Former Discovery Channel directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel has tipped 2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador as the rider to watch over the next few years. Speaking to the Spanish press in Javea, Spain at the close of the first team camp for his and Contador’s new Astana squad, Bruyneel said that Contador had “some qualities that remind me of [Lance] Armstrong. He will be the figure of the future.”
As the man who guided Lance Armstrong to seven Tour de France victories, Bruyneel knows what he’s talking about. He outlined the things Contador has to work on in order to repeat his 2007 win.
“Alberto is one of the best, but there are other riders that hold the same promise,” Bruyneel said. “He has to show that he can win the Tour once again, and he can count on our full confidence to do this. He has all the factors on his side. He has the physical capacity of a champion, and he still has a margin for progress. But he needs to improve his time trialling skills and learn to dose his efforts well on a three-week race.”
Contador’s potential was the reason why Bruyneel had chosen to stay in cycling after announcing his retirement when Discovery was unable to find a sponsor for 2008.
“I had taken the decision to quit, as all my goals on a sporting level had been reached,” he said. “But now, the challenge is to get this team going. Without Alberto Contador, I wouldn’t have continued. He’s a great basis to construct a new team – he is young, and amongst the best. Signing him convinced me to continue.”
The 2008 Astana squad is effectively a merger of riders from Bruyneel’s former Discovery Channel outfit, and riders who rode in Astana colours in 2007. Bruyneel said the getting-to-know-you aspects of the camp had gone well. “It was a first contact meeting and served to get to know us all better,” he said. “At first, it was a bit strange for everyone as people came in from two different squads, but then the newcomers adapted well. Everyone returned home feeling confident because they saw a solid structure within the team.”
Contador’s program for 2008 will start with the Mallorca Challenge, followed by the Vuelta a Valencia, Paris-Nice, Vuelta a Castilla-León, Vuelta al País Vasco/Circuit de la Sarthe, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Dauphiné Libéré.
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