The 2009 Tour de France was known as Lance Armstrong's comeback year following his retirement after the 2005 season. However, the event was marked by tension within the team at Astana. Specifically, Alberto Contador and Armstrong butted heads and even had a confrontation on the team bus. The Spanish cycling athlete recently shared details about this incident, as well as others throughout the event.
Speaking with a Spanish YouTuber (per Velo News), Contador shed a light on his rivalry with Armstrong and the mental games that he believes took place in 2009. He talked about meeting with the cyclist in which Armstrong reportedly said that "it would be better" if Contador won the Tour de France. However, the situation changed during Stage 3. Armstrong was in the front group with the rest of team Astana while Contador was stuck in the second group. He was supposed to be the leader but the rest of the team was pulling away. This led to Stage 9 in which Contador did not follow the team instructions and set the stage for the bus confrontation.
"Finally I was on favored terrain, and then they said in a team meeting the night before, 'We are going to race 'tranquilos.' Let's stay all together and when we get to the climb, just ride tempo, and we're not interested in anything else,'" Contador said. "And I was in bed thinking, I've been waiting to arrive at the mountains and [then] explode the race, and now they are telling me to take it easy? Later I went to see a teammate who was a bit neutral and he said, 'Alberto, before you're the one left looking like a fool, let it be him.'"
Contador revealed that he attacked and reached the top alone. This moved him ahead of Armstrong on the GC (general classification), but it also resulted in a confrontation on the bus. According to Contador, Armstrong told the entire team that he had not "respected the tactics of the team."
"I cut him off and said, 'If you want respect, you are the first one who has to show it. You have been disrespecting me and the rest of the team since the beginning of the year.' Then he cuts me off and says, 'OK, Pistolero," Contador continued. "Then there was absolute silence on the bus. Nobody said a word, not the riders, the sport directors, the helpers, and finally someone opened the door of the bus, everyone got out, and it was just Lance and me alone on the bus. He took me to the back room of the bus, which used to be shared among everyone, but since he came back it was his, and he said, 'Don't f— me.' That pushed the tension through the roof."
The issues continued throughout the Tour de France. Contador ultimately secured the victory and donned the yellow jacket despite fully believing that the team was working against him. Armstrong finished third overall before later retiring in 2011. He was ultimately stripped of all seven of his medals after being found guilty of doping for much of his career.
Armstrong has since responded to Contador's allegations, but he did so without adding fuel to the argument. He acknowledged that there has been "some buzz" in the cycling world due to the recent interview. However, he didn't want to comment beyond saying that the best man won.
"The last I checked it's mid-April 2020 and life is always about being forward and it's not reverse or neutral, so I have no desire to go back and try to figure out who picked fights on the bus, who got wheels," Armstrong said in an Instagram video. "It doesn't matter, the best man won the race and it wasn't me. So I'll end it with that."