Let the conspiracy theories begin!
When the peloton split with about 30km left in Stage 3, Lance Armstrong made his statement: This team is mine.
With Haimar Zubeldia and Yaroslav Popovych working with Columbia to pull the 27-rider lead group further and further up the road, Lance could probably see the yellow jersey beckoning him following tomorrow’s Team Time Trial in Montpellier.
He finished the stage in 19th place, and ironically now sits 19 seconds ahead of his teammate—the team “leader”, according to DS Johan Bruyneel—Alberto Contador on GC. Yes, the Tour is a 3-week race; and yes, many things can happen from one day to the next. 19 seconds may seem like only a bit of time, but the statement speaks much louder than the standings.
Lance Armstrong will not concede leadership of his team—to anyone.
Tomorrow will certainly be interesting. How will the team react? How cohesive will they ride? Will Contador or someone else actually sprint against Lance to be the first rider over the line? If there’s a flat or mechanical, will the entire team wait?
Other questions remain to be answered, especially: who made the decision to work with Columbia? Lance? Johan? Maybe the post-race comments will make things clearer.
And speaking of Johan, he’s now fully enmeshed in the toughest Tour of his career—and it’s only the 3rd day. He’ll need to be at his best tonight if he hopes to keep this team together.
I’d love to be a fly on the massage table at the Astana hotel tonight.