Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) took the yellow jersey but Alberto Contador won the biggest prize: leadership of team Astana. By finishing second in the opening 15.5 kilometer time trial, Alberto sent a defiant message that Lance Armstrong will be riding for him and not the other way around. Astana belongs to Contador and the Texan is now on domestique duty.
It appears Lance will be fetching water bottles for half the Astana team because despite a strong ride in 10th place, he was only the fourth fastest rider in his own squad. Contador (2nd), Andreas Kloden (4th) and Levi Leipheimer (6th) all posted quicker times. So besides carrying bottles, Lance may be hauling sandwiches and granola bars for the Astana boys. If Alberto wants an apple or Kloden is hungry for grapes, guess who’s going back to the team car. Just like the old Postal Days, Lance will be making deliveries.
Starting early in hopes of avoiding the afternoon winds, Armstrong looked like his old self: head down, jaw set, legs hammering out his signature cadence. In fact, he looked fantastic. He was back from retirement, three years of rust scraped off and collarbone be damned. Lance was on a mission and every spectator in Monaco could see it. He ripped through the course only to watch as three teammates later beat him.
Alberto Contador, with the Armstrong-induced pressure on him, delivered a powerful and confident ride. He packed all the months of speculation, rumors, incessant Lance twitters and media fueled rivalry into one 20 minute explosion of anaerobic fury. He’d had enough. And by the finish line, he’d settled all doubts. Kid Contador is now the boss.
There were two first places at stake today at the start of the 2009 Tour de France. 1st in the stage and first within your own team. Alberto got his.