The situation deteriorated into a he-said, he-said conundrum conducted in English, Spanish, and Spanglish. Before stage 8, according to Bill Strickland's excellent new book Tour de Lance, Contador and Armstrong had to be separated from punching each other during an argument about who wasn't following Bruyneel's team instructions. "It was nearly fisticuffs," Strickland quotes Armstrong as saying. Armstrong backpedals some in talking with me, denying that the incident came close to blows, but he doesn't mask his contempt for Contador.
"I've won the Tour seven times," he says. "I've done a lot of things in cycling. But at the end of the day, I listen to Johan; I listen to the director of the team. I don't make up, Oh, my radio didn't work or I didn't understand, I don't speak English. I don't give excuses. I listen to the director, regardless of how many times I won the Tour. That was my only point to Alberto: 'Look, we're all in this together. You've got to follow team orders.' Then he said, 'Well, you're not following team orders.' I was like, Excuse me?"
By the end of the Tour, Armstrong admitted Contador was the better rider, but he got in a last fuck-you. Two days before Contador clinched his second title, Armstrong and Bruyneel announced they were forming a new team the following year with RadioShack. They wound up taking everyone along from the Astana team, except Contador. On the Paris podium, Armstrong and Contador shook hands for a half-second and then didn't make eye contact. "He is a great rider and has completed a great race," Contador said later of his rival, "but it is another thing on a personal level, where I have never had great admiration for him and never will."