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Taking the 9th

Translated from Telegraaf's Johan Bruyneel Column

A few years ago, I never would have imagined winning my 9th Yellow Jersey. Seven times with Lance Armstrong, now twice with Alberto Contador. Without any doubt this is our best Tour de France. In 2007 we had Alberto and Levi Leipheimer on the final podium, but this year we had Alberto and Lance finish one and three, Andreas Klöden finishes 6th, we win three stages and the overall teams classification!!  Needless to say, I am more than satisfied. I am proud that we could fulfill our role as favorites and overcome all the external pressure.

 

The most important step towards the victory this year was the team time trial. Before that day Sastre, Evans, Menchov and the Schlecks were our main contenders. After that stage only Frank and Andy Schleck were left. That moment, we never thought of Bradley Wiggins, without any doubt the biggest surprise of this Tour.

Now to the part everyone wants to hear. A lot has been written and said about the war between Lance and Alberto. I always knew that the race would decide who would be the leader of the team. That Contador finally was the strongest is not even a surprise. From the beginning of the season he made it clear that the Tour was his main goal. From the start in Monaco, he showed his ambitions. I know that some people thought that since I have a special relationship with Lance, that I would make decisions that influenced the race for Lance, however this is the contrary. My main concern was winning the Tour de France - whether it be with Alberto, Lance, Levi or Andreas. 

 

I normally don't talk about private discussions I have with riders or staff, but in the train from Avignon to Paris, I spoke with Alberto. He told me that he appreciated the way the race was directed from the team car. I also had many discussions with Lance during the Tour. He recognized that Alberto was better and agreed that we should try to go for a stage win and take the yellow jersey with Alberto in the stage to Verbier.

For me it is logical that Alberto does not want to share the leadership in the team and that he will not be teammates with Lance. When I first discussed the plans with Lance for his comeback, Lance told me that he would understand if I chose Contador over him. "With Contador you are ‘good’ for five, six years." Lance’s comeback could offer me maybe only one interesting year. Immediately I answered that I found his comeback after four years of inactivity so unique and intriguing on so many levels that I wanted to be part of it.

 

Looking back now, it’s amazing that he finished 3rd . Already before the Ventoux stage, he told us that he didnt plan to lose one second to Frank Schleck or Bradley Wiggins. On that hard climb we saw again what an athlete Lance Armstrong is. Our biggest fear before the Tour was that – at his age - he would not be able to recover very well in a big Tour. On the contrary we saw that he improved every day… In the first mountain stages, he was a bit slow in his answers to attacks of the others but on the Ventoux, the old Armstrong was back.

Now people want to know if Lance can win the Tour next year? I don’t know. I think his comeback is already a big success. I’ve never expected that, after four years, he would end on the Tour podium. And he was there on the podium together with the best stage race rider of the world and the biggest talent ...

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