Tuesday was an exciting day in the Tour de France. Lance Armstrong and his team, Astana, won the team time trail stage of the race. While Armstrong did not take the Maillot Jaune (Yellow Jersey), he is less then a second out of the lead. Meanwhile the team time trail left fellow Astana team members, Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden and Californian Levi Leipheimer in third through fifth place overall, respectively. Astana is a professional road bicycle racing team sponsored by the Astana group, a coalition of state-owned companies from Kazakhstan and named after its capital city Astana.
Tuesday’s time trail was marked with high speeds, narrow streets and lots of crashes. The Swiss rider still in the lead, at least by the narrowest of margins, quipped, “That is the beauty of Swiss timing.” On Team Astana, the younger Contador is the leader of the team and as such is the nominal candidate to wear that team’s yellow. Apparently, Armstrong is not just in the race for his health.
In Monday’s race, both Armstrong and Contador joined a breakaway and both benefited from their decision. This early in the race such an outstanding performance from Armstrong is different from his previous seven Tour de France won races. He always competed hard in the time trail stages and always did well, but usually in the first week’s road race stages he just hung with the peleton, waiting for the mountains.
His attack on Monday is different and is also indicative of his position within Astana. Formerly, he was always the team leader and as such commanded the team’s support. There are definitely some interesting power dynamics going on within Team Astana. Who will lead the team to victory? Friday is the first mountain stage of the race. It is in the Pyrenees. It will be an interesting race.