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Contador eyes other rivals, not Armstrong

July 21, 2009

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— The tension with Lance Armstrong is all but gone in the crisp mountain air, and the line of authority is clear. Now, Alberto Contador wants to concentrate on those teams intent on seizing his Tour de France lead.

The Spaniard used Monday’s rest day to lay out his plan of attack to keep the yellow jersey he won by capturing the first stage in the Alps a day earlier.

Contador, the 2007 Tour champion, said his lead over other contenders “looks good” so far, but cautioned: “It’s not done yet, we still have a hard week left to go.”

Armstrong, the seven-time champion who returned to the race after 31⁄2 years of retirement, is in second overall — 1 minute, 37 seconds behind his Astana teammate.

The 37-year-old Texan has conceded that his chances of victory on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Sunday are slim. He pledged to be a faithful support rider for Contador.

“Yesterday, he gave me his support, and I believe him,” Contador told a news conference at a team hotel in the Swiss town of Sion, near the start of today’s 16th stage in Martigny.

On his Twitter page Monday, Armstrong wrote: “Just finished a easy ride on rest day (No.) 2. Beautiful here in Sion, Switzerland. Lots of vines.”

Armstrong wasn’t speaking to reporters Monday, Astana spokesman Philippe Maertens said. But a week earlier, after the two riders leapfrogged each other in the standings, Armstrong referred to “tension” within the team.

That has all but vanished now.

“We have come down a lot from the level of tension, both at the (team) dinner table and on the course,” Contador said.

He said his top concern in the punishing final week is Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, a strong climber who is 2:26 behind in fifth place.

Bradley Wiggins of Britain, a strong time-trial rider who has proved his ability to climb at this Tour, is third and 1:46 back.

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