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Old 07-04-09, 10:40 PM   #1
Howzit
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OK, Astana Team Tactics, Lets take a stab and their complicated situation

Basically Im torn. Astana clearly has the strongest team, but for the love of cycling, how on earth are they going to have any tactics. I think as strong as they are, the double edge sword is perhaps their peril.

Here is what Im looking at:

I think the Scleck bros are going to complicate things for Astana.
They (Schlecks) will leech onto yellow jersey (Contador or LA), and maybe Levi might attack for bait/tactics. Maybe no one chases, and Levi takes yellow. Then, he might manage to hold yellow because Scleck bros, Menchov, Cadel and others keep marking Contador (as favorite to win for Astana). Throw in attacks from Sastre, and then Menchov might have a few goes. This still leaves LA wondering if he should try something or not.

I think that Astana has big issues. If they send a man up to bait other contenders, the bait might actually get yellow. With no clear leader, they may try to protect the jersey if say LA has it. Contador wont work for LA because he would want to gain time INCASE LA doesnt get enough time, and believes/thinks LA isnt strong enough to keep it (security). Contador may then attack to ride his own Tour, or "earn" the jersey himself. I cant see him towing LA around the mountains if he feels stronger. This might provide a carrot for someone like Sastre who can explode away from someone like Levi. Levi might then work for LA chasing Sastre, but then LA might blow, following Levi's wheel. Levi will then have to make a choice to wait for LA (in yellow) or take it as a sign that he isnt strong enough to win, and leave LA to chase Sastre himself. Contador might be ahead trying to gain himself time, while Sclecks are locked on Levi's wheel. Levi might then try to drop Sclecks without success, which means he may not be able to put in effort because this would bring Sclecks back to Contador. Throw in Cadel in there somewhere trying to make his bid.

Which ever way you slice it, Astana is going to have to believe who ever gets yellow is able to keep it, be it LA, Contador or Levi. I just cant see Contador towing LA up climb after climb like "big-george" used to.

Whats your take?

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Old 07-04-09, 10:54 PM   #2
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The other way is, basically Astana has a man to cover every other team's team leader.
So if Sclecks go, they send Levi with them, If Cadel goes, they send LA with him, if Sastre goes, they send Contador. Astana just has to sit back and have their main guys cover attacks from a different team.
The problem with this is, if Astana has yellow, they leave him isolated. I think there are just too many strong guys both on the same team and on others to have a "big Astana train" like LA used to have with his mules for US Postal. Their own train might be so strong, it might blow themselves up (yellow) while the other teams like Sclecks are able to hang on.
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Old 07-04-09, 11:05 PM   #3
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The only real wild card, they way i see it, is if Lance's mind will get aligned with his (38 year old) legs. He's not going to win, and the sooner he comes to terms with that, the better off the team.

The other "superdomestic" riders on Astana (Levi, Kloden) have shown they know how to place high on gc while STILL riding for another man. Those two will fall in line no problem.

If nothing else, Astana will crush the TTT and have some buffer with which to figure out their tactics in the mountains.
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Old 07-04-09, 11:29 PM   #4
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i'm sorry, i know many think the schlecks are the greatest thing since the rear derailleur but they
are marked men now. what exactly have they done since becoming just that? frank had his two spring
classic wins & alpe d'huez. andy had a podium finish in the giro. those are all fantastic achievements.
since those, however, i don't recall them doing anything other than being decoys/domestiques. they lost
some time on stage one. may regain said lost time on ttt stage 4. the big 40 km itt around the lake near
the end of the tdf will likely see them losing 2+ minutes to all the big contenders.
either will have to go on a looong breakaway a la pantani/rasmussen/chiappucci to end upon the podium
due to their relative tt weakness (compared to the top gc contenders).

can they affect/animate the race? of course. are they to be considered for the podium? don't see it until
they improve their tt abilities and the old guard (sastre, armstrong, levi, kloden, et al.) retire.
contador has become a top ten time trial guy in 2+years and retained his
explosiveness in the mountains. haven't seen measurable improvement (regardless of what bjarne says)
from the bros so the schlecks are likely to be the new poulidor/ullrich until they improve in that
discipline. they have fewer "bullets" to shoot than contador or even kreuziger. if you're decent/good at everything,
the greater your opportunities to press advantages/regain lost time.
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Old 07-05-09, 02:33 AM   #5
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The interesting question will be whether or not Armstrong will attack in the mountains especially if Contador is higher up on GC.
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Old 07-05-09, 03:47 AM   #6
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i'm sorry, i know many think the schlecks are the greatest thing since the rear derailleur but they
are marked men now. what exactly have they done since becoming just that? frank had his two spring
classic wins & alpe d'huez. andy had a podium finish in the giro. those are all fantastic achievements.
since those, however, i don't recall them doing anything other than being decoys/domestiques........
What the Sclecks seem to be good at is sticking on wheels no matter what happens. Attack after attack, even if they get dropped, they re-attach themselves to wheels like limpets.
If people like Sastre, Cadel and Menchov are making their moves, Sclecks are really good at sticking on. They will certainly stick to the main Groupo of leaders thats for sure. With such a sticking-to-wheel skill, any day one of the big boys have a bad day, (like Levi did in the Giro) the Sclecks all of a sudden become a very big problem.
Give a few days in the mountains of their wheel sticking, they would end up really high up. The Podium spot is a good example.
The main problem with them is that they may indirectly offer a helping hand to other teams. They lack explosive attacks that can be sustained, but may very well launch someone like Sastre into one, or drag Satre up to someone else.

You'r right tho, the Time Trials, both team and individual should see them losing time.
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Old 07-05-09, 04:54 AM   #7
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There are only about 4 stages outside the TTT that any of the "real" contenders have to work with. The first, i believe, is next Friday ending with a mountain top finnish. Saxo Bank has until then to strut the yellow. Most of the "pretenders", to quote Jackson Brown, will be weeded out on that day including the Sclecks.
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Old 07-05-09, 06:27 AM   #8
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I think the real battle between Armstrong and "everybody-in-the-bike-race" is going to be secondary to the potential one between Kloden and Contador. I just cannot see Kloden being a domestique here. Armstrong is not going to win this race, no matter how inflated his ego gets. The smart rider out there is going to be the one who figures out how to capitalize on the infighting. Menchov? Too tired from the Giro. Kreuziger? Hmmm, maybe a wild card.
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Old 07-05-09, 10:23 AM   #9
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Most of the "pretenders" ... will be weeded out on that day including the Sclecks.
Dream on!
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Old 07-05-09, 10:32 AM   #10
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Just another tool in the box.

Mark my words. This whole idea that there is some type of rift over who is the true leader of Team Astana is just another race tactic. Armstrong is using his popularity & fame to fuel this crazy idea & is thus keeping all media blitz away from Contador. It a perfect play of the media! The media invents this controversy so Astana lets them run with it. Contador rests, Armstrong greets the reporters, Perfect!
Remember years ago when Paul & Phil commented "Armstrong was having a bad day" at the back of the pack. The team played that like a fiddle. Same thing here.
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Old 07-05-09, 10:59 AM   #11
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Regarding the "Astana's tearing itself apart" story - my experience with mainstream European media puts them on the level of the National Enquirer. Plus, ego be damned, Lance is a professional who knows how things work. He's not going to hurt the team's chances just to take a long shot of his own.

I regard this as a non-story. But it sells papers. And, in the absence of doping allegations, it's the best story the media's got.
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Old 07-05-09, 12:00 PM   #12
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I think Lance got a big helping of reality in stage one. Even if he thought he could
ride at the same level he did the reality is that he can't. In that sense I think Astana is
perfect in playing up the whole Lance vs Alberto scenario, it keeps everyone else guessing.
The only rider on Astana who can match Sastre's climbing (and explosiveness on climbs) is
Contador.
The only stage I'm not sure of is Ventoux, Lance wants that one too much, I Contador has a comfortable margin ( over say 5 minutes on Lance) than watch Johan let Lance loose.
If it's closer than that it's going to be very interesting, atmo.

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Old 07-05-09, 04:44 PM   #13
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Y'know, not really seeing Levi as a serious contender here. He's not aggressive enough, so it's not like he's going to attack on a mountain stage and force someone to chase him down. Kloden seems a bit of an unknown, very good in the TT but at least for me, he hasn't registered as a major force in awhile; certainly doesn't seem likely to seize the mantle of "team captain" any time soon.

And obviously the other teams won't lift a finger once Astana takes yellow. Contador is a great rider, but in the 07 Tour he was in 2nd place most of the time, and had little prep time for the 08 Giro; now he's a marked man.

The real question is if all that power will line up behind Contador and really work for him. The TTT might give a clue, but I'm seeing some potential issues -- e.g. if Contador is in yellow, runs into a problem, Levi and/or Lance and/or Kloden are ahead of him on a mountain stage, and Brunyeel orders them to slow down and help him -- will they do it?

There is also the chance that the team really is backing Contador, and letting Lance play up the "I'm here to win" a) to assuage his ego and b) scare the bejesus out of the other teams anyway.
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Old 07-05-09, 05:15 PM   #14
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remember there is no cap on the amount of time a team can lose in the ttt.

Which team had 4 in the top ten for the first tt?

hint it wasn't sastre's and schlecks
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Old 07-05-09, 06:06 PM   #15
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merged threads with same basic topic.
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Old 07-05-09, 06:19 PM   #16
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The only tactics that Astana will need for the first few stages is to keep their GC guys safe at the front and their domestiques fresh enough so they can use them in the mountains. That is the smartest card to play. So I would not expect any surprising moves from Astana in the flatter early stages.
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Old 07-05-09, 06:59 PM   #17
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Astana has so many cards to play in the mountains it is entirely possible to send a different rider up the road everyday, basically rotating the yellow jersey around the team. The problem comes on the flats, once they have the jersey, where they appear to be a little thin if they try to keep 4 climbers relatively fresh. In the end it will be the strongest rider the last week of the Tour that will lead Astana. What happened yesterday doesn't settle anything.
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Old 07-05-09, 07:54 PM   #18
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Astana has so many cards to play in the mountains it is entirely possible to send a different rider up the road everyday, basically rotating the yellow jersey around the team....
Nice thought, but I don't see it.

• Levi doesn't have it in him to smoke everyone else on the mountains.
• It's rather unlikely that Armstrong could take the MJ, even if he had the entire team working for him.
• Contador would flip out if Armstrong gets the MJ.
• Both Contador and Armstrong would have zero interest in "rotating out" the MJ to anyone else.
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Old 07-05-09, 08:03 PM   #19
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Nice thought, but I don't see it.

• Levi doesn't have it in him to smoke everyone else on the mountains.
• It's rather unlikely that Armstrong could take the MJ, even if he had the entire team working for him.
• Contador would flip out if Armstrong gets the MJ.
• Both Contador and Armstrong would have zero interest in "rotating out" the MJ to anyone else.
While I agree it will not be a planned tactic, the race may dictate Astana send riders off the front to make other teams chase, or not. I guess it all depends on how the race plays out but Astana has options regardless.
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Old 07-05-09, 08:12 PM   #20
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Actually I find that with the talent on the Astana team they could very possibly sweep the podium 1,2, and 3.

Now that would be amazing.
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Old 07-05-09, 08:30 PM   #21
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The whole purpose of tactics is to wear others out or to get them to make a costly error in judgement. When you have a team so strong you don't have to resort to the same games. All that is necessary is to ride strong day after day and not crash. For most riders a grand tour is a race of selection and attrition.

If Astana can stay in the game near the front for the first two weeks and do well in the TTT and ITT. They have all kinds of cards to play in the last mountain stages. The real issue as I see it is if Armstrong, Contador, Levi and Kloden can work together and stay together as a group up till the final few kilometers of the big mountain stages. If they can do this, attacks by other team riders aren't going to mean much.

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Old 07-05-09, 09:40 PM   #22
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The only stage I'm not sure of is Ventoux, Lance wants that one too much, I Contador has a comfortable margin ( over say 5 minutes on Lance) than watch Johan let Lance loose.

Marty
Good point about Ventoux. Thats the only famous tour climb armstrong hasn't won on, so I'm sure he'll be gunning for a stage win there if nothing else.

I don't buy so much the argument that Astana is trying to manipulate the media around Lance to divert attention from Contador. Every racer worth his bike is going to check Contador, whether or not Lance is there. What the media (especial Vs.) says and what the peloton knows/does will always be two different things.
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Old 07-06-09, 12:22 AM   #23
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Good point about Ventoux. Thats the only famous tour climb armstrong hasn't won on, so I'm sure he'll be gunning for a stage win there if nothing else.
I dont think that monkey has the strength this year to do anything special. He is an old man who now has a disease of wanting attention, just like all the other old farts still trying to hang onto years of yeaster-year

I do hope he goes for it though, it will make the race very interesting.
I wonder, if Lance tries his attacks, and it happens to be one of those days, when there are counter attacks and no one seems to be able to drop anyone else, and he blows, real bad, im talking maybe loses 8 min by the finish, if he will abandon?
What u guys think?
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Old 07-06-09, 04:31 AM   #24
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I think there is a real risk of trying to keep too many riders in contention and tiring out your support riders. You have to know when to pull the plug (if you need to) and throw all support behind one rider.

Having said that it must cause fits for other teams to have to cover four guys.
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Old 07-06-09, 01:02 PM   #25
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I think the story line about "no clear leader" is a case of confusing this team with teams of old. There is more than one way to skin a cat, and if you have four guys capable of winning the GC, you don't actually have to defend much at all.

This is different than those teams that have no clear leader because they have no clear contender for any of the jerseys on offer. Astana is clearly gunning right at the GC, and they don't need the "defend at all cost" strategies, because they have options.

Think of it this way in the microcosm of a small breakaway up a climb. If Astana has two GC favorites there and two back, then they don't have to worry at all about driving the pace of the break. A rival team attacks, one of the GC guys goes with. It's brought back, another attack, and the other GC guy goes with. They don't have to attack or drive. They can just sit on and clean up at the finish.

This could actually lead to a very exciting tour, because Astana can now afford to send some of the GC guys on the attack. How often have you seen that? We might actually see a yellow jersey solo attack in the mountains, because of the strength of the Astana squad. Say Lance ends up as the race leader. If Contador is stronger, then he doesn't just sit there and ride for Lance. And if the team wants Contador in the yellow, not Lance, you don't just let someone come and take it. Have Yellow Jersey Lance go off in the break. Force the other teams to chase. You have a situation where, whoever has the yellow, Astana doesn't have to ride at the front at all.
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