too hard for some of the sprinters, so that will help. I think it’s a good Tour. The first week is very demanding, almost like classics. The cobblestones will make for an interesting stage. We will return like last year, with Carlos (Sastre) for the GC and myself and Heinrich (Haussler) trying to win stages. I’d like to win at least one stage, maybe more, but (Mark) Cavendish is hard to beat.”
Jonathan Vaughters, Garmin-Slipstream: “It’s harder than last year. On paper, that’s better for Christian (Vande Velde) because he’s always stronger in the third week. The cobbles in the first week will be good for Tyler (Farrar), because he lives in Ghent and he knows them really well.”
Mark Sargeant (Silence-Lotto): It’s a good parcours. It’s good for Cadel (Evans) because he’s always strong in the third week. We’ll have other chances for our riders, with the pave and the sprints. The fact that there’s not a team time trial is good for us. One thing is sure is that there will not be a team that’s as strong as Astana was in last year’s Tour. Having said that, Alberto Contador will be hard to beat.”
Compiled by Andrew Hood