Contador says strength of mind is what made the difference in the 2012 Vuelta a España
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Sunday, September 09, 2012

Contador says strength of mind is what made the difference in the 2012 Vuelta a España

by VeloNation Press at 6:56 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
 

Alberto ContadorHaving tried, and failed repeatedly to take the red jersey from Joaquim Rodriguez and then finally succeeding with an unexpected, unorthodox attack far from the finish on Wednesday’s stage to Fuente Dé, Alberto Contador has said his stubbornness is a big part of the reason for his final Vuelta victory.

“My willpower and my non-conformism are part of my way to approach the competition, which is fighting for winning,” he said. “After the second rest day, I realized how complicated it was to take the red jersey but at the same time, I believed in the few remaining options. Had I not been confident in myself, I wouldn’t have attacked on the way to Fuente Dé and I would have just been content with the second place overall.”

While Contador has dominated Grand Tours in the past, winning the 2009 Tour and the 2011 Giro with relative ease [note – he later lost the latter title due to his 2010 positive test for Clenbuterol], he has had to dig deep in other races. His 2007 Tour title, his 2008 Giro and Vuelta victories and that ill-fated 2010 Tour could all have gone to other riders, but he ultimately came out on top on the final podium at the end of three weeks.

Contador has won races on strength of mind rather than body, a fear of losing driving him onwards to try to come out best. It was the same on this occasion; he attacked continuously, refusing to accept second place even though Rodriguez appeared certain to prevail.

“At the end of the day, it’s been about the same at every Grand Tour I’ve won. ‘Purito’ was very strong,” he said of his big rival this time round. “In our duels on steep climbs, he attacked and distanced me but I’ve had other difficulties to win Grand Tours in the past. I remember the closing time trial of the 2007 Tour de France, the uphill time trial of the 2008 Giro d’Italia or that same year the Vuelta in which I had to beat Levi Leipheimer.

“To win a Grand Tour is always difficult. People don’t realize how much it costs to win. I haven’t always been at my best level during these three weeks of racing. I might have suffered being away from competing during six months. I knew that I’d be the favourite and the man to beat when I came to the Vuelta, even though I had this disadvantage of the lack of racing compared to my challengers. I was prepared for suffering but it’s been hard, really!”

Contador’s victory has produced mixed reactions. There are some who are unhappy to see a rider who was given a doping ban return and win again; others who feel he served his suspension, and deserves the right to a fresh start. A third line of thought, held by some of his fans, is that his positive test was accidental and didn’t warrant punishment.

In short, each of those who watched the Vuelta will have their own thoughts about the result.

Contador faced six months away plus the loss of his victories since the 2010 Tour. His win on Wednesday was his first official success since the Alpe d’Huez stage of the 2010 Critérium du Dauphiné, and his overall success is his first official Grand Tour win since the 2009 Tour.

“It’s been a different victory than the others,” he admits. “It gives an even better taste in the mouth. In my career, I don’t remember anything more emotional than what I felt in Fuente Dé. Or maybe in Australia,” he added, talking about his 2005 stage win at the Satos Tour Down Under, which came the season after he collapsed with a brain condition during the Vuelta Asturias.

“I’m delighted but I’ve had a hard time. I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself but the feeling of relief is there now,” he continued. “I realize that we have contested a very good Vuelta and delivered a spectacle that has been very beneficial for our sport of cycling. All we hear is that people have been passionate about the race for the past three weeks.”

Contador is likely to continue onwards and dispute this year’s world road race championships. Further ahead, he surprisingly wouldn’t be drawn on whether he would target next year’s Tour de France, a goal most feel will be his primary target.

“Let’s enjoy Madrid 2012 for now. For next year, I don’t know my race program yet,” he said. “The Tour de France is of course a possibility, but I first want to know the courses of the different races to choose the best schedule for my characteristics.”

The Tour route is yet to be announced, but is rumoured to be a far hillier one than this year. On that basis, he’ll be there, taking on the other top GC contenders in trying to net his third French win and sixth Grand Tour in all.

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