Bruyneel defends the 2009 Tour de France strategy during the Armstrong-Contador “war”

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Former Astana sport director Johan Bruyneel defended his prize list at length during the 2009 Tour de France, after a recent interview with Alberto Contador which rekindled interest in the bitter power struggle between his teammate Lance Armstrong and the young Spanish champion in the race.

Last week, Contador had argued in an interview with YouTuber Valentí Sanjuan that – among other flash points during the 2009 Tour – he had been isolated by his team on scene 3 when there were rungs and also risked being deliberately obstructed by orders from teams on the road. in Andorra four days later.

Not only that, but Contador also had a tense series of meetings with teammate Armstrong, was prevented from bringing his loyal servant Benjamin Noval to the race, and there were also problems with his team bike, which, according to him, lack of equipment was provided exclusively to the American.

Bruyneel, speaking on the podcast “El Leñero”, provided a very different version of the events of a Tour de France which ended with Contador’s second victory and a third place overall for Armstrong – although ‘he was then deprived of his podium for doping.

While trying to emphasize that he had no problem with Contador and that he was “not there to attack a great champion”, Bruyneel stressed that he believed the implications of Contador that he was there to support Armstrong more than his Spanish teammate was not warranted. . Instead, he argued that he was there to protect the interests of the team on a global scale.

Regarding the divisions of stage 3 where Armstrong was in front and Contador behind, Bruyneel insisted: “There was no plot between George Hincapie” – a friend of Armstrong who, while driving for High Road, helped shape the rung where Contador lost time – “and Lance Armstrong It was just High Road that divided the race and those who didn’t pay attention were not there. “

As for his strategic decision to make the Astana team work with HighRoad to maintain the echelon, “Only once, after going through the list provided by Radio Tour and being absolutely sure that there was nobody there- down who could challenge our team [on GC], I repeat, our team, did I order in the team car to [Yaroslav] Popovych, Haimar [Zubeldia] and Lance to collaborate. Why? Because it has benefited us. Any sports director would have done the same. It was never an attack on Contador. “

Regarding the Andorra stage, Contador said that Bruyneel had insisted the day before that the team take things “slowly” on the scene when, as a climber, he wanted to attack fully during the first summit from the race to stage 7.

“I would never have had team meetings the day before, but in any case, my instructions the next morning on the bus were that we could not take the yellow jersey so early,” explained Bruyneel on El Leñero, ” because once you have the jersey you cannot make the other teams work. I could have said to keep the group together because there were 14 stages to go. But I didn’t say we have to go slow.

“If Alberto felt so strong and such a leader, he should have said it on the team bus that morning. But he did not do it. “

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Lance Armstrong chats with team manager Johan Bruyneel on stage 20 of the 2009 Tour de France from Montélimar to Mont Ventoux on July 25, 2009 on Mont Ventoux, France. (Photo by Bryn Lennon / Getty Images)

Lance Armstrong consults Johan Bruyneel during the 2009 Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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Johan Bruyneel, Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong

Bruyneel, Contador and Armstrong on the podium during the presentation of the Tour de France 2009 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong on the podium of the Tour de France 2009 in Paris

Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong on the podium of the Tour de France 2009 in Paris (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Johan Bruyneel and Alberto Contador after the Tour de France 2009

Johan Bruyneel and Alberto Contador after the Tour de France 2009 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong on the podium of the Tour de France 2009 in Paris

Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong on the podium of the Tour de France 2009 in Paris (Image credit: Getty Images)

Bruyneel’s argument about his strategy and the yellow jersey, however, contrasts slightly with his tactics for the leader in most of Armstrong’s rounds when the Texan – with the exception of 2003 when he was sick – has invariably done everything possible during the first mountain stage. Under Bruyneel’s defense, Andorra’s stage was notably at the start of the 2009 Tour compared to other previous editions where the mountains won much later.

Another source close to Astana that year supported Contador’s claim that he was not allowed to use the team’s upper wheels for time trials, which were reserved for Armstrong – as he claimed this, but that Bruyneel said he “could neither confirm nor deny”.

“There were more than just wheels for everyone on this year’s Tour; 40 disc wheels for the team, not two, “said Bruyneel. “This is a touchy subject because Lance ran that year for free in 2009, he had a personal contract with Trek and that is why he used their bikes, with their own design.

“The main reason Lance returned to the race was to promote his Foundation internationally and he ran on bikes which were then auctioned off and the money went to charity,” said Bruyneel, who indirectly explained why Armstrong’s lightest disc wheels were purchased from a German company under the sponsorship agreements of the American, and had different decals.

However, a source close to the 2009 Astana team and present on the Tour, who requested anonymity, said Cyclingnews, “The best wheels of this Tour time trial were for Lance, that was clear. There were of course others, but they were not of such good quality. “

The same source also said that Contador had “virtually lost the race” on at least one occasion on a flat stage because he did not have enough team support.

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Alberto Contador in the time trial of stage 18 of the Tour de France 2009 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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Lance Armstrong in the 2009 Tour de France Stage 18 Time Trial (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Contador also insisted that his personal mechanic had his bike with him in his hotel room before certain key steps, as a precaution, which upset Bruyneel as excessive.

“It is a mental fabrication by someone who does not trust others, who sees the danger in all parts, a little paranoid. It’s the most ridiculous thing to think that my team could do something against Contador’s motorcycle. Alberto has isolated himself. Other sources have suggested, however, that Armstrong himself also had his own mechanic to bring his bike to his room.

Bruyneel acknowledged in the interview with El Leñero that the two team leaders had strong characters, that the relationship between the two was never easy, to the point where during the first team training camp in the Canaries in January, “they didn’t even talk to each other the first day, didn’t even say” hi “. But this Tour was not half as dramatic as the press, especially in Spain, likes to do. “

Without naming names, he also argued that “three or four people who know who they were” in the network of collaborators closest to Contador, had played a large-scale role in complicating business between the Spanish and the ‘team.

Bruyneel added that Contador was the team leader on the Tour de France and that he told Armstrong when he first met the Texan in 2008 when he started his return run that Contador would probably be the strongest Round and would normally win it. To which Armstrong replied “we will see”.

He also called Contador the best stage runner of his generation “then in the second half there were a series of circumstances that affected his career and also his crossroads with Froome, but in my opinion Alberto was the one of the greatest stage runners in history. “

Armstrong himself refused to be involved in the debate, saying on his Instagram account that Contador, as “best driver” that year, deserved to win the 2009 Tour.

Bruyneel also said in Leñero’s interview that his relationship with Armstrong continued to be good, while with Contador “it was a very good professional relationship, until the Tour of that year, which he thought surely I did not behave well towards him, but I do not share this opinion. “

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