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Another Way to Look at Astana's Tour Problems

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While looking for what Contador said on his webpage on stage 7 of the Tour, I read the following:

Noval understands that the team is committed to Kazakhstan and needs to include a rider from that country (Muravyev) in the “eight” bound for the Tour. He’s also aware that Bruyneel had a tiff with Lance Armstrong because the latter wanted to insist on including a third American and special helper of his, Chris Horner. Bruyneel did not consent and, feeling duty-bound to the prinicple of fairness, threw out Noval. “I want a more international team,” he said.

“I’m a nervous wreck, because I see that they’re not treating Alberto like the great rider he is. They don’t value him as a Tour winner, because the least they can do is ask him what he needs. I know that he’s very hurt, but what he must do now is forget all about it and concentrate on winning the Tour. It’s the best thing he can do. (Agustí Bernaus,

What I take from here is that while there is definitely a rivalry between the Contador an Armstrong camps, that's not the main problem. Instead you have a team that's so overly obsessed on the Tour de France with practically every rider on the team with that goal foremost in mind, that there just has to be a lot of unhappiness on not being selected.  Bruyneel has tried to find a solution but has left everyone unsatisfied.

Ultimately, as I wrote above, it comes down to the fact that Bruyneel puts way too much emphasis on this one race. I groused several times during the cobbles season that Astana could have quite a good Cobbles team-the individual parts are there-but they just don't focus on it enough to get the results they could. Now we are seeing the flip side-too much emphasis on Grand Tours in general and the Tour in particular and a lot of team members are unhappy. They are wary of the "other faction" but it's more that there are just too many good riders.

Think about it. Last year Astana had a great Grand Tour squad. To that squad they added Armstrong, Zubledia, and Popovych. It's too much of a good thing.  Too much redundancy. Then to aggrivate that redundancy Bruyneel takes the lead of all the riders in placing the Tour on a pedestal way above the Giro and Vuelta so that Leipheimer doesn't prepare properly for the Giro and thus misses out on winning a Grand Tour.

It's crazy. Even after the Tour, when you can exclude several riders who by then will have raced in two Grand Tours, the Vuelta selection for the team easily has more good riders than they can take. They only possible savings grase is that there won;t be much of a Armstrong faction. Still you'll have Contador, Kloden, Horner, Brajkovic, Noval, Navarro, Paulinho, Rubiera, Hernandez, Zubeldia, Vaitkus, Bazayev,at least one Kazah and that's 13 riders already. I could add a couple more worthies. (I look at Bazayev as more than a token Kazakh as he's aquited himself in Grand Tours in the past unlike the other Kazakh's.)

Every team has a rider or two who are no doubt unhappy about missing the Tour.  We talked about Simon Gerrans. There definitely are others. But Astana is so overly focused that any exclusion gets magnified. I actually don;t think that there wil be much of a rivalry on the team at the Tour. I'm not saying Bert and lance will fall in love with each other, but I am saying that they will work for each other. I'm also figuring like I and a bunch of others here have said all year-that Lance won't be able to keep up with Bert and (probably) Levi and the rivalry problem will take care of itself.

But I blame Bruyneel in thinking that there is just one race worth competiting for.  That attitude filters down through Lance and Bert, through Levi and Kloden to Horner, Noval, and to the Kazahs.  It's a shame and a waste.