The action in last few kilometers of stage eight of the Tour de France spoke volumes.
By
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

What
are we to make of Alberto Contador's acceleration away from the second
group, one that contained all of the pre-race favourites, not the least
of which was the big boss of Astana, Lance Armstrong?

Certainly,
the Texan sounded less than impressed, saying, "Things didn't really go
according to the plan we mapped out before. I was a little surprised,
but it doesn't matter. Like I said yesterday, I expected him to assert
himself in the race and he did that."

Team director Johan Bruyneel appeared similarly perplexed.

"We
didn't have a specific plan to attack, our plan was to maintain our
collective strength first and wait for attacks from the others. Alberto
counter-attacked after an attack, our plan had been for the riders to
communicate and respond. No one had specific instructions to go out and
attack, I had no race radio at that time or TV, so it was something
they decided themselves."

They decided themselves? It sure didn't look like that to me.

Astana
was in control of the stage, dictating the rules of engagement and
covering every move. There was no real motivation for the team to do
any more that it already was.

They had effectively neutered
their rivals to the point of Contador's attack, so there was no need to
play cards they might need later, when, as was evident to anyone except
those who are hiding in a cave in Pakistan, they had planned to put
Armstrong in yellow.

This was clearly a message from Contador,
one that, to me, expressed a no confidence vote in having team support
around him when it really counts.

Lets assume Contador plays
the dutiful pupil and an increasingly fit Armstrong grabs the yellow,
do you think team orders will be for Contador to go up the road at a
crucial stage and just assume the mantle of race leader? Unlikely.

By
now we all know Armstrong. In that scenario he would - with Johan
Bruyneel's absolute blessing - marshal all of the resources of the
team around him, leaving Contador isolated.

In response,
Contador really has no choice but to kill off that possibility;
eventualy take the jersey for himself and in doing so, force Astana's
racing calculations in his favour.


The race for the Tour de France is not between Astana and rivals like
Saxo Bank - the race for the Tour de France is between Astana and
Contador.


Let me know your thoughts, on what was a fascinating night of racing.