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  • Thu June 25 2009
  • Posted Jun 25, 2009
PARIS - Astana's Tour de France challenge will be built around 2007 winner Alberto Contador as its leader and not seven-time champion Lance Armstrong. In a glitzy presentation on its Web site, the Kazakh team announced Thursday the two stars will be backed by past Tour podium finishers including Andreas Kloeden of Germany and American Levi Leipheimer. The selection has been widely awaited by cycling fans because it suggests who team manager Johan Bruyneel believes Astana should build its team around for this year's Tour. Bruyneel coached Armstrong and Contador during their Tour wins. Contador, who has five stage wins this season, "has worked very hard, earning the right to represent our team as the leader this July," Bruyneel said on the Web site. Bruyneel said he was "very happy" with Armstrong's form during his comeback season, adding: "I know he is extremely motivated for the Tour de France." Astana, seen as one of the strongest teams this year, had already announced a list of six Tour riders, including Ukrainian Yaroslav Popovych, the 2005 Tour's best young rider, and veteran mountain specialist Haimar Zubeldia of Spain. The three additions Thursday were Dmitriy Muravyev, the only Kazakh rider on the squad and a Tour newcomer; Portugal's Sergio Paulinho — a strong Contador ally; and Gregory Rast of Switzerland. The three-week race starts July 4 in Monaco

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