Astana united, Sanchez wins, Garmin strong in Tour de France stage 8.

Who needs Valverde?

Who needs Valverde?

This morning the headline in L’Equipe said “Le Boss, C’est Contador.” Perhaps, but it’s a very well-behaved boss today. No misbehaving on the road to Saint Girons.

Standing outside the Astana team bus before stage 8, Johan Bruyneel had a big grin on his face. When asked the inevitable questions about Armstrong and Alberto, his grin got even bigger. Yes, he’d had a talk with Alberto, yes, there would be no more “surprise” attacks by the Spanish climber. It sounded like a family intervention happened at the breakfast table, with each rider facing Alberto and saying buddy, chill means chill, don’t pull that stunt again or you’re fetching your own fig bars and water bottles.

Astana rode as a team and kept the break to a minimum with Luis Sanchez winning the sprint in an exciting chess-match with Sandy Casar. Meanwhile, Rinaldo Nocentini, in his yellow jersey, did a fine job after losing contact with the lead group, then clawing his way back to keep it for another day.

It was a relatively quiet ride for the top GC contenders, with only Cadel Evans attacking early with a breakaway group. He gained 40 seconds before futility–and the animosity of the other escape riders– set in. Team Garmin had three riders up front which bodes well for the big climbs tomorrow. Christian Vande Velde, Bradley Wiggins and even David Miller made a notable show of force.

It appears Johan Bruyneel has laid down the law and we’re guessing team censure had plenty to do with it. Yaroslav Popovych probably told Contador he wouldn’t share his ipod with him anymore.  Andreas Kloden announced he would no longer split his chocolate desserts. Levi Leipheimer flat out told Contador he would short-sheet his bed every night. No chance of recovery then.

This kind of team pressure is sure to bring Contador in line. When the team massage therapist tells Alberto that his fingers are too tired to work on him, that sends a message. One more crazy, unscripted attack and Contador will be adjusting his own derailleur and begging food from the Caisse d’Epargne team.

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