Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Cycling [Print without images]

Friday, December 11, 2009
Contador admits Astana weaker

Associated Press

PISA, Italy -- Tour de France winner Alberto Contador admits his Astana team is weaker with Lance Armstrong's departure and the exodus of riders who followed the Texan to RadioShack.

"I know that right now we're not at the level of Armstrong's RadioShack [team], but the atmosphere is great and the desire to work hard is there," Contador said at a preseason training camp Friday, according to the Gazzetta dello Sport's Web site. "Let's discuss it again in a few months."

Contador wasn't interested in rehashing his intrasquad rivalry with Armstrong.

"I'm focused only on 2010. The past is past," he said. "I'm not interested in the polemics."

Of Astana's nine-man team at this year's Tour, eight left for Armstrong's new RadioShack squad. Contador's team includes Alexander Vinokourov, who is back from a two-year doping ban, and 2006 Tour de France winner Oscar Pereiro.

Armstrong's top teammates include Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloeden.

Contador said Andy Schleck was the "one who made me sweat the most. But I'm going to keep an eye on Leipheimer."

Former Astana team director Johan Bruyneel also moved on to RadioShack, and Contador did not appreciate how Bruyneel and Armstrong plotted their new team throughout last season.

The Spaniard said he would prefer a transfer system similar to that in European club soccer, where teams pay transfer fees to acquire players.

Contador said he would make his 2010 debut by attempting to defend his title at the Tour of Algarve in Portugal in February.