Away from the spotlight of the Tour de France and back in Spain, his home country, Alberto Contador took the chance on Monday to say what he really felt about his Astana teammate Lance Armstrong.
“My relationship with Lance is zero,” Contador said at a news conference, one day after winning his second tour. “He is a great rider and has completed a great race, but it is another thing on a personal level, where I have never had great admiration for him and I never will.”
Contador’s comments came after three weeks of near silence about his rivalry with Armstrong, a tense relationship that Contador played down throughout the race, which ended on Sunday in Paris.
At the tour, Contador and Armstrong, a seven-time tour winner, fought to be the leader of Astana, a team based in Kazakhstan. Both riders will be departing the team at the end of this season. Armstrong, 37, will ride for the new Team RadioShack, based in the US. Contador, 26, wants to sign with another team.
The two became teammates when Armstrong joined Astana after coming out of a three-and-a-half-year retirement in the fall. He and Astana’s team manager, Johan Bruyneel, are close friends and worked together during Armstrong’s tour victories.
In the end, Contador said, it was good that he and Armstrong were going their separate ways.
“On this tour, the days in the hotel were harder than those on the road,” Contador said. “The situation was tense and delicate because the relationship between myself and Lance extended to the rest of the staff.”
On Monday night, Armstrong responded to Contador’s comments on his Twitter page, saying: “Seeing these comments from AC. If I were him I’d drop this drivel and start thanking his team.”
He added that Contador would not have won without the team.
Armstrong finished third, 5 minutes 24 seconds behind Contador, and 1:13 behind the runner-up, Andy Schleck of Luxembourg and the Saxo Bank team.
In the last week of the tour, Armstrong said he and Contador were never that close, mostly because of the language barrier. Armstrong also said that they were unable to get to know each other because they had trained in separate countries and had little interaction before the tour.
Then on Monday, around the same time Armstrong flew out of Paris — headed for the Bahamas for a week of rest — Contador was greeted as a hero in Spain.
Fans at the Madrid airport sang the tune of the Spanish national anthem again and again, Reuters reported, because tour officials accidentally played the Danish national anthem for Contador on Sunday.
Contador called the anthem error “an enormous mistake.”