Lance and Johan are bluffing. But before I explain what I mean I just want to mention that because of the excellent ending of Stage 4 of the 2009 Tour de France, we’ll be live chatting Stage 5 on Wednesday. After that we’ll take a day off and then cover Stage 7, the first mountain stage–which is where Astana says the race leader will be decided.
Now back to the subterfuge.
When Lance said he was coming back to the Tour, he said he was going for the win. Then he said that they had to figure out who the team leader was. Then he said that they’d know by the first stage who the leader would be. Then he said that they’d know by the mountains.
I’m calling bullshit. After watching Johan avoiding answering direct questions about who the team leader is, I think they’re repeating the gambit they played in 2001 when Lance pretended to be in distress and then came back to crush the opposition. Writing for the Guardian, William Fortheringham wrote:
“A little grimace on Armstrong’s usually expressionless face, a little shake in his shoulders in the blue jersey, the fact that he was not riding right at the front: it all indicated that the man who had won the Tour for the previous two years by flying up the mountains was struggling.”
I think that’s what’s going on now, and I think that’s what we caught a glimpse of today. Lance’s playing the slightly aging guy who might not make it. And hey, if it turns out that Lance isn’t the strongest, then they’ve already laid the groundwork for someone else to come to the front and win it for the team.
Why is Brunyeel willing to do this? Because he’s going to join the Nike-sponsored team that hasn’t yet been announced, but will absorb the riders of Astana next year when Vino comes back.
****Editor’s note: My wife just pointed out that if the other teams read this, they’ll figure out the Astana strategy and I’ll have ruined the tour. Please don’t tell anyone else about this. Thank you.****