The history of our sport has some wonderful rivalries, think of Bobet and Coppi, Anquetil and Poulidor (pictured) or Moser and De Vlaminck.
Today we see Contador and Armstrong but for me this contest is not the same. These two are not disputing the biggest races of the calendar, they are disputing the headlines. It’s almost like politics, with each camp simultaneously claiming victory whilst denigrating the other with behind-the-scenes briefings: it’s equally petty and often self-defeating.
Witness the Critérium International, Team Radioshack are already saying Armstrong had a successful weekend and is exactly where his training plan should be, whilst pointing out Contador’s “frailty” and how the Spaniard didn’t meet his goals at the weekend. Meanwhile Astana are saying Contador had a great race and take private satisfaction in seeing Armstrong lose five minutes on a moderately difficult climb.
Objectively both sides look stupid. Contador didn’t fail and if Armstrong is off the pace, well I didn’t him to be a player in the race. Yes rivalries can be all-consuming, you can’t ride hard on the bike and be normal off it but at the same time, the rivalry between Armstrong and Contador isn’t about cycling, it is quite personal and ugly.
I doubt they will let up but they’d do well to remember Oscar Wilde’s view on rivalry: “Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.“