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Page last updated at 10:37 GMT, Tuesday, 28 July 2009 11:37 UK

Armstrong hits back at Contador

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Relationship with Armstrong is 'zero' - Contador

Lance Armstrong says his Astana team-mate Alberto Contador has "lots to learn" after the pair's strained relationship finally boiled over.

Contador won his second Tour de France title in Paris on Sunday, with seven-time winner Armstrong finishing in an unfamiliar third.

The 26-year-old said: "My relationship with Lance Armstrong is zero."

But Armstrong countered: "If I were him I'd drop this drivel and thank his team. Without them he doesn't win."

Contador admitted relations between the two were awkward throughout the three-week Tour, with neither prepared to settle for second billing until the Spaniard proved his superiority in the mountains.

"The situation was tense and delicate because the relationship between myself and Lance extended to the rest of the staff," he said.

"On this Tour, the days in the hotel were harder than the those on the road.

We need duels in sport, like Rafael Nadal v Roger Federer or Bernard Hinault v Greg LeMond

Tour organiser Christian Prudhomme

"He is a great rider but it is another thing on a personal level, where I have never had great admiration for him and I never will."

Armstrong will return to the Tour next year with a new team, Radio Shack, and the rivalry between the two promises to be spicy after the veneer of unity was soon removed at the end of the race.

Contador was the strongest rider in the mountains and time trials, and eventually beat Andy Schleck into second place by four minutes 11 seconds, with Armstrong third at 5:24 back and Britain's Bradley Wiggins in fourth.

606: DEBATE
LSR

There were regular reports of tension between Armstrong and Contador throughout the event, with the 37-year-old seven-time champion - making his first appearance in the race since 2005 - often criticising his team-mate's strategy.

Contador, who missed last year's Tour after Astana were not invited because of their past doping record, refused to be drawn on his future but it seems unlikely to lie with Astana.

"We'll have to see what happens," he said. "I don't know where I will go but it will clearly be with a team that is 100% behind me."

Armstrong had earlier hailed his team-mate's abilities, claiming Contador is so good the Spaniard would have beaten him in his own heyday.

"I think this year's performance would have beaten my performances in 2001, 2004 and 2005," said Armstrong.

Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong
There is no love lost between Contador and Armstrong out of the saddle

"Contador is that good, so I don't see how I would have been higher than that, even in the other years."

Race organiser Christian Prudhomme is among those relishing the prospect of another vintage race in 2010.

"We need duels in sport, like Rafael Nadal v Roger Federer or Bernard Hinault v Greg LeMond," he said.

"We haven't decided which teams will be invited next year but, looking ahead, a team with Contador, another with Armstrong and another one with the Schleck brothers (Andy and Frank) would be sensational."

Andy Schleck, the younger of the Luxembourg brothers who twice previously won the Tour's white jersey awarded to its best rider under 25, has already sent Contador a warning.

"I'm coming back to take the yellow jersey," said the 24-year-old.

"Alberto showed this year that he was the strongest, the real boss of the peloton. I have much respect for him, but next year I'm coming to win."

After a number of doping scandals to have hit the Tour in recent years, including the disqualification of 2006 winner Floyd Landis after testing positive for testosterone, the 2009 event passed without incident, pending the final test results.

Three years ago pre-race favourites Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich were ejected because of their links to the 'Operation Puerto' doping affair in Spain and a year later Astana were disqualified after leader Alexandre Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping.

"Coming through the Tour without having to deal with scandal was pleasing," Prudhomme added.

"There will be other (positive) cases, that's just the way it is in sport. But I really think things are changing. The targeting of riders and the (biological) passport means that nowadays it is far more difficult to cheat and get away with it."

After his victory on Sunday following almost 3,500km of racing over 21 stages in three weeks, Contador added: "I'm happy to win a Tour de France that has so far been clean.

"I get tested all year long. I make myself available 365 days a year, and I do it willingly. There has been huge investment to fight doping in the sport and for me it's a good thing."



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see also
Contador seals 2009 Tour victory
26 Jul 09 |  Cycling
Armstrong to launch new US team
23 Jul 09 |  Cycling
No Armstrong rift, says Contador
13 Jul 09 |  Cycling
How the 2009 Tour was won
26 Jul 09 |  Cycling
Tour de France final weekend photos
26 Jul 09 |  Cycling
Brave Wiggins holds on to fourth
25 Jul 09 |  Cycling


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