The role of the domestique is one of those puzzling time-honored vagaries which run through the seam of professional cycling. The concept of sporting self-sacrifice is one that is either resoundingly noble or mildly unsavory, depending on your view of the ideal of athletic competition.
The life of a domestique can be thankless, an existence out of the spotlight, carrying water bottles for, operating subserviently to and shielding the wind from a colleague who will claim all the glory.
Lance Armstrong claims to have embraced the role in the second half of this year's Tour de France, happy to play second fiddle to Alberto Contador once it was apparent that his Spanish teammate was the strongest man in the Astana squad.
Yet while Armstrong appears to have given up his own chances of victory he has not, and will not, ever be considered be a typically unheralded teammate.
For a start, it is now clear that Armstrong was not ready to win this year in any case, with 42 months of inactivity and a broken collarbone in training having taken the snap out of his legs.
Furthermore, no one doubts who's the boss, even with Contador holding the yellow jersey and being a favorite to reach Paris on top.
Contador's brilliant win in the Stage 18 time trial around Annecy was overshadowed Thursday by the announcement of Armstrong's 2010 plans, with the 37-year-old breaking away from Astana to launch a new team backed by RadioShack that quickly changes the face of next year's Tour.
Plans for what is effectively Team Armstrong have clearly been well underway for some time and offer conclusive proof that the Texan is not prepared to drift into retirement without having a good crack winning an eighth title.
Armstrong's wish to promote his cancer charity is a genuine one, and he knows the best way to generate maximum leverage is by winning. Realistically, the only chance he has to do so is with the support of a superstar team, which is expected to be directed by his old friend and current Astana director Johan Bruyneel. The building starts now.
However, there will be none of the friction that was prevalent this time around, when the idea of joint leaders in Armstrong and Contador failed to function from the beginning.
In 2010 Armstrong is going to be the lead man and will have a backup squad of his own preferred riders around him.
The RadioShack effort will have a budget expected to be in excess of all its rivals, even that of Astana, which was able to drastically outgun all its competitors this year.
That means a quality-packed contingent will be detailed to get Armstrong over the line in first place, ahead of younger men like Contador and the Schleck brothers, Frank and Andy.
Levi Leipheimer is likely to move across from Astana, while longtime colleague George Hincapie could be recruited from Columbia Highroad. Other established riders such as Bradley Wiggins, Andreas Kloeden and Chris Horner are expected to be enlisted.
It will be a crew that Armstrong and Bruyneel can trust and there will be no split loyalties this time.
Such an arrangement does not guarantee success and Contador in particular will be a huge threat. However, Contador will likely be part of a much-weakened team.
Either he will see out his contract with Astana, where he could face a battle for team leadership from returning Kazakhstan star Alexandre Vinokourov, or complete a move to the Caisse d'Epargne team – one which would offer him a blockbuster contract but diminished support.
Armstrong and Contador will be back on their bikes Friday, entering the final days before their relationship alters from colleagues to firm rivals.
But will anyone notice the difference?