Sparks flying at Astana

Contador defied orders, Bruyneel says

Johan Bruyneel admitted sparks could fly between yellow jersey holder Alberto Contador and Astana team-mate Lance Armstrong after the Spaniard defied team orders on Wednesday's 17th stage.

"The harmony is back in the team, at least it was, we will see how everyone feels about what happened on the Colombiere," admitted Astana team manager Bruyneel.

Spain's 2007 Tour de France champion Contador tightened his grip on the yellow jersey after racing to the finish from the final summit with Luxembourg brothers Frank and Andy Schleck.

Frank won the stage and both he and Andy moved up the race's general classification. Andy is now second overall at 2:26 with Frank third in 3:25, while Armstrong dropped back to fourth at 3:55.

Contador, along with Astana teammate Andreas Klöden, had counter-attacked the Schlecks on the Col de Romme, the penultimate climb, leaving Armstrong to monitor Garmin's time trial specialist Bradley Wiggins.

On the next climb to the summit of the Colombiere Contador then left Klöden in his wake to race alone with the Schleck brothers. Armstrong trailed in 2:18 behind while Klöden was at 2:27.

But after the race it emerged that had been against Astana team manager Bruyneel's orders.

The Belgian insists he told Contador to let the Schleck brothers go to allow Kloden and Armstrong a chance to finish in the general classifications' top three.

And Bruyneel says Contador's defiance could send sparks flying in the next team meeting. Seven-time Tour winner Armstrong admitted he had to "bite his tongue" on the issue.

"The attack from Contador three kilometres from the top was against my advice," added the Belgian. "I told him not to go, he didn't need to attack, because the two Schlecks would go full gas to the finish. I said to him: 'You don't have to attack to win the Tour de France today'.

"So it was a pity Andreas couldn't hold on because we could have been first, second and third today in general classification, but now we are first, fourth and fifth."

Bruyneel admitted however the team had achieved their objective to put Wiggins out of the running for the yellow jersey.

Having started third overall at 1:46 behind Contador, the Briton is now sixth at 4:53.

"That was a perfect situation for us, because we knew the Schlecks would go on the Col du Romme because they wanted to get rid of Wiggins and so did we," said Bruyneel ahead of Thursday's time trial around Lake Annecy. "As a time-trial specialist, he was the real danger."

© 2009 AFP & BikeRadar

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