Astana, Tour de France 2009, team presentation, Monaco

Former Tour de France winner Pedro Delgado has criticised Astana for collaborating in the stage three echelon that saw Lance Armstrong gain 41 seconds on team-mate Alberto Contador.

"It’s one thing for Armstrong to be in the front group - that was where he should have been, and all credit to him,” Delgado told Cycling Weekly. "But at the same time, Astana working on the front like that risks dividing the squad, and for minimal gains."

"All Armstrong got was about 10 seconds more than he would have if he sat back and let Columbia-HTC do all the work. And nobody could have criticised him."

Although Contador has remained tight-lipped on the subject, Delgado believes the divisions in the Astana squad now have the potential to widen much further following the decision to collaborate with Columbia-HTC. "What can Armstrong say now if Contador attacks and drops him on the climb to Andorra? Nothing at all."

"And if Contador drops him on the Tourmalet, the gaps could be really big. Three or four minutes. In my opinion, strategicaly Armstrong’s taken a small advantage, but the team could pay a big price later."

Amongst the Spanish media, the Armstrong and Astana manoeuvre was not seen favourably either. "It’s war in Astana" was the headline on leading sports daily MARCA's website on Tuesday.

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