In a somewhat stunning development, Team Astana, has laid to rest all speculation as to who would lead their squad at the 2009 Tour de France by announcing that they would hold a head-to-head time trial between Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador five days before the July event. "We were hoping that Lance's performance in the Giro d'Italia would answer the team leadership question. But, now with Lance's broken collarbone limiting his preparation it was clear that we needed another way to end the season-long drama and allow the team to concentrate on its racing schedule," said Team Director Johan Bruyneel.
Reached at home in Austin where he is recuperating from surgery to repair his broken collarbone Lance Armstrong applauded the decision. "The ongoing question of Tour leadership was causing a major distraction for the team. This will also help me relax a bit and should aid my recovery and return to top form."
Also quite surprising is the format of the race against the clock. "Since we know that both Lance and Alberto are excellent climbers and fast on the flats, the only unknown is their descending ability. So, we will use the 3000' descent of the Col de la Madone for the time trial," added Bruyneel.
Alberto Contador commented on the interesting format. "Normally, I ride hard up the climbs around my home and take it easy on the descents. Now I will have to change my training to take is easy going uphill so I can concentrate on the descents."
While he will not take part in the time trial, Levi Leipheimer also weighed in on the news. "This is a great idea. It was really hard for me to win the Vuelta Castilla y Leon as all anyone on the team was worried about was who would lead the team at the Tour."
While it is too early to tell if the decision by Bruyneel will have the desired affect one thing is certain. We can all get back to discussing who will win the upcoming Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, etc. and not be waiting for the next instalment of "As the Wheel Turns."