It had to look familiar. After all, it came out of the playbook he had used with Johan Brunyeel for all 7 of his Tour de France victories. Either his team or a chasing team would set a high pace at the base of the concluding climb to winnow out the pretenders. Then, at the right moment, his teammates would form a train to lead out, and one by one, they'd redline and fall away like various pieces of a rocket ship, until he'd be alone with his contenders. Then he'd climb out of the saddle and accelerate, and his foes would only be able to watch him float away.
Only this time, it was Lance Armstrong's teammate Alberto Contador who launched off the front, and only after casting some Lance-like backwards glances to read the faces of his opponents, a la Lance's look back at Jan Ullrich in 2001 on L'Alpe d'Huez. For once, Armstrong experienced what his foes experienced time and again the seven years he reigned atop the Tour: redline. Looking at Contador shooting away ahead must have been like seeing a ghost of his younger self.
It wasn't unexpected, that Contador would drop the other shoe today on the climb up Verbier. Still, until this decisive break happened, so many held out hope that Armstrong would pull a rabbit from his hat. But after the race, he couldn't deny what all could see on that last climb, that the strongest man in the race was indeed his teammate Contador. Lance conceded he was now riding for Alberto and that things would be less tense around the team table at dinner that night.
“Today I was definitely missing that required high-end. It would be hard for me to win at this point,