Contador unfazed by threat of Armstrong

10:38, February 01, 2010      

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Tour de France champion Alberto Contador insists the thought of having seven-time winner Lance Armstrong as his main rival in this year's race is not keeping him awake at night.

The Spaniard, Tour champion in 2007 and 2009 and Tour of Italy and Spain winner in 2008, believes he will have more than the American to deal with.

Contador (pictured) overcame tension within Astana, the team Armstrong joined last year to make his comeback to the sport, to win the 2009 edition thanks to crushing performances in the mountains and final time trial.

Armstrong battled to finish third and then promptly announced the creation of a new team, Radio Shack, that he hopes to lead to victory this year.

Although an outright Contador v Armstrong clash is mouth-watering, the Spaniard said he believes it may not be the only one on the horizon.

At Astana's team presentation on Saturday, Contador said he believed there could be up to 10 real challengers for the race's prestigious yellow jersey.

"Of course, Lance will be one of my rivals this year but I'm more relaxed," said the 27-year-old Cantador, who finished last year's race over four minutes ahead of Luxembourg's Andy Schleck.

"I'm not the only big favorite. There's a group of around eight to 10 riders who could throw their hat in for a victory at the Tour."

Armstrong, third at 5:24 last July, boosted his chances of an eighth Tour win by taking the bulk of last year's Astana team with him to Radio Shack, including American Levi Leipheimer and German Andreas Kloden.

Although an almost unrivalled climber and a strong time triallist, the big question supporters of Contador will want to ask is whether his team, which now includes disgraced Kazakh star Alexandre Vinokourov, are up to the job.

Vinokourov returned to cycling last year following a two-year ban for doping. He and the entire Astana team, when it was under different management, were thrown off the 2007 Tour de France.

Vinokourov said there was only one objective on the team's mind: "The aim is to win the Tour de France for Astana and show that, with Alberto Contador, we are the best team in the world," he said.

"I think that with his talent and my experience, I can count on him to succeed."

Source: China Daily/Agencies
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