Guimard questions Contador’s focus, suggests rider is under much mental pressure
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Monday, July 4, 2011

Guimard questions Contador’s focus, suggests rider is under much mental pressure

by VeloNation Press at 7:35 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Spaniard insists he’ll continue in Tour no matter what

Cyrille GuimardCyrille Guimard, the Frenchman who guided Lucien Van Impe, Bernard Hinault (pictured) and Laurent Fignon to Tour de France victories, has questioned the focus and state of mind of Alberto Contador. He suggests that the pressure may have got to the Spaniard, and that he could be cracking under the pressure of his Clenbuterol case plus the hostile reaction he has got thus far at the Tour.

“I cannot understand it,” he told L’Equipe, stating that the finish of stages like Saturday can be expected to be dangerous and that care must be taken. He questioned the fact that Contador was delayed because of a rider’s crash with a spectator, and also how he behaved afterwards.

“Even if it was the victim of a spectator, the other leaders were in front, not him,” he said. “But what surprised me was that he left it up to Euskaltel to mount the chase without appearing concerned by the delay.”

While the cameras were not constantly on Contador on Saturday’s stage, any TV images beamed back after the crash back up Guimard’s assessment. The Spaniard sat close to the front, but it was the Euskaltel riders who were doing much of the chasing, riding for Samuel Sanchez.

This was even more obvious at the finish, when Contador rolled across the line as part of a large group of riders he’d normally drop on climbs. He had been delayed again with two kilometres to go due to a blockage of cars caused by a crash, yet looked to have a lack of urgency about him when approaching the line. He would have been expected to have left his chase group on the uphill drag to the finish, or at least to lead them in.

“He may have squandered things, considering that it wasn’t serious and that everything would play out in the mountains,” said Guimard. “But it is disturbing detachment from a rider who psychologically destroyed Armstrong two years ago, who we know as fearless and private in his emotion, apart from when he shows a symbolic gun on the finish line.”

Contador is clearly under a lot of pressure as a result of his positive test last year, and the long, drawn-out case. He’s shown a remarkable ability to deal with it thus far, winning nine races this season including the Giro d’Italia. However in press conferences at the Italian race he appeared to have a shadow over him at times, his facial expressions and body language showing that he had a lot on his mind.

He coped with that at the Giro, winning the race, and then worked hard to get ready for the Tour. However being whistled by fans during the race presentation hurt him, and Guimard suggest that this may have been a tipping point.

“He may be paying for the load of stress he has undergone in the past two years, exacerbated by his procedural troubles with the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport), by the whistles in the Vendee. Does he feel rejected? It could eventually destroy him. Each man has his limits on an emotional level. Anyway, everything was as if, suddenly, all his defences collapsed.

“I think that this is the Tour, this is not the Giro. He has such a history, such an impact on the fate of a champion he finally reveal his weaknesses, cracks, its weaknesses, so who knows if this incident did not reopen a badly healed wound? In any case, he seemed as disconnected and disillusioned. Now, either he starts to flow, or he will not finish the Tour.”

Contador insists all is well:

Contador’s Saxo Bank SunGard team and the rider himself have moved to play down the impact of losing one minute 42 seconds to the yellow jersey Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) in the first two days of racing. His team were just eighth in yesterday’s time trial, dropping 28 seconds to Hushovd’s team, and 27 to that of Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team), Bradley Wiggins (Sky Procycling) and the Schleck brothers (Leopard Trek).

In a team statement, he insisted all was fine. “I'm very happy about today's result. We went to the maximum of our ability and now we must try to prevent a replica of yesterday [Saturday] as I have lost enough time already. I'm sure I'll get better every day because I have not the same preparation as the other favourites who have done the Dauphiné and the Tour of Switzerland.”

He however conceded that his chances of winning the Tour have been hampered by the time loss. “My rivals are still ahead and maybe I'm no longer the favourite to win.”

As Guimard suggests, the days ahead will be crucial. He must get into the right frame of mind and show a fighting spirit, believing that he can get back into the hunt.

For his part, Contador says that he’ll keep battling onwards. “No matter what, throwing the towel in to ring is the last thing I would do,” he stated. “Now there are riders who are better positioned than me in terms of winning but I'll never give up. I'm looking forward to the mountains.”


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