Beyond the Peloton

June 30, 2010 11:04 AM

Team Radio Shack vs. Team Astana

The 2010 Tour de France will largely be duked out between Alberto Contador's Team Astana and Lance Armstrong's Team Radio Shack. A third team, Bjarne Riis' Team Saxo Bank, featuring the Schleck brothers, should also be formidable, but apparently there is dissension in the ranks. According to several reports, Andy and Frank Schleck plan to bolt the team for their own in 2011, with Riis' status highly uncertain.

Dissension shouldn't be a problem for either Radio Shack or Astana, a far cry from last year's soap opera on the Astana team that featured both Contador, who won, and Armstrong, who finished third. Contador has a team now dedicated to helping him win, backed by Kazakh money and Spanish expertise. He will have Alexandre Vinokourov as his lieutenant, though that may not be such a good thing - just ask Jan Ullrich.

Astana made a surprising move, leaving Oscar Pereiro off the team. Pereiro "won" the 2006 Tour after Floyd Landis was stripped off his title, but his performance since has proved that victory to be nothing but a fluke. Lightly regarded at that Tour, Pereiro was allowed to gain nearly 30 minutes on a flat stage to make up for lost time, a monumental tactical error that most likely cost Andreas Kloden the yellow jersey after Landis was found guilty of doping.

25143290-8aef-4287-ab4f-cf4a64d2f5b8.Full.jpgKloden will be riding shotgun for Armstrong again this year, as will Levi Leipheimer. In 2009, Kloden and Leipheimer faithfully executed Johan Bruyneel's plan only to be foiled by their own teammate Contador. Bruyneel's team conceivably could've finished 1-2-3 on the final podium had it not been for an unauthorized solo attack by the eventual champion. Don't think these veteran riders will forget or forgive that indiscretion.

Radio Shack's final Tour team roster features Armstrong (USA), Kloden (Germany), Leipheimer (USA), Chris Horner (USA), Janez Brajkovic (Slovenia), Sergio Paulinho (Portugal), Yaroslav Popovych (Ukraine), Gregory Rast (Switzerland) and Dmitriy Muravyev (Kazakhstan). Bruyneel will be behind the wheel, trying to steer Lance to his eighth (and presumably, final) Tour victory.

Astana's Tour roster has Contador (Spain), Vinokourov (Kazakhstan), David De la Fuente (Spain), Andriy Grivko (Ukraine), Jesus Hernandez (Spain), Maxim Iglinskiy (Kazakhstan), Daniel Navarro (Spain), Benjamin Noval (Spain) and Paolo Tiranlongo (Italy). Yvon Sanquer, a Frenchman who previously managed doping-wrecked Festina, will be calling the shots to help Contador win his third Tour.

Which team will emerge victorious? The hunch here is that while Radio Shack is better top to bottom, Contador's singular talent may be too much to overcome. But we'll save our complete handicap for the eve of the race.

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