Toward Peace and Love Within Team Astana

06.24.2009 | 5:49 pm

The Tour de France (TdF) is approaching, more and more rapidly. Seriously, it’s approaching increasingly rapidly. The Doppler effect is as undeniable as it is distressing. And as the TdF approaches (at a very alarming rate), I am resuming my annual tradition of getting wound up about the Tour.

And I would like you to now get wound up with me.

Today’s topic for wound-uppedness is General Classification riders (GC), the guys in the race who hope to stand on the podium at the end of the Tour. GC racers are protected by their teammates, given assistance at critical stages of the race so that they can finish the Tour in the least time possible. In order for a GC racer to do well, the rest of the team must often be willing to sacrifice personal glory — the winning of a stage or improving their time by joining a breakaway, for example.

A cohesive team is crucial to the success of a GC rider in the Tour. With that in mind, here are some GC racers you’ll want to keep your eye on this year:

  • Lance Armstrong
  • Andreas Kloden
  • Alberto Contador
  • Levi Leipheimer

There is, alas, something very peculiar about this list I would like to point out to you: all four of these riders are on the same team!

Yes, I know. It made me do a double-take too. Frankly, I was so freaked out yesterday when I noticed this for the first time that I quickly Twittered a note to Johan Bruyneel, the full text of which I hereby relay to you:

Hey, just noticed you have four top GC guys in your TdF lineup. D’oh!!!1ONE!!

I’m expecting his tweeted reply, but wouldn’t be surprised if it takes him a while, because now that he knows, I’ll bet anything that he is scrambling for a solution.

Disharmony On the Postal Discovery Astana Bus

Thinking I’d better take my discovery all the way to the top, I started composing a tweet to Lance himself, the thrust of which was the fact that there were three other guys on the same team as him, each likely with TdF aspirations of his own.

Except Levi, of course. Levi’s used to this kind of thing.

But then, after finishing the third draft of my tweet to Lance (when you tweet Lance, you want to make darn sure you get it just right), I took a break and did a little reading at one of my favorite blogs — Joe Lindsey’s Boulder Report on And yes, it really is one of my favorte blogs, and it does not bother me even a little bit that Lindsey blogrolls Bike Snob NYC, but not me. After all, they’re coworkers. And it also does not bother me that Lindsey blogrolls Trust but Verify but not me, even though Trust But Verify has been inactive for half a year. Why would that bother me?

I’m sorry, I seem to have lost the thread of my post. Give me a moment. OK, there we are.

In his very excellent blog (in spite of the absence of certain very popular and award-winning cycling blogs in his blogroll, as if were perhaps too good to link to aforementioned very popular and award winning cycling blog), Lindsey dishes a scoop that is as earth-shattering as it is stunning:

Astana is far from a cohesive unit. Although the strongest team in the race on paper, with Armstrong, Contador, Leipheimer and Andreas Kloden all confirmed to start, their internal divisions could fracture the team and cost them the Tour de France.

Internal divisions? Internal divisions?! This must end. Now. Team Astana needs to be functioning like a well-oiled machine (but not too much oil, or the rear derailleur will get all gummed up), not like a bunch of squabbling children. Or — perhaps more accurately — like squabbling professional athletes, one of which is the most accomplished grand tour racer in a generation, another of which is a 3x grand tour winner at the very top of his game, and the other two of which are TdF podium alumni with aspirations of their own.

Not only is it impossible for all four of these guys from the same team win the TdF, these four guys from the same team can’t all even get on the podium.

Gee, why can’t they simply get along?

Well, they’re going to have to. And I’m just the right person to help.

In other words, I am finally getting to the bullet list that was the point of this post in the first place. Given the opportunity, it turns out that I can be incredibly long-winded.

Techniques for Resolving Inter-Team Strife

The two methods currently being entertained by the Astana GC racers to determine who will be The Chosen One during the Tour de France are as follows:

  1. The Sullen Transfer: Lindsey’s (tragically misblogrolled) article notes that Contador was considering making the jump to Garmin-Slipstream. Which I have to admit would be totally awesome, but only if he makes the jump right in the middle of the race. Picture it: he’s riding along as if he’s in support of Lance. Contador’s leading Armstrong up a steep mountain pass. All’s well with the world. And then suddenly — BAM! — Contador rips off his Astana jersey (which has been pre-perforated for easy tearing) to reveal a Garmin-Slipstream jersey! Suddenly, Armstrong’s domestique is his rival! The pandemonium is so complete that Phil Liggett makes up a new quirky metaphor featuring a chameleon and carry-on luggage on the spot.
  2. The Slug It Out At Game Time Method: The racers can simply attack each other over and over during the race itself, letting attrition choose the ultimate winner. While this would make potentially the most awesome television ever, it’s also theoretically possible that some other team might take advantage of the wasted energy from Astana infighting. Naaah.

The problem with both these coping mechanisms is that they both suck.

Instead, to resolve their team conflicts, I would like to suggest using any — or better yet, some combination — of the following:

  • Jenga Tournament: First guy to knock down the tower’s the bottle carrier. Second guy to knock down the tower gets to wear the yellow jersey, but only for the first half of the Tour. Third guy gets to be the Jenga champ’s lead-out guy (lots of TV time). The Jenga champ gets to be the champ. Unless someone else on a different team is better at Jenga. Or is faster, somehow.
  • Take it to Court: Do it the American way: put it before a judge. I’m going to have to institute a couple of unorthodox rules, though. First, everyone has to represent themselves. This is to keep those who might happen to be very very very very wealthy from bringing in a whole bevy of lawyers. Second, three-day trial limit, and no appeals. Otherwise, there’s no way this thing will be over before the Tour de France begins. In fact, it probably wouldn’t be over before the 2010 Tour begins.
  • Ultimate Fighting Deathmatch. Four GCs enter. One GC leaves (and suddenly there are three new spots open in the Astana TdF roster). Let’s find out which of these guys really has the most fight in him.
  • Pageant: Consisting of eveningwear, bathing suit, congeniality and talent competitions, this pageant will prove once and for all which of these four are just good at riding bikes, and which is truly a contender.
  • Take it to the Limit: Instead of a team consisting of four GC alpha dogs, how about a team featuring nothing but GC riders? Bring in Vande Velde. Sastre and Evans, too. Ask Ulrich and Landis if they’d like another shot at the title. They’ve got time to train. And then try to tell me this wouldn’t be the most awesomely wacky Tour ever.

It took some time, but I managed to condense all these suggestions into 140 characters, which — just to be safe — I sent as a direct tweet to both Johan and Lance.

I will let you know when I hear back.


  1. Comment by bikemike | 06.24.2009 | 5:57 pm

    Schleck (pick one), for the win, Alex.

  2. Comment by Bike Rider Guy | 06.24.2009 | 6:04 pm

    It would be awesome to see Contador do the jersey thing mid race. However whoever is the fastest in the first TT should decide the leader.
    Better yet, the team leader should be whoever gets to the first timecheck in the TT. In theory the winner of the TDF could be decided in the first 4km of racing.

  3. Comment by Jamieson | 06.24.2009 | 6:05 pm

    If nothing else, the soap opera will be good and Bob, Phil and Phil will have found so many ways to rehash this, it will make us hate the show after the first week.

  4. Comment by Triflefat | 06.24.2009 | 6:05 pm

    Ah Fatty, another masterpiece, if somewhat verbose. The highlight for me was the sweet picture you planted in my brain of Phil Liggett verbally conjuring with a chameleon and luggage!

  5. Comment by Michael in TN | 06.24.2009 | 6:20 pm

    The TdF should be very entertaining to watch, if only to watch what happens to Astana.

    As a side note – Alberto has won all 3 grand tours, so

    “another of which is a 2x grand tour winner at the very top of his game,”

    Make that a 3x grand tour winner.

    you’re right. fixed! – FC

  6. Comment by Carly | 06.24.2009 | 6:37 pm


    Visions of Contador ripping off his jersey are still dancing through my head!

  7. Comment by Claire | 06.24.2009 | 6:44 pm

    Two other very reasonable options:

    1. Good old shot gun rules – Each day once all four contenders are within eye shot of the start line the first person to shout shot gun gets to be team champ that day.

    2. Eenie meenie minie moe – Hundreds and Thousands of school kids around the world can’t be wrong. I believe it might just be the way turns have been sorted out since smacking each other with clubs became frowned upon.

    oooh I just thought of a third….they could smack each other with clubs until there is only man one standing.

  8. Comment by graisseux | 06.24.2009 | 6:52 pm

    Tricky situation indeed. In my opinion, Contador is the only one who can attack without looking like a schmuck–having had the most recent grand tour success. Unless it’s perfectly clear that he’s just not strong enough, the other three should just hang with/help him up the mountains (if they can) and let the time trials be their chance at individual glory.

    Of course, Monsieur Prudhomme made Ventoux the penultimate stage rather than the traditional time trial, which makes my solution a bit less workable. However, since Ventoux is the last stage of any import for the GC, they could just duke it out between themselves at that point since conserving energy for the remainder of the Tour would no longer be an issue.

    Jenga would be much simpler.

  9. Comment by Star | 06.24.2009 | 6:58 pm

    Well done Fatty.
    How about a rock-paper-scissors tournement?

  10. Comment by WheelDancer | 06.24.2009 | 7:50 pm

    You are the funniest man on the planet Fatty! I hope you are taking the three weeks off to live blog the whole bloody thing though that will mean I will have to quit my job just to follow along.

  11. Comment by MattC | 06.24.2009 | 7:54 pm

    Another awesome post Fatty, you have me busting a gut! How about they all compete at Rock Star (or team event: Rock Band)??? That seems to be the new way to settle things…plus the Utube video’s of them all DOING Rock-Star would be pretty freaking hilarious! And hey…just consider this…Conti negotiates his trade to be announced IN RIDE with Garmin…but unbeknowist to him, SO DOES Lance, Levi AND Klodi…Alberto rips off his outer jersey going “ah-HA!” Immediately followed by Levi, who says it even louder..then klodi, and finally Lance who has to shout very loud at this point, something like Ah-Ha Ha HA HAAA! (manical Dr. evil laugh at this point)…and then very quickly George Hincape sees the happenings, and not wanting to be left out, rips HIS jersey off, but is now bare-chested as he didn’t get a team change. And so garmin finishes the stage now having 13 guys on the team, (5 GC guys…No pressure for CVV though). And during the VS broadcast, it gets so crazy that Phil rips off Bobke’s shirt in crazed shirt-ripping excitement, while muttering something about a suitcase of pain, while Paul goes crazy trying to keep up with the team changes but the on-road cameras are all watching some french guy taking a nature break and some cows in a field, and not showing the actual racing. Nope…I’m not wound up about the tour at all.

  12. Comment by Dr. Lammler | 06.24.2009 | 8:20 pm

    Very funny and entertaining, Fat Man.

    But totally irrevalent and meaningless.

    The rules clearly state that the winner of this year’s TdF must be French.

    I read that somewhere.

  13. Comment by jason griese | 06.24.2009 | 8:24 pm


  14. Comment by bklyn74 | 06.24.2009 | 8:37 pm

    I think Lance will consider himself lucky if he can even hack being Contador’s domestique.

  15. Comment by Jakub | 06.24.2009 | 9:34 pm

    I`m with bklyn74 here.

    A more likely scenario would be to see Armstrong devastated when Contador rips his shirt off after being pulled by Lance.

    From Astana I hope Leipheimer will be freed and come through.

    Overall, I would love to see Christian VV shine.

    But it is true, Astana will be very interesting to watch. Good lessons for any manager. Where I work we have had teams fail miserably when stacked with top talent (full of ego).

  16. Comment by USAFANARC | 06.24.2009 | 9:38 pm

    How about a Survivor de France and add Jeff Probst to the broadcasting team? Each day, all the teams have to vote someone off. By the end of stage 9, there would only be one guy left on each team. Then it gets interesting…the tribes…er…teams come together to form one team (with a funky French name) and then start voting each other off until there are only two GC left and they race to the finish (wearing their Buffs, of course)!

  17. Comment by duane | 06.24.2009 | 10:20 pm

    Contador rips off the Astana revealing a Slipstream jersey would be cool… but only if Jim Ross is there to say: GOOD GOD! CONTADOR IS WITH ASTANA! Then AC would need to hit Lance with a water bottle (cookie sheet, trash can, Steroid Man… whatever is handy).

    TDF + WWE = ratings bonanza or Rock Racing. You pick.

  18. Comment by Mike | 06.24.2009 | 10:41 pm

    I can see the Team Time Trial taking on an entirely new aspect here. Imagine it, all four of the Astana boys trying to gain time on their so-called team-mates, and not working together. Now that’s exciting TV!

  19. Comment by aussie kev | 06.24.2009 | 10:48 pm

    i love this time of year, your TDF writings are always bang on the money


    allez cadel

  20. Comment by Clydesteve | 06.24.2009 | 10:56 pm

    Greg Lemond would bust into the Jenga Tourney, uninvited, and shout “NOONEN!” when Lance was removing a block. Then accuse Lance of being on drugs, because he was shaky.

  21. Comment by MikeD | 06.24.2009 | 11:15 pm

    Contador’s going to be suspended by the team on the last day for daring to make Lance look like a washed up hack.

  22. Comment by Saso | 06.25.2009 | 1:20 am

    DCs of Saxo Bank and Silence-Lotto teams must be sneakily rubbing their hands and laughing villainously “Bu-ha-ha-ha-ha”.

  23. Comment by Hamish A | 06.25.2009 | 4:22 am

    I’m still not convinced we’ve heard the last of Livestrong / Nike for the TdF this year.

    I’m pulling for Levi. Contador is a great rider, Lance is doing good but I want Levi to get it.

    Whatever happens it should be a very eventful tour and I’m excited about (almost) all of it. I’m just dreading the barrage of Phil & Paul that goes with it.

  24. Comment by Mike Roadie | 06.25.2009 | 5:02 am

    I am “dancing on my pedals” just imagining the possibilities!!


  25. Comment by Rantwick | 06.25.2009 | 8:28 am

    Great post, man. Nobody reads my blog, but I have been proud to feature you on my blogroll from the very beginning! Take THAT, uninformed mis-blogrolling Fatty ignorers! Shame on you.

  26. Comment by Robert | 06.25.2009 | 9:35 am

    I like the court idea, but I’ll take it one step further. Nothing is more American than Judge Judy. She would have that business resolved in about 20 minutes.

  27. Comment by eufemiano fuentes | 06.25.2009 | 9:43 am

    clydesteve – that should read ‘BOONEN’, no?

  28. Comment by Flying Ute | 06.25.2009 | 9:54 am

    Like Lance said yesterday, This is all just a buildup for Leadville!!!

  29. Comment by Uphill Battle | 06.25.2009 | 10:21 am


  30. Comment by Philly Jen | 06.25.2009 | 10:27 am

    I say Levi for Mr. Congeniality.
    (“And yer little dog, too!”)

    Poor Klöden — first it’s Ullrich, then it’s Vino, now it’s just a big ol’ pile-on. (What’s the long, German compound word for “Always getting pushed further back in line”…?)

    I’m good with Contador peeling off his jersey at any time, thanks.

    And if Armstrong doesn’t win, it will be because he is riding the TdF without his secret weapon this time around.

  31. Comment by Kathleen@ForgingAhead | 06.25.2009 | 10:53 am

    Most excellent suggestions…love seeing how your thought process works. Fascinating.

  32. Comment by KanyonKris | 06.25.2009 | 11:08 am

    Team changes during the Tour sucks? I say nay – it would be a highly entertaining new dynamic.

    A pageant makes sense, but legs only – no one wants to see those scrawny upper bodies.

  33. Comment by Clydesteve | 06.25.2009 | 12:14 pm

    eufemiano fuentes – EXcellent correction! HA!

  34. Comment by Bristol_Bull | 06.25.2009 | 1:03 pm

    Fatty posts this at 5.49pm and a mere 14 hours later (possibly – I can’t quite deal with the time changes) Astana are forced into making an announcement – you truly are a mover and shaker of the two-wheeled world…

  35. Comment by axel in texas | 06.25.2009 | 1:10 pm

    It will all get sorted out naturally. It will be like in ‘ten little indians’.
    First one gets hurt in a big stage 1 pile up (that generally is Kloden)
    Second gets dropped on the way to Andorra Arcalis (that might be Levi)
    Third isn’t allowed to follow when fourth attacks (since Contador is too nervous, he will attack first, leaving Lance to hang with Evans…)

  36. Comment by lkb3 | 06.25.2009 | 2:57 pm

    You may be pleased to know that JL has now added you to his blogroll.

  37. Comment by mark | 06.25.2009 | 3:04 pm

    “I’m just dreading the barrage of Phil & Paul that goes with it.”

    Hamish A, it’s time to put down the crack pipe. Did you watch the Giro!? Unless you did, you have no idea how bad cycling commentators can be. Who do you want instead, Al Trautwig and Craig Hummer?

    Paul and Phil are the best English-language cycling commentators in the business. Everyone else is enough to make me turn down the volume on the television.

  38. Comment by Mike Roadie | 06.25.2009 | 3:10 pm

    Hey, Team Austin……..

    We only need $141 more to pass $100K!!

    Let’s do it today! How about sending out some more emails tonight to get us over the top?



    Mike Roadie
    Team Austin Co-Captain

  39. Comment by graisseux | 06.25.2009 | 3:39 pm

    Not only are you now on Joe Lindsey’s blogroll, his blog today says “This report brought to you by the Fat Cyclist” and he’s got a whole section talking about you.

    You may have more superpowers than you realize.

  40. Comment by MattC | 06.25.2009 | 9:43 pm

    Great comments everybody! ClydeSteve, you totally made me spew my beer and busting a gut! The people in the room next door are probably wondering what’s going on over here (I’m in a somewhat shabby hotel, saving all the big buckaroos from my per-diem for bike stuff). Funny stuff everybody! Ahhh…tour time….and the month of July just vanishes before my eyes once again. LOVE THAT DVR is all I can say!

  41. Comment by joe blow | 06.25.2009 | 10:03 pm

    A team with four leaders, four climbing LTs., and a domestique. The Domestique will keel over dead in the first week.

  42. Comment by Hamish A | 06.26.2009 | 10:20 am

    Mark, doesn’t that just reflect on how poorly off we Cycling fans are if Paul & Phil are considered the best? I’ll give them ‘best of a bad bunch’ ;-)

  43. Comment by mark | 06.26.2009 | 2:40 pm

    Hamish A, I like Phil and Paul and don’t think they’re best of a bad bunch. Only rivals they have in any sport or Jon Miller and Joe Morgan in baseball. I don’t, however, like the incessant Lance Armstrong references. Were it not for the LA references, I would listen to Phil and Paul on the radio.


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