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OPEN LETTER TO ASTANA September 25, 2008

Posted by wetalkhablamos in cycling fans, team astana.

Peace and love to all of our friends in the Astana organization. Thank you for all your labor to bring the public closer to the team. I really mean that.


Have you forgotten the Triple Crown winner? How is it possible that you could give presidence to a one-year cameo appearance by a celebrity!

Lance Armstrong is no longer “in career,” as we say the opera. Yes, he’s back, he’s irresistible. His cancer initiative is a wonderful idea.

But to knock Contador off the front page of the website, and potentially chase him off the team! Not to mention putting Levi and Klodi, Chechu, Benjamin, and the boys all on the back burner…

Please explain.

This blog is a published document. The purpose is for OPEN conversation in an environment supportive of Chechu Rubiera and Alberto Contador. That includes a supportive attitude to their team, Astana.

Criticism, yes. Praise, yes. Love, yes. Tough love, sometimes, yes.

Fans and bona fide team representatives are invited to join this open and above-board conversation.

We love the boys and their team. So tell us, team, tell us all. What are you doing?

Rebecca, a fan



1. Anikó Szász - September 25, 2008

Hi Rebecca,

I have the very same questions and problems as you do! And one more: what have Lance done so far for team Astana? I think nothing! So why does he deserve more attention, than Alberto Contador, who just won his 3rd Grand Tour? It feels that it is not important anymore for the team management!
What I hope, that Lance will make a better marketing, that he came back for representing his fight against cancer as he hasn’t done it well so far! Today his comeback was in the Hungarain news, but it was all about, that he comes back with Team Astana, which had doping scandals last year, and that maybe Lance has used dope during his career, too! So no mention of cancer research, no mention of Alberto Contador who won the Giro and the Vuelta with Astana this year, just Vinokurov who used blood doping! Not a great start in the Hungarian media so far!
So I still think it would be a good idea for Lance to take part in races in coutries, where people know nothing about his fight against cancer, and where there is a real need to improve the fight against cancer! I think this, because he raced for 7 years in France and other countries, so he was able to represnt his opinion well in those countries, an 8th Tour de France wouldn’t help more, than the 7 previous!
What do you think about it?

2. Debbie - September 25, 2008

A part of me agrees with everything that has been said on this subject, but I am trying to look for positives.
Lance haters will still be haters, and Lance lovers with still love him. Nothing he can do will change that. In opposition to the news in Hungary let me tell you about an article I read from New Zealand. A race organizer there is so excited about Lance and Astana coming to Australia that he plans to do everything he can to bring the them to New Zealand. He said he would change the date of the race “at the drop of a hat” to get Lance to come to New Zealand.
Lance will bring a lot of attention to cycling in the US; I know that isn’t important to a lot of people, but it is big to me. The crowds will be bigger and I am hopeful that the Tour de Georgia will be able to get a main sponsor if Lance says he is racing. Otherwise there may not be a Georgia race.
I think there is a lot that Lance can teach the younger riders, including Alberto.
With all that being said, I do believe Alberto deserves to captain Team Astana at the TdF in 2009. Would Lance be willing to ride in support of Alberto at the Tour? If so, I think this could work – Lance could be a SUPER domestique. Lance has said if he is not the best rider, then he doesn’t expect to be the team leader. I believe that everything hinges on Lance’s attitude. If Lance and Johan can convince Alberto that he is not coming in to take over the team then maybe they can co-exist. It is doubtful that at age 37 Lance could climb with Alberto.
I think the way the news came out made it worse-in the middle of Alberto winning the Vuelta. I doubt that was the plan, but the news leaked at a very bad time. My hope is that once again Alberto will show his maturity, not do anything hasty and that Johan can work his magic and keep peace on the team.

3. Anikó Szász - September 25, 2008

Great to hear Debbie, that Lance might go to New Zealand as well besides Australia! He has never raced in that part of the world, so it is a great idea to do so! And thus he can bring his camaign about fighting against cancer with him to that region as well! I still think he should do more races like that, in countries where he hasn’t raced before, and there are a lot of them!

4. Joan P., LMT, CKTP - September 26, 2008

Debbie you have put to words what has been in my thoughts. Yes I can see Lance’s return as a very big boost to cycling in the US (I also hope this will ensure TdG will go on in 2009) but for Alberto and Levi it is kind of a slap in the face. I would love to see Lance in a support role to help Alberto in the Tour. Better yet a Tour podium of Alberto, Levi and Lance would be way cool. OK so I’m dreaming but I want to see Alberto and Levi on the 09 podium of the Tour, sorry but not Lance, he had his glory and now it is time for Alberto.

5. Jelantik - September 26, 2008

I agree with you Debbie that for Lance’s hater, they will still hate Lance and the one who loves him will always love him. I do to love Contador and Lance too. And I don’t think Lance came to Astana to upset the balance. Alberto should see it as an opportunity to learn from the master. How he trains, his input about equipment, his strategy , his diet, mind set etc. Alberto got first seat to see all that. It’s no doubt that Alberto is another legend in the making. If he got a chance to learn from the one who has win the tour 7 times, he should take it. Alberto is in a good hand with Johann Bruyneel. He is the master mind. Alberto can’t win w/o his team and a smart director. And Astana has all that. Lance is old. How long do you think he can ride the bike? Alberto shouldn’t be afraid of that. Even Lance admitted that Alberto is the best rider in the world. So to see Lance try to stack with Alberto should motivate Alberto that he’s the strongest of all. Remember, a leader is not a given, but you have to earn it and you have to born with it to command it.

Alberto should learn how Lance projects his charisma to his team mate. Not just because he is the strongest, because Lance is very smart and he trains really really hard. This should motivate Alberto to be better cyclist.

Moving to another team might be an easy way out because your leadership is a given. Nothing will push you to get better. Look at Cadel Evans, Levi before Astana, Roberto Heras, they’re all all good, but never “that good”. Because none of their team mate are strong enough to push them.

I’m happy for Alberto to win Vuelta Espana. But if we want to be critical, he won with time bonuses. What if there’s no time bonuses? This should be hint for Alberto that he has weakness. Lance and Levi are great time trialist. Maybe Alberto can learn from them how to train to be a better time trialist. Hanging on climbing skill seems not good enough this days. (See Frank Schleck in this year tour).

As far as Chechu, I think we know that he’s back with Astana for one year because not only that Lance asked him to postpone his retirement but also because he wants to ride for his former leader. So what’s that say to you? Even Chechu has a lot of admiration to his former leader that he’s willing to postpone his retirement. Those are the type of leadership quality that Alberto could learn from the Texan. Alberto hasn’t gotten that charisma and impact yet to the team (with all due respect to Alberto’s achievement and I’m not mocking him by any means). I’m not saying that he can’t. But he hasn’t have that type of leadership charisma yet. He is still young and time will tell if not only he is a legend in a making but also a leader with charisma.

On a side note, read Alberto’s comment on Velonews. I think you will be disappointed as I’m because he took a punch on Levi. I think if he is a true champion and a leader with charisma, he wouldn’t be making that comment. That’s why I said that there’s a lot to learn for Alberto. Maybe having 37 year old Texan as his team mate, he could learn something valuable about leadership and respect to your team mate and opponents.

6. Bruno - September 26, 2008

Man i´m almost 100 with you Jelantik. And, dont forget that alberto gave to astana almost the same the team gave to him. The team was 100% with him, offering him one of the most solid squad you could get and denying a virtual leader (levi) the possibility to fight for the final victory. The thing is that all the astana fans are starting to fight when we should feel proud of the team.

7. Anikó Szász - September 26, 2008

I don’t see why does it hurt so much, that Alberto told the truth in that article!? Let’s see:

“I will only say that it’s not normal that someone that is supposed to be working for you finishes less than one minute back in the GC,”

So, Levi wasn’t supposed to be workingfor Alberto, he was a co-leader ready to win as well.

“If Navacerrada had been 20km more, I don’t know what would have happened.”

We all see, that Alberto didn’t have the legs on the Navacerrada,so it would have been Levi who had won the race.

“He pulled a little (at Angliru), but Valverde attacked very early and dropped him,” he said. “It was a delicate situation (at Fuentes de Invierno). If I was alone with Mosquera, I would have let him win, but considering how things were, it was important to take the bonuses.”

No questions, we saw this.

And if you read carefully the article, you go your answer for the time bonus questio as well:

“I wanted that there wouldn’t be bonuses, but there were and I took advantage of them,” he said. “If there weren’t bonuses, I would have raced in another manner anyway.”

8. Bruno - September 26, 2008

the original as article, i had the newspaper on my hands that day, there was a question that said “who´s the most wheelsucker levi or evans (i dont even know if the term exist in english so i just translate) and he then answers: I have to think about it (laughs). Mmm not the nicest thing to say bout your teammate. And today´s interview in marca, is, to say the least, weird. Take a look, i´ll translate it if you want.

9. Debbie - September 26, 2008

It would be great if you could translate that for us Bruno.

I was disappointed in what Alberto said about Levi, but I think right now Alberto feels very threatened by Lance’s return and has become very defensive. This should have been one of the greatest times in his life, but instead he is having to deal with Lance joining the team.

And Jelantik I agree with you about the other teams. It takes more that just talent to win races. You have to have the best teamwork and strategy to win. And we know who is the master in that.

Keeping everyone happy may be the biggest challenge Johan has faced.

10. Anikó Szász - September 26, 2008

Maybe he just didn’t feel that question serious, that is why he laughed! For sure he could say, that it had been a stupid question, or that Levi is just great etc. The truth is we don’t see into his head to know what he really thought when he answered!
Maybe he made a mistake, but I think we can forgive it to him! Especially, that he hurt Levi not us! They are both adult persons, they can sit down and talk the problem over! It is not our task to handle the situation, it is their! So let them woek it out, and let’s take a step into the future, because we can’t change whatever happened in the past with verbal/written fights among eachother!

11. Debbie - September 26, 2008

I agree Aniko. As long as Alberto and Levi are cool, this should be forgotten. And Levi didn’t seem too concerned when asked about it.

12. Rebecca - September 26, 2008

It’s an honor to host this thoughtful discussion on the blog. Please continue.

I would like to restate our original reasons for questioning Astana.

Our protest is for the new introductory page on the Astana website, which has displaced the tribute to the the team’s Vuelta win–to which Chechu was indispensable–and Contador’s Triple Crown win, only four days after the triumph.

The post is not in opposition to Armstrong’s return to cycling, or his signing with Astana.

We Talk/Hablamos, our love of cycling, and our wonderful experience as supporters of Chechu Rubiera and Alberto Contador all stem from our admiration for Lance, and for the inspiration and practical help he has given our families in their experiences fighting cancer.

We have not forgotten.

I personally believe that Armstrong’s return could mean an amazing thing is happening in global cancer awareness, and that professional cycling could bring us closer to curing the disease that killed my father seven weeks ago.

It could be something more beautiful than we could ever have imagined.

13. Debbie - September 26, 2008

Back on topic. I was upset that the entro celebrating Alberto and the team’s Vuelta victory was replaced so soon. I thought it was a very nice tribute to Alberto’s amazing accomplishment and should have been left up there longer.

I hope the Astana management remembers that it was Alberto, Levi, Andreas and the entire current team of riders that brought this honor to Team Astana.

One plus for Alberto. After this initial Alberto vs Lance sensation wears off, a lot of the attention will be on Lance. This could be a blessing for Alberto. Let Lance deal with the media questions.

14. Rebecca - September 26, 2008

Further clarification:

I am REALLY proud of the team. They’re unbelievable.

That’s why I’m critical of the Astana site’s new welcome page. What happened to that animated photo of Chechu riding right off the screen into our faces, riding–as Bruno reported from Angliru–like a beast!! It was fantastic.

I don’t think the news about Lance should force our great guys and their achievement in Spain out of the limelight.

When the gorgeous new page for Lance was designed, it would have been a good idea at least to include photos of Lance with Alberto after last year’s tour, with Chechu and Benjamin when they helped Lance win the Tour. That would have meant a lot.

15. Bruno - September 26, 2008

i was translating the marca article, but bbc got it quicker. Here you go:


he also said that if he needs to go to courts to get out, he will do it.

16. Rebecca - September 26, 2008

Thanks, Bruno. Is the translation reliable?

17. Amy Bush - September 26, 2008

My heart hurts

18. Bruno - September 26, 2008

i think it is. Marca is longer though, i´ll try to fill the spots.

19. Bruno - September 26, 2008

i mean the gaps

20. Anikó Szász - September 26, 2008

I just can understand him if he wants to leave and I will accept his decision!

Back to topic: If it was so important to put up Lance into the intro, I think webdesigner/webmaster could make a combinated intro with Alberto’s and the guy’s sper Vuelta show with Lance’s arrival! Thus everybody could have been happy!

21. chris k - September 27, 2008

As a cycling fan from America, I’m disappointed that Lance is coming back. With LA retired we got a chance to see that there are other cyclist that are really good. Now they are all on the back burner agian.
I cheered for and enjoyed every ride Lance took through France in July. He also have done a incrediable job on the battle against cancer, but it’s time for the next generation of cyclist to shine.

22. Jelantik - September 27, 2008

I think the news about Alberto + Lance and Astana is getting depressing. I was cheering Astana when Alberto won his third grand tour. Now, reading this message board, I got depressed. Because like Bruno said, we as Astana fans are also fighting over the news.

You know what would be great? If Lance actually works for the success for others (Alberto). That – I think would cement his legacy not only as a true a great leader and but also a great champion. Because great champion makes the people around him better. He doesn’t need any more win (been there done that). He has done all that. That’s old news. What he hasn’t done yet is “helping others around him to succeed at TdF”. I’m sure for all the cycling fans that would be a display of unselfishness and would stamp him as a truly a great legend.

back to the web intro – i think they could make the intro rotate randomly. So every time you visit the web, it’ll show either Alberto or Lance randomly. That’s should solve the disappointment of the fans.

23. Nicky - September 27, 2008

Jelantik, I think that’s a great solution to the flash graphic problem and we probably can’t better it here.

I’ll forward your idea to Astana today and hope that it’s technically possible.

The Astana website defended its position well. Reading the press this morning, they have other concerns now.

Thanks to everybody for participating. Fans are a vital part of the support team. These conversations are important.

Just for sceptics, sometimes we dissent, sometimes we praise unreservedly. Either way, no-one can doubt that we care.


24. Anikó Szász - September 27, 2008

I just can’t help to think, that this whole fighting wouldn’t have happened without Lance’s comeback.

25. Jelantik - September 27, 2008

Hi Nicky, it’s possible. I’m an interactive Creative Director and I work with lots of programmer flash and HTML. So, my suggestion is pretty duoble. They just need to write a simple code at the beginning.

Aniko – couldn’t agree more with you… I think this whole think started since the news of Lance’s comeback with Astana. It think if it’s not with Astana, everything would have been fine.

The ironic thing is… either way, next year the news will all be about Lance. If he wins, the press will be all over him. Even if he looses, the press will still be talking about him. My bet is Alberto name will be mention in one sentence even if he wins it since the press will feast with Lance’s defeat news.

26. Nicky - September 27, 2008

Last Monday, I picked up the Spanish newspapers on my way to the airport in Madrid.

Contador was not on the front of ANY paper. Spanish league football and Nadal’s Davis Cup win made big headlines. There was a small photo of Alberto below the fold of the front page of El Pais (I think). Cycling was relegated to the sports section, albeit double page spreads.

So even before Lance returns, Contador doesn’t make the front pages, even in Spain. That’s really sad, but it’s true.

I was really surprised at how few people were at the finale in Madrid. It was busy, sure enough. But we wandered down from our apartment, just before the peloton arrived for the first circuit, and there was plenty, plenty space at the barriers in Plaza del Cibeles.

I have a theory about this, and it’s related to this topic, which is about communications (I’ve almost brought it back to the topic!). The Vuelta wasn’t really interested in the experience of the ordinary fan.

For example, except for the VIPs, no-one could see the live pictures on the tiny, tiny video screen in the huge plaza. The fountain obscured the long view for most people. Then a van parked in the small gap just before the peloton arrived.

There were no giveaways that I could see nor merchandise. Just lots of vehicle fumes from the sponsors’ cars, and there were dozens of them! I’ve got video, I’ll post it next week.

It’s hard not to conclude that cycling (at least in Spain) has a problem engaging with its fans. From race events to team websites. I’d love to hear otherwise. Let us know.

Jelantik, thanks for the update on the flash. I’ve passed the idea on to the appropriate people.


27. Joan, LMT,CKTP - September 27, 2008

This whole thing with Lance seems to have gotten way out of hand. To Alberto, don’t do anything rash, breath deeply and think rationally. Talk with Johann. I don’t believe Lance can compete with you at this stage and if what he wants is to bring attention for Cancer Cures then he is not looking for victories (except over cancer). You are a champion and I cannot picture Astana throwing that away for Lance. Don’t let the media influence you, they want nothing more than controversy so they can sell their newspapers.

As for the Astana web site, I really don’t like this new version. For one thing I am rarely able to get in, it just keeps “loadin”. And I don’t think Lance should be the headline at this time, the Vuelta victory should take presidence over Lance, in fact the guys riding the rest of the season should take center stage as they are the one’s doing the work.

That is just my opinion.

Joan P.

28. Nicky - September 27, 2008

If you’re missing the Vuelta flash intro, click on the Vuelta logo on the bottom left of Astana’s home page.


29. cg - September 28, 2008

Disclaimer – Unapologetic Lance fan here and I couldn’t be more thrilled.
I was (unrealistically) hoping Lance would start his own team but since he didn’t, I think the shake out from this will ultimately be Alberto leaving the team.
Honestly though, I think that would be the best solution — Think about them head-to-head competing in the next Tour vs playing the tedious, internal T-Mobile games of years past.

30. cg - September 28, 2008

And one other point — cycling is a business so of course Astana’s website is going to be all-Lance-all-the-time until he retires again.
While hard core fans know more than just Lance, the public in general (who’ve never been to Astana’s website before last week — or probably the Paceline before that) haven’t even heard of the Vuelta or Alberto or even really Levi if you’re talking about the US market.
On the US front, we’ve had a year of great racing by 2 “new” US teams – i.e., Lance’s successors to the hard core fans that care – so Astana needs to pull the focus back to Lance and away from that group.
Just sayin’ – it’s a sound business decision.

31. Nicky - September 28, 2008

My husband is a competitive cyclist, he trains three or four times a week, rides of 60+ miles. He knows his bike inside out. Last night, I heard roars of excitement as Nicole Cooke took the World Road Race. He just loves cycling, doing it and watching.

He told me he’s not interested in what we’re talking about. For him, it’s not about cycling and until Lance gets on the bike and start pedalling, he’s not interested.

This made me realise that, on Chechu’s website, we haven’t really got close to why Chechu loves cycling and what it’s like for him.

And maybe that is Astana’s big challenge for 2009, talking about cycling when everyone wants to talk about Lance.


32. Roger K. - September 28, 2008

I suggest you take a look at Johan Bruyneel’s current blog entry at http://www.johanbruyneel.com/blog.html .

It should cool some fans’ ruffled feelings, and I believe brings a sense of proportion to the Armstrong/Contador debate.

Also, it pays a handsome tribute to the Vuelta heroes, by name, plus a special mention for Chechu.

Re. the Astana site intro. video, (which I hadn’t picked up till now because I invariariably click on the “skip intro”/”enter site” button),
it’s a great L.A. testimony, but has nothing to do with introducing Team Astana. I suspect it has something to do with Astana’s web people being American and perhaps surfing on the wave of Lance’s announcement and it’s huge media impact worldwide.
But likewise, an intro. centred on any one (or two!) of the team’s outstanding individuals (Alberto, Lance, Johan, Levi or even Chechu) is not my idea of an intro. to a “team”. Let’s avoid personality cults!

My personal dream: Alberto and Lance find a natural modus vivendi, where each manages to fully express his individual talents and achieve his personal goals, while preserving harmony within the team. And I have faith in Johan’s intelligence to achieve this.

33. Jelantik - September 28, 2008

Roger, I think your dream might work (that’s what I hope) or might be too good to be true. If you have been reading Alberto’s comment until yesterday, we can’t help to wonder whether both Alberto and Lance can coexist. (well mostly Alberto.. I think)

And Nicky, I think your husband is right on the money as far as.. it seems that things gotta out of hand with nothing related to cycling yet. Even though, the topic about being the leader on the team sounds more important agenda than any other thing. Or maybe I read this wrong. But that’s what I got from reading Alberto’s comment up until yesterday.

I do hope that Johann can work his magic so Lance and Alberto can co-exist and also for the sake of the team as well. You don’t want to divide the team like T-Mobile squad, with Ulrich, Vinokurov and Kloden.

And you are right. We haven’t talk about Chechu yet. How he feels about this thing. Based on his comment, it sounded that he would also like to see his former team leader back making history? (or maybe I read too much in to it too?). But I wonder with this new development, what he thinks about it. I hope Chechu can help calm down Alberto and provide some wise advise for him to not rushing into any decision. Chechu has been around for a while and he can be a good role model for a young super star like Alberto.

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