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Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Contador says Armstrong could pose 'difficult' situation on team

ESPN.com news services

MADRID, Spain -- If Lance Armstrong joins the Astana cycling team for his comeback, then Alberto Contador is ready to leave.

"I think I've earned the right to be the leader of a team without having to fight for my place," Contador said Tuesday in Spanish sports publication AS. "And with Armstrong some difficult situations could arise in which the team would put him first and that would hurt me."

Contador, the 2007 Tour de France champion, won the Spanish Vuelta on Sunday.

"My intention is to stay [at Astana] because I have a contract until 2010, but I have already received a good number of offers from other teams," he said.

Armstrong announced this month he is returning to cycling after three years in retirement and would attempt to win the Tour de France an eighth time.

Armstrong is to discuss his comeback Wednesday in New York. Astana would be the logical team for Armstrong to join. Astana team leader Johan Bruyneel was Armstrong's team director for all seven of his Tour victories, and the two are close friends.

Astana spokesman Philippe Maertens declined to comment Tuesday on whether Armstrong would join the team.

"The team will say nothing before Armstrong explains himself," he said.

Bruyneel has said he could not imagine Armstrong riding for anyone else.

"On the basis of what he says, we'll make a decision," said Contador, who, like Armstrong, plans to skip the Italian Giro and Vuelta to concentrate solely on the Tour.

Armstrong has yet to announce which events he'll enter before the Tour. He'll hold a news conference Wednesday during a four-day meeting held by the President Clinton's foundation. Armstrong, who has used his celebrity to raise awareness about the fight against cancer, will address a panel of world leaders earlier in the day.

Contador said he got no help in his Vuelta victory from American teammate Levi Leipheimer, who finished 46 seconds behind the 25-year-old Spanish rider.

"It's not normal that someone working for you finishes less than a minute off in the general standings," Contador said. "If [the next-to-last stage time trial] had been 20 kilometers more, who knows what would have happened."

Leipheimer, in Varese, Italy, for the world championships this week, told ESPN.com's Bonnie D. Ford during a telephone interview Tuesday that after hearing Contador's comments, "in a situation like this, I have to give him the benefit of the doubt."

"My role for him is not the same as [support rider] Benjamin Noval, who spends a lot of time in the wind in the flat stages. On the Angrilu, I broke it up for him so he could go with [Alejandro] Valverde," Leipheimer said. "I'm also there in case of emergency. If the whole team is dropped, I'm there to sacrifice myself and I certainly would have done that. The team was strong enough where they didn't have to use me that way. I did everything the team asked of me. The best I could have done in the Vuelta was second place and I did it thanks to [the support riders]."

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com reporter Bonnie D. Ford was used in this report.