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Tom Watson, Lance Armstrong, and the last best hope for a "disappointing" generation.
Armstrong and Contador have had an unsettled relationship since Lance came out of retirement to join the Astana team. Contador, in his prime at 26 and the Tour champion in 2007, expected to be the undisputed team leader and was clearly uncomfortable sharing the mantle, even with a legend. Armstrong tends toward the prickly and was none too happy when Contador soloed off ahead of him on a mountain leg early in the first week of the Tour.
But Contador’s Sunday breakaway was clearly ordained by the team, even though it left Armstrong buried in second place by a hefty 1:35 margin. Contador said afterwards that though the teammates rode together for most of Sunday’s stage, had to look upon Armstrong as “just another rider” when he was ready to make his break. He said, “The differences now are pretty big and the team’s bet should be on me, no? He added that Armstrong remained his “idol” and that “it’s an honor him working for me.”
If that made Armstrong the least bit uncomfortable, he did not show it. Armstrong said Contador had demonstrated his clear superiority and said he had no intention of attacking Contador during one of the later stages in the race. “There’s been a lot of drama between Alberto and me,” Lance said, “but at the end of the day we sit as a team.”
So was it a bad weekend for the “old” guys or a terrific one? Two great champions fell just short, but did so with amazing grace. And therein lies a valuable lesson for my fellow boomers. We could always sing it, but haven’t fared very well at demonstrating it.
Columns by Mark Starr: