Contador getting to know ‘new’ Astana teammates

Alberto Contador is getting to know his “new” Astana teammates at the team’s first training camp.

Alberto Contador is getting to know his “new” teammates at Astana this week in the team’s first training camp following the departure of Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel.

Contador will be heading a completely different team in 2010.
Contador will be heading a completely different team in 2010.

With nearly a dozen of the team’s top riders gone to RadioShack, the two-time Tour de France winner is becoming reacquainted with his Astana teammates – both new and old – who will be the foundation for his run at a third Tour crown in four years next summer.

Contador trained this week along the Italian coast with Alexander Vinokourov and Óscar Pereiro for the first time since confirming he will ride out the final year of his contract with the troubled Astana team.

Despite major shake-ups of staff and riders at Astana, Contador says the goal remains the same – to win the Tour de France again.

“I know that 2010 will be another complicated year,” Contador told the Spanish daily MARCA. “But after all that’s happened in 2009, I will be able to handle it better. My objective for 2010 will be to fight to win the Tour, to have options for victory.”

Contador said he’s quietly optimistic that the team will have a strong foundation to carry him into the Tour, both on and off the bike.

He said new sport director Giuseppe Martinelli has visited him in at his home in Spain and that he’s conversed with new team manager Yvon Sanquer.

Contador is quick to admit that he won’t have the same kind of firepower that backed him in 2009. In fact, all eight of his Tour-winning teammates have jettisoned Astana for RadioShack, leaving him to lean on such riders as Benjamín Noval, Davide de la Fuente, Dani Navarro, Vinokourov and Pereiro.

“I am realistic. I know that I have a team that’s less potent than other years, but it’s precisely for that reason that we have to work even deeper in the training camps to know what was have to do and how we can do it,” Contador explained. “It’s clear in my mind that it’s going to be a very tactical Tour and that you will have to play interests of one off another because I’m not the only one who wants to win.”

Contador refused to “throw more wood on the fire” about his relationships with Armstrong or Bruyneel, but admitted it hurt when he hears comments that he doesn’t appreciate the help of his fellow teammates.

“That hurts more than anything that’s been said, because I do appreciate my teammates a lot,” he said. “Although they were stuck in the middle of things, they carried themselves like genuine professionals. They are not guilty of anything, they followed team orders. It’s another thing if those team orders were not the most appropriate for me at certain moments.”

Concerning his 2010 racing schedule, Contador ruled out returning to the Giro d’Italia, saying it’s too difficult to recover before the Tour.

“I am looking forward to seeing the Vuelta route (December 16), but right now I am only going to focus on getting prepared 100 percent for the Tour,” he said.

He’ll likely make his debut at the Volta a Algarve in Portugal before an early season goal of doing well at Paris-Nice. He’s hinted he’ll likely race the Vuelta al País Vasco and the Volta a Catalunya with a probable start at the Dauphiné Libéré ahead of the Tour.