Contador wary of Armstrong threat
Lance Armstrong's final Tour de France will begin in Rotterdam today -- and the favourite for the race is taking the seven-time champion's bid for an eighth title seriously.
Armstrong, who will be 39 in September, announced via Twitter earlier this week that the 97th Tour de France will be his last.
However, reigning champion Alberto Contador believes Armstrong is capable of winning an eighth Tour -- five years after his last triumph -- and derailing his own bid for a third yellow jersey in four years. Asked whether Armstrong can win, Contador said: "Absolutely and on his own merit. Last year he got third place and this year he is riding at a good level."
Contador and Armstrong were team-mates 12 months ago and endured a fractious relationship, with the Texan taking many of the Astana colleagues with him when he established Team RadioShack.
Asked about the extent of his relationship with Armstrong, Contador added: "The truth is that we have no relationship at all, but I respect him as a great rider and champion."
As they now ride for different teams, the Armstrong-Contador relationship will likely be explored less over the 3,642 km of riding through Holland, Belgium and France, although their rivalry for the title could be just as compelling.
Being favourite does not sit comfortably with Contador.
"It is a year in which everyone appoints you as the clear favourite and this is a handicap. And any time you fail, people will be there to exploit it," he said.
Nicolas Roche is off ninth last at 5.24 today.