Contador: everything starts from zero in this year’s Tour de France
  May 20, 2018 Login  

Current Articles    |   Archives    |   RSS Feeds    |   Search

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Contador: everything starts from zero in this year’s Tour de France

by Conal Andrews at 7:45 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Spaniard feeling ready for battle

Alberto ContadorOn paper he’s a four-time Grand Tour winner, a rider who has won two Tours, a Giro and a Vuelta before turning 27 years of age. In his head, he’s someone who is focussed on the present, conscious of the past but not preoccupied with the future. Questions about how many Tours he might win are deflected, and he claims not to be preoccupied by thoughts of beating records.

Right now, Alberto Contador is motivated to win this year’s Tour de France. After that, he’ll consider what comes next.

The Spaniard will start his fourth Tour de France on Saturday. He’s been the most impressive of the Tour contenders this year, winning eight races, including the overall classification of the Volta ao Algarve, Paris-Nice and the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon. Most recently, he took two stages plus second overall in the Critérium du Dauphine, and is currently fourth overall in the UCI’s world ranking.

In contrast, his Tour rivals have had much quieter seasons, as reflected by their placings on the same table. Ivan Basso is next in eighth, while other such as Janez Brajkovic, Chris Horner, Frank Schleck, Robert Gesink and Roman Kreuziger are between eleventh and twentieth.

Others are even further back: Tour of California victory Michael Rogers is 24th, followed by Denis Menchov (38th), Lance Armstrong (41st), Andy Schleck (57th), Carlos Sastre (60th), Andreas Klöden (81st) and Bradley Wiggins (88th).

In short, Contador will start as race favourite for two reasons. One, his dominant performance last year. And two, the highly impressive consistency he has shown this season.

However he’s taking nothing for granted. “Each year starts from zero. That’s how I see it,” he told El Diario Montanes. “You can’t relax. As soon as you leave something to chance or get off centre, it shows. In team sports, maybe you can make up for it. In cycling, in a time trial or on a mountain, you can’t play hide and seek. You either get the job done or not.”

Getting the job done involves a number of things. Luck aside, two major factors are his own performance, and that of his Astana team.

He can influence the second, but has direct control over the first. He said that it comes down to talent, but also to much sweat and hours spent on the bike

“You have to have a gift, some natural ability for cycling. But that’s nothing without a lot of work, what I concentrate on, what I’m meticulous about,” he explained. “I know that people get the impression that I get along in the races with ease, without making any effort. But I race some fifty days per year and I’m concentrating on these races another 90 days. You have to work on your natural abilities.

Alberto Contador“My character has been formed by lots of circumstances. Not just in cycling. I’ve got a brother who suffers from cerebral palsy and that affects you, it forces you to grow up. Then came my illness, which put a stamp on me. In the Tour last year, I learned to endure the pressure.”

His determination is of course another important factor in being able to get the most out of himself. “The key is knowing what my goal is. Having clarity about it. So I focus all my strength on achieving it. When I work, I give it 100%. When I rest, likewise.”

Contador is 27 years of age and going by the norms of physiology, should keep improving for the next two to three years. He confirmed that tests show that he is becoming stronger, although he knows that the Tour isn’t won in the lab. “Now I have to prove it on the road,” he states.

Backed with 100% loyalty:

The Astana team also has to show that it can do the business. Last year he was with a very different squad, the bulk of whom have jumped ship to RadioShack and will be his principal rivals this time round. Looking over the list of those who will ride the Tour with him, there are not as many recognisable names.

Alexandre Vinokourov is well known, of course, and showed strong form this year when he won Liège-Bastogne-Liège. His current world ranking is tenth, showing that he has come back to full strength after his ban. The other seven are Maxim Iglinskiy, Paolo Tiralongo, Andriy Grivko, David De la Fuente, Jesus Hernandez, Benjamin Noval and Daniel Navarro.

They are all strong riders, of course, but it remains to be seen how they will function together in protecting Contador. He is confident that Vinokourov will play his part, and also that the others will be committed to him in a way the 2009 team never was.

He was asked what Vino would contribute, and was generous in his praise. “Magnificent experience, enormous output and a very calm atmosphere on the team,” he answered. “Half of them are going to be Spaniards and the other half Kazakhs. For them, Vinokourov is a reference. I know that my team is prepared to sacrifice themselves as I fight for the Tour.

“We’ve [already] ridden surrounding the leader, but in races that weren’t jeopardizing our performance in July, in the Tour.” Now it will be all systems go to come out on top.

Alberto ContadorIf he manages it, he will have won three Tours by the same age Armstrong took his first, in 1999. That will see him equal the mark set by Greg LeMond, Louison Bobet and Philippe Thys, all triple winners. Again, he’s taking nothing for granted. “First you have to win it, that’s going to be very difficult,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll manage it [taking a third victory] this year or later or never. Since I’m conscious of how difficult it is to win, I have enormous motivation.”

However he could have an even better record than he already has, had things played out different. He missed his first Tour due to brain surgery, and has faced disruptions since.

“Due to the accident that I had (the illness) I couldn’t debut in 2004,” he explained. “I did it in 2005. In 2006, the scandal broke that affected the Liberty Seguros team and I was left out of the Tour. In 2007, I won, but it happened because of Rasmussen. And in 2008 they didn’t invite my team, Astana, due to the scandal from the Tour the year before…In the end, I’ve only ridden three out of the six Tours that I could’ve been in.”

With that in mind, it is easy to see why Lance Armstrong is so determined to try to beat him this year. Contador is the only rider who looks capable of challenging the Texan’s seven Tour victories. If he adds a third this year, it will mean he is almost halfway there. However the RadioShack rider knows that if he can get the upper hand, it will jar the Spaniard’s momentum and rock his confidence.

That one of the reasons why the 2010 race is going to be fascinating to watch. Old generation versus new, experienced, battle-hardened team against a less-polished, but arguably more enthusiastic squad. And two Tour winners, going head to head on the cobblestones, in the crosswinds, and on the cruel slopes of the Alps and Pyrenees.


Subscribe via RSS or daily email

  Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy  Copyright 2008-2013 by VeloNation LLC