Contador offers rival gift

MONTARGIS, France - Reigning Tour de France champion Alberto Contador caused a minor shock at the race yesterday when he paid a visit to the RadioShack team bus of arch-rival Lance Armstrong.

MONTARGIS, France - Reigning Tour de France champion Alberto Contador caused a minor shock at the race yesterday when he paid a visit to the RadioShack team bus of arch-rival Lance Armstrong.

Armstrong is racing his final Tour campaign in a bid to add an eighth yellow jersey to the seven he won consecutively between 1999-2005, though Contador and Andy Schleck of Luxembourg are considered the big favourites.

Contador endured a tense cohabitation with Armstrong when the pair raced the 2009 Tour de France together in the Astana team before they went their separate ways after Contador's second triumph in the race. The Spaniard showed he held no grudges from that episode when he offered a pair of luxury watches to Armstrong and RadioShack team manager Johan Bruyneel.

However, according to reports, Armstrong was either busy signing a start sheet or speaking to the press. It has become a tradition for yellow jersey champions to offer gifts to teammates who helped in their victory campaigns, and American Greg Lemond was one of the first to offer watches in the 1980s. The tradition has spread among other winners of the race. Norwegian Thor Hushovd, a two-time winner of the race's points competition, has offered watches to teammates each time he has won the green jersey.

Ahead of the first big rendezvous for the yellow jersey contenders in the Alps this weekend, Contador lies in ninth place at 1min:40sec behind race leader Fabian Cancellara, who is not a yellow jersey contender.

Armstrong is in 18th place, 50 seconds behind the Spaniard and 2:30 behind Cancellara. - Sapa-AFP

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