Alberto Contador’s Tour de France wheel saga with Lance Armstrong rolls on; Spanish writer contradicts recent claims
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Contador’s Tour wheels saga rolls on; Spanish writer contradicts recent claims

by VeloNation Press at 12:29 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 

More details have emerged about the claim that Alberto Contador paid for his own wheels during the Tour de France, with Marca writer Josu Garai contradicting recent statements by Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel on the matter.

According to Garai, the day before the race start Contador’s mechanic noticed that there were two rear disk wheels which were different to those of the rest of the team. He presumed there was one each for Armstrong and Contador, but Trek’s mechanic said this was not the case. He stated that both were for Armstrong’s use in the Tour, and that they were identical to the other wheels apart from the custom graphic.

“Without wanting to discuss it, the Spanish mechanic took a scales and weighted the wheels, comparing them to the others, then showing the other mechanic that the new wheels weighed approximately 150 grams less than the others,” wrote Garai in his blog. “‘One for Lance and the other for Alberto,’ he [Contador’s mechanic] said, to which the other responded: ‘I have to check that with Armstrong.’”

“Seeing that there was something fishy, Contador’s mechanic told him not to worry. And, after talking with Alberto, it was decided that it was not worth it to get angry so soon – the Tour hadn’t started – but instead to play the same game, and pay for it out of his own pocket, as it were.”

Garai stated that the retail cost of the new wheel was approximately 5000 euro. It arrived just before dinner and the mechanic quickly put tubular glue on it and allowed it to dry overnight. The following morning, the Lightweight-branded wheel was given to the Trek mechanic for him to put Bontrager [Trek’s own wheel brand] transfers on them.

Apart from the weight difference, Garai claims that the new wheel was approximately 30% stiffer and also featured ceramic bearings, which have a lower rolling resistance.

If true, this contradicts statements made by Armstrong and Bruyneel in recent weeks, which either denied that Contador has bought wheels, or said that he had access to the same materials as Armstrong.

The Texan spoke to Het Nieuwsblad at the end of December and was scathing about the issue.

“If you read the Spanish sports daily Marca, there were so many dirty things, unbelievable. Complete bullsh*t, pieces of mucus, fat lies,” he said. “They said we were against him during the Tour. Recently he declared he had no time trial wheels like me during the Tour. Yeah..first, this is not true. Secondly, it is easy to prove. You only have to grab the phone and call the bike manufacturer Trek.

“I understand that the Spanish media take their heroic stand, but it was so untrue what was printed. Come on, at the end of the day as a journalist, you f**king proclaim the truth…”

Bruyneel echoed these sentiments in an online chat with the readers of El Mundo in December. “That’s not right. The truth is I don’t know where that information came from. I can guarantee you that the members of the team, and particularly the team leaders, used the same equipment.”

More recently, he changed his version slightly, confirming to Marca that Contador did indeed buy his own wheels. However he said that there was no difference in what he was supplied by the team, compared to those used by Armstrong:

"Trek bought a set amount of special wheels from the supplier and one of those were for Alberto. Someone in his entourage saw that Lance had wheels in a different colour, because they featured the Livestrong logo. They told Contador that those wheels were better. So Alberto spoke to Trek and bought another pair."

Contador used the newer wheel in both of the individual time trials, beating Armstrong by 22 seconds in the race at Monaco, and one minute 30 seconds in the stage 18 TT at Annecy.

There are clearly two very different versions of what happened in Monaco, but it seems unlikely that Contador will give an official comment and thus back up Garai's take on things.

In recent interviews he has chosen not to focus on the tense moments of last year’s Tour, effectively telling journalists that he wanted to move on and concentrate on the 2010 season.

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