Former amateur-ranked cyclist Riestra, who rode against Eddy Merckx at Paris-Nice, is now a livestock farmer with a social conscience in Asturias
Spanish cattle farmers: “Sanctioning Contador would be unfair, as well as unwise”
Ramón Riestra (ASAJA) sends a letter to Pat McQuaid
AS.com - Ramón Riestra, a member of the board of directors of the Asturias chapter of the ASAJA (Asociación Agraria Jóvenes Agricultores), has already blown the whistle on the importation into Spain of cattle fattened illegally with clenbuterol in the pages of AS. This cattle farmers’ association believes that Alberto Contador’s theory, which attributes his positive to having consumed a piece of contamined veal tenderloin purchased in Irún, is indeed quite possible.
Riestra wanted to pursue the matter further, and has followed through by sending a letter (dated December 22) to Pat McQuaid, president of the Union Cycliste Internationale, explaining his theory:
“The purpose of the letter before you is to inform you that in March of this year the Union of Spanish Cattle Farmers (ASAJA) spoke out against the European Community’s manner of purchasing hundreds of thousands of tons of beef from Mercosur (Argentine, Paraguay, Brasil, etc.).
“It was protested then because in these countries the use of anabolic steroids is permitted in the fattening of livestock. As a consequence, a great majority of the European consumers—especially in countries with a shortage of meat like Spain, Italy and Greece—is consuming these products.”
“Mr. McQuaid, there is a great lassitude by the political class towards the citizenry and, as a consequence of it, corruption at the level of of the big meat-importing companies. This accounts for thousands of millions of euros, and if the agricultural unions and the sporting institutions in particular do not confront these bad practices, it’s possible that in future anabolic substances will be in the blood of our athletes and the majority of the population. As a result, you must communicate this to Brussels and to the other institutions (the Olympic Committee, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, etc.) because they must not pander to that corruption.”
“In consequence of all that I put forward, I believe that the sanction that they are trying to impose on Alberto Contador is unfair, as well as unwise.”
“It’s necessay to for us to shake up this political blight that does not respect the rights of society in its multiple strata, and in the meantime be damned cautious in the application of the disciplinary regulations, which I support, as you well know.”
Alberto Contador at Saxo Bank team-building camp (Tim de Waele)
Enjoy a few of the marvelous photos of Alberto and his new teammates at Saxo Bank-SunGard's winter team-building camp now, and keep checking back as we add more.
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The European Association of Elite Athletes (EU Athletes) will stage a mass-action protest before presenting a petition to the European Union
Sport.es/by Agustí Bernaus - World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) president, Australian John Fahey, suddenly has the erruption of a contentious issue on his hands.
25,000 elite athletes, consolidated under the banner of EU Athletes and headed by ex-rugby player Yves Kummer, have decided to mobilize. They are fed up with violations to their most basic rights by the WADA anti-doping code. That's why this Saturday, December 25, those who have to fill in localization data to facilitate incidental surprise controls are going to leave the box blank.
The inherent and unavoidable ambiguity in the cases of clenbuterol positives by Italian cyclist Alessandro Colo, German table tennis player Dimitrij Ovtcharov and cyclist Alberto Contador, the lack of standards for the levels of this prohibited product, the application of the strict liability clause—any athlete is responsible for whatever is found in his system—and especially the fact that all athletes without exception must declare their whereabouts for three months in advance and send their exact location to WADA via the ADAMS system (Anti-doping Administration System) have pushed the Association of European Elite Athletes to the limit.
This collective, which pulls together various associations—basketball, handball, volleyball, cycling, indoor soccer, hockey, rugby, athletics—from 15 countries, has tried to convey to WADA its disquietude on various occasions but, at WADA, its claims have fallen on deaf ears.
The Christmas Day protest is only the first act for the elite athlete collective, which is prepared to present a petition before the European Union Commission on Sport.
The EU Athletes have been denouncing the lack of athlete representation at WADA, even though the agency does have an Athletes’ Commission. According to EU Athletes, WADA itself appoints the members of the commission, who do not defend their interests and have no power to make decisions. Therefore they have proposed ex-basketball player Walter Palmer, secretary of EU Athletes, as representative.
Their sticking point with WADA is the Anti-doping Code. They consider that it violates their basic rights, and because of that they propose reform which will neither undermine the code’s effectiveness nor its final objective: the fight against doping.
The case of Alberto Contador has raised an alarm among Spain’s professional athletes, who have formally requested of the country’s anti-doping agency director, Javier Martín del Burgos, a battery of assurances each time they compete outside Europe, since they consider themselves unprotected against the possible poisoning of food with clenbuterol.
This is given the fact that in some countries like those mentioned above, treating cattle with clenbuterol is not unusual, something that the World Anti-Doping Agency has never considered. The lack of protection against the possibility of false positives has created deep concern, especially among athletes who compete outside the European Community.
The climate is so tense that some have even turned down invitations to compete in South America. Others have consulted doctors directly, and the Association of Professional Athletes itself—under the direction of Emilio Sánchez Vicario—has certified through official accredited laboratories that the theory of contaminated meat is “perfectly possible.”
Therefore Javier Martín del Burgo, president of the Agencia Española Antidopaje (AEA), met with Emilio Sánchez Vicario (tennis) and José Luis Llorente (basketball) as athlete representatives in order to tackle a subject that from the perspective of the WADA anti-doping code makes the athlete solely responsible.
Ex-tennis player Vacario asked what precautions should be observed from this point on and urgently demanded measures from the AEA so that in the case of a false positive, the athlete is not considered culpable. Martín del Burgo was appointed to put forward the case to WADA and create a standard – a minimum – for detection levels of clenbuterol in accredited laboratories.
According to Llorente, the main problem “is the one of judicial insecurity, because you can prove innocence and still be given a one-year suspension. Strict liability breaks all legal principles, and we don’t want an innocent person to be punished.” (Agustí Bernaus, Barcelona)
Another recent case of clenbuterol contamination has come from Dutch mountain biker Rudy Van Houst, who tested positive for 30 pg/ml in an out-of-competition control immediately after arriving home from a trip to Mexico in October. He argues that the substance came into his system through eating Mexican beef. Van Houst’s team, Merida, has rescinded his contract, leaving the rider to prove his innocence.
Alberto Contador denies any relationship with Javier Fernández Alba
EsCiclismo - Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador categorically denies the report appearing in the magazine Interviú in which he is linked with the current president of Madrid’s Cycling Federation as his discoverer and manager, and which says that he was a client of the center in Majadahonda which Fernández Alba directs.
When Contador joined Velo Club Portillo, Fernández Alba was no longer connected to the organization and his relationship with him was non-existent beyond his participation in the Madrid selection, since Fernández Alba was director of the regional federation.
Alberto Contador has never had Fernández Alba as a manager, not to mention as a trainer, and furthermore has never attended the SPE center of Mahadahonda.
“I’ve never had a professional relationship with this gentleman nor do I even know where the center that he directs is,” Contador has said to settle the matter.
Photo: Interviú cover
Sprint Especial interviewed Alberto Contador’s gregario and friend Jesús Hernández at the end of Saxo Bank-SunGard’s preseason team-building camp on the island of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands.
December 12 - Well, Jesús, early days with the new team, how did you all bond with this new organization in these first days of camp?
Very well, the whole team has accepted us spectacularly, including the riders, directors and staff. They’ve given us a warm welcome that we’re grateful for.
Is there time left to enjoy a paradise like Fuerteventura?
We hardly have free time because we’re busy every day with various activities, but some of them, like kitesurfing and surfing, allow us to enjoy ourselves and to see the beauty of the island. Also the training sessions on the bike that we’ve done on the island.
Where would you rather do preseason camp, on Fuerteventura with its beaches and tranquility, or in the north of Europe in full winter and doing tests of survival?
I still don’t know what that survival training is all about, but certainly I’d prefer the good weather that prevails on the island to the cold of northern Europe. We’ve only done a diving session in the pool at 7:00 in the morning, a bit like survival training-lite!
I imagine that your (speaking now for the Spanish riders) calendar will depend on where Alberto’s going to compete, doesn’t it?
Yes, of course, mainly in the big races.
Do you know when you’ll start competition?
Well, I debut in the Algarve, and ride the Tour and Vuelta.
Will you be able to have time to shine in any race during the season?
Well, on this particular team, you usually have a heavy schedule, so that I suppose there’ll be races where we’ll have our chances to show off, but always thinking that where you have to give your best is in the Tour with Alberto.
Have you spoken with Bjarne Riis already about what the season will be like and what he wants each one of you to contribute?
Well, a little like I just told you, that where you have to be good is in the big races.
McQuaid seems to have sentenced Contador with the help of WADA
Sport.es - Agustí Bernaus writes: The statements of Pat McQuaid when the Federation should judge Contador constitute an outrage of ethics.
The Union Cycliste Internationale, under pressure from the World Anti-Doping Agency, seems to have passed judgment already on Alberto Contador, the winner of the last Tour. At least this is the message sent by Pat McQuaid’s statements to the German news agency SID: ''If we aren't happy with the Spaniard's decision then we will consult with the World Anti-Doping Agency and go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.”
McQuaid's statements, without doubt, have been considered a measure of additional pressure on the Competition Committee of the Spanish Federation, chaired by the lawyer Fernando Uruburu, which must decide whether to issue a sanction due to the positive from clenbuterol in an anti-doping control during the last Tour or to accept the rider’s theory about food poisoning and release him from any liability.
In this phase of the case, during which last week Contador presented all the documentation on which he bases his defense, the Irish director’s words were interpreted as an intent to intimidate those who are judging the matter, which in certain quarters has provoked a degree of tension.
Regarding the possibility that the resolution could be delayed in excess, more that three months, McQuaid said: ''The Contador case is fairly straightforward; it won't be long and drawn out. The fight against doping demands each time more is scientific knowledge. And it’s logical that the Spaniards are consulting with experts who know all the documentation, as did the UCI in its day.”
This body, which at first seemed in favor of closing the matter, now, goaded by an inflexible WADA, is only willing to accept sanction: ''It must quite clearly be a fair result.''
With these statements, McQuaid has given official nature to the theory that the Contador case will go straight to CAS, since the rider himself is unwilling even to accept an admonition. WADA is also leading the way during the next few months, having presented an appeal before CAS against the German Table Tennis Federation, which decided to exonerate table tennis player Dimitri Ovtcharov after clenbuterol was detected during a tournament in China. In this country, 20 percent of meat is being treated with this product.
Ovtcharov did analysis of his hair and presented it as evidence. The president of the International Federation, Adham Sharara, met with Chinese authorities with the goal of solving a governmental problem, but WADA is only interested in whether or not the banned product was in the athlete’s body.
Spain's World Cup chef doubts neither Contador nor Spanish beef
This morning in Madrid the Spanish Olympic Committee Breakfast convened to discuss topics focusing on healthy living.
Featured on the agenda was a question-and-answer session with the coach of the World Cup champion football team, Vincente del Bosque, and La Roja’s chef, Javier Arbizu.
Arbizu, a Basque from Navarre, has cooked for the team for 20 years. During his chat this morning, he discussed his experience selecting and preparing food for the team.
Of special interest were his remarks about the challenges of cooking for the team while on the road - an experience similar to that of cycling chefs - and his philosophy of encouraging healthy eating habits in elite athletes.
In responding concerning the Contador case, Arbizu took a non-controversial broad view that expressed confidence both in Alberto Contador and Spanish meat, stating that even top-quality meat cannot be guaranteed to be free of traces of substances like clenbuterol. (más)
EUROPA PRESS - The chef of the Spanish national football team, Javier Arbizu, has defended both the Madrilenian cyclist Alberto Contador and the quality of Spanish beef, in the context of the adverse result for clenbuterol from the last Tour de France that the rider has blamed on a “contaminated” fillet.
“We do controls on the meat, what’s inside is difficult to know. I have no doubts about its quality, I buy the best. Whatever they bring you from Spain, they do it with the best intentions, you don’t necessarily have problems, but it’s possible to have one,” said Arbitzu while participating in a breakfast talk about healthy habits, organized by the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE).
The chef of the world champion team acknowledged that “the first thing” he looks for “is the expiration date.” “And when it reads ‘three years,’ then it must contain something to make it last until 2014. About meat, I can’t say, but I don’t think that the athlete is going to take anything.”
Photo: Javier Arbizu, chef of La Roja (AS.com)
Rubiera: "I believe without doubt that Contador did not take anything voluntarily"
Frodo's Pedal/November 22 - Chechu Rubiera, recently-retired veteran of 16 years and former teammate of Alberto Contador, gave an interview to cycling website Frodo’s Pedal while on his way last weekend to the wedding of ex-teammate and current president of Spain’s ACP, Pipe Gómez. The following is an excerpt.
FP: Alberto’s going through a hard time, do you believe his explanation?
CR: "Absolutely, truly absolutely, I’m sure. About the meat—I think that he believes it, but I can understand that it may not sound believable to people. I think that it could also be contamination from some other cause…
"Sometimes at the finish line we take proteins and amino acids, and in my opinion it may be this type of contamination, although it’s also possible that it could’ve come from the meat. I don't imagine that he would've drunk water handed over by some spectator.
"What I can assure you is that I absolutely believe without doubt that Contador did not take anything voluntarily and that, above all, what was in his system did not influence his performance in any way, so a sanction does not seem justified to me.
"Although it also seems unfair that he be treated one way and other people in another. I think that the UCI should consider, if there’s someone out there right now serving a sanction for such small quantities of substances, whether there’s a need to bring into focus the limits that don’t influence performance, so that it’s not sanctionable… What’s the influence of 50 picograms on performance?"
Basque government says that WADA has not contacted Public Health
AS.com/November 20 - “The World Anti-Doping Agency has not contacted us in order to do the investigation on the meat that you told me about,” the Basque Country government’s Director of Public Health assured AS via its press office.
The institution’s spokesman labelled as “not viable” WADA’s requesting of meat from the butcher shops in Irún in order to do analysis. “We’re the only ones qualified to do these controls and we’ve been doing them regularly. It’s not to be discounted that they might have acquired the product, like any other citizen, and done their own analyses. But in any case, these analyses are not official, because they have to be done through our department,” he added.
Contador’s lawyers accuse WADA of “lack of rigor” in its investigation and they maintain that it did not do analysis of the meat from Irún, and that its investigation was limited to hiring a detective agency to question butchers and suppliers if they sold meat meeting all health requirements, without verifying the information. (by Chema Bermejo, AS.com)
Ramón Riestra, a farmer and former amateur-rank cyclist, says it's "more than possible" that Contador ate tainted meat (Eloy Alonso/AS.com)
AS.com: “In Spain, they import meat with clenbuterol”
Ex-cyclist Ramón Riestra, member of the Board of Governors of ASAJA (Asociación Agraria Jóvenes Agricultores) of Asturias, exposes the hypothetical entrance into Spain of South American cattle contaminated with clenbuterol. To him, Contador is “a scapegoat.”
You’re going to tell.
I want to blow the whistle that clenbuterol-contaminated meat from South America is imported into Spain, and that Contador is only a scapegoat. It makes me angry, because he seems like a good guy, and besides, I was a cyclist.
Look. The European Union signed an agreement with Mercosur, the South American customs union, to import 20 million tons of meat in three years to 27 European countries. In Spain, which is a country with a shortfall in meat, this is equivalent to a minimum of two million tons. And they have to know that in South America, fattening cattle with clenbuterol is not prohibited.
But they have to pass controls, don't they?
I’d like to see those controls. It’s very easy. They send a proper first batch and, after the controls, the bulk of the lot. Or they fix it with a bribe. I have a relative who was a health inspector and he told me that there wasn’t anything to do.
Then, you think that Contador could have eaten this meat?
It’s more than possible. Look, one of the ports where most of this meat is unloaded is Saint-Jean-de-Luz (France), a French city that’s very close to Irun (15 kilometers to be exact). It’s not strange that some butcher shop in Irun provided this meat. This is a business, and what they’re most interested in is importing to Holland and especially, to France, which after the United States has the biggest meat-processing industry in the world (ham, sausages…).
And all that export hurts the Spanish cattle farmers, right?
Naturally. We have to go through three controls a year. They take blood from all our animals. Everything has to be right, and we’re at a disadvantage to the Mercosur countries, where they have between 600 to 700 million head of beef. We told the authorities that they were headed for trouble, but they’re city people that have no idea of agriculture or ecology.
You said that you were a cyclist.
Yes, amateur. But there were a lot of open races and I got to ride a Paris-Nice with Eddy Merckx, who won it. And a lot of times with Luis Ocaña. (By Chema Bermejo, AS.com)
EL MUNDO, November 17 - In the devious action undertaken against Alberto Contador, confusion is increasing step by step. The leaking of malicious documents and information is purposely confusing fans and influencing members of the Competition Committee. It only takes repeating a lie often enough for it to become the truth, or so they say in the environment of the disconcerted cyclist from Madrid.
It’s necessary to have a lot of patience and not lose nerve in order to take with composure the numerous and poisonous deliveries that will show up until the closure of the case, which might occur next February. In this politics of confusion, the Pinto rider’s accusers took the lead with the publication of a report containing a supposed demonstration that the meat bought in Irun did not contain residue of clenbuterol.
But the triple Tour-winner’s counterattack has been effective and devastating. The WADA theory has been dismantled by Contador, by explaining that this report’s field work is not rigorous, because it only takes in declarations from the butcher. No scientific analyses have been carried out, insist the rider’s circle.
And the fact is, it’s impossible to do a report on a piece of meat that doesn't exist. The proof disappeared the instant the rider consumed the meat. Furthermore, everything was complicated by the faulty handling of the case by UCI. It makes no sense that an anti-doping control be carried out at the end of July and the result not known until the end of August. The result means that all investigations begin in mid-September, at the earliest, when two months have already elapsed. How many kilos of meat would the butcher have sold in the meantime?
More suspense. What does it mean that a slaughterhouse sells meat in accordance with health controls? Simply that it operates according to the law. It doesn’t mean that the totality of meat from Irun is of first quality. Last week, Bakartxo Tejería, Nationalist Basque Party spokesman, affirmed that it is certified that in Basque Country they consume meat coming from countries where cattle is fattened with clenbuterol.
Although it seems trivial, one of the most interesting elements of the WADA report is that it has been demonstrated that José Luis López Cerrón bought the meat in a shop in Irun, something that many doubted.
Contador’s alibi has foundation, and he should be granted a margin of confidence. Please, let's scorn biased rumours.
(Translated by Christine Kahane)
Alberto at the Oviedo criterium, October 30 (Eloy Alonso)
November 17, 2010 - The legal team of Alberto Contador categorically denies the information published today in some media outlets about the contents of the report sent by the UCI to the Spanish Cycling Federation, information that would dismantle the theory that Alberto Contador’s adverse test result in the last Tour de France is due to the ingestion of meat contaminated with clenbuterol.
After careful study of the documentation sent by the UCI, which contains the report of a detective agency hired to trace the origin of the meat, it is not possible to determine that the meat was uncontaminated.
In fact, the detectives’ job was limited to asking the butcher shop in question whether the meat sold there meets all health requirements—to which they received the expected response—and who its suppliers are, then accepting the information provided to them without verifying it, which they also did with some suppliers.
In the documentation provided, there is no evidence that WADA has done analysis of any kind at the butcher shop in question, much less in the mentioned slaughterhouses.
Concerning the information about controls carried out in the European Union on animals intended for human consumption—especially beef, the UCI’s report simply accepts as definitive the official information, according to which each member country is obligated to test only 0.4% of cattle slaughtered the previous year. According to the latest official report of the European Union, applicable to 2008, of nearly 27 million cattle slaughtered in the EU, a total of 122,648 samples (0.48%) were analyzed, of which only 22,518 cases searched for traces of beta agonists, including clenbuterol.
According to scientific documents examined by Contador’s lawyers and which will be provided to the Competition Committee, the current system of controls on meat in the European Union is neither unassailable nor sufficient to detect suspected fraud where it exists.
The UCI report also argues that it would be absurd that farmers would not comply with the qualifying period before slaughter to avoid animals testing positive because they risk being reported. Such reasoning is fallacious, because if so, we have to admit that it is also absurd that any athlete would use a banned substance, especially considering that controls are much more abundant in sport than on livestock and detection methods employed are much more sophisticated than those used in veterinary practice.
In summary, the report presented by the UCI in no way rules out the hypothesis of food contamination, while at the same time it lacks necessary stringency, thus leaving Alberto Contador open to accusations that the origin of clenbuterol in his urine is due to an act of doping.
Alberto Contador’s legal team and the rider himself are eager to submit their arguments and evidence in the coming days to the Competition Committee of the Spanish Cycling Federation in order to prove to the competent authority the falsity of the parallel trials and malicious leaks that are appearing concerning this case in the media.
Alberto Contador reiterates that he has never committed an act of doping and that the appearance of clenbuterol in his urine during the last Tour de France was due to ingestion of contaminated meat. His legal team hopes to prove this beyond doubt as soon as possible before the Competition Committee of the Spanish Cycling Federation in order to restore the honor of their client as soon as possible before the competent organizations and in public opinion.
(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)
In an article appearing yesterday in QUENONINO, *Dr.Tomás Martín-Jiménez, a doctor in veterinary pharmacology on the faculty of the Universtiy of Tennessee-Knoxville Institute of Agriculture’s College of Veterinary Medicine, commented on his in-depth analysis of Contador’s case and fully supported the argument for the defense of the Tour winner.
“What Contador says is perfectly possible. With a 200-gram fillet coming from an animal treated with clenbuterol, it is possible to find the percentage that they detected in his urine on the following day. And that is not speculation,” maintained the professional.
Martín-Jiménez, a 47-year-old native of Madrid, clarified that he's not acquainted with Contador or his milieu, and that he’s not a cycling fan: “Actually, I’m more interested in soccer. I coach kids. I’ve lived in the USA for many years, but I’m still interested in everything that goes on in Spain.”
He explained why he investigated the case of his compatriot: “The truth is that Contador's news has had plenty of international repercussions and I conducted the study a month ago because I’m a specialist in the pharmacology of drug and chemical residue in animals’ bodies, which is why his case goes straight to the core of my specialty.”
Tomás Martín-Jiménez was forceful with his final message and pointed to the Spanish competitor’s argument as valid. “I deny myself believing or not believing something. As a scientist, I can’t allow myself that luxury. The only thing that I can do is to analyze data and declare that the thesis that Contador lays out would be technically possible. I’ll leave drawing conclusions to others,” ended the specialist in the matter.
In conclusion, the Secretary of State for Sport, Jaime Lissavetzky, expressed that the Pinto-born cyclist “has a great deal of inner strength and deep mental reserves.” (Quenonino, November 13, 2010)
*Tomás Martín-Jiménez is a Spanish-born veterinarian who is a tenured professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
Martín-Jiménez took his D.V.M. from the University of Madrid, followed by a Ph.D from North Carolina State University. He is a diplomate of both the European College of Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology and the American College of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology. His research has been published numerous times in peer-reviewed journals such as JAVMA, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Martín-Jiménez lists his professional interests as follows:
A) Dose adjustment in special animal populations or under special therapeutic conditions. Assessing the sources of variability in drug disposition and residue depletion in animal populations through the application of population pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic techniques.
B) Assessment of the risks associated with human exposure to environmental pollutants through the application of physiologically-based pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic modeling.
C) Study of the association between drug exposure and the emergence of bacterial resistance in animal populations under different dosage regimen conditions.
arcinfo.ch - As revealed by the Spanish newspaper El País, one of Alberto Contador’s lawyers is a Swiss citizen, more precisely, a native of Tessin canton. His name is Rocco Taminelli (age 43), former athlete, a Bellinzona elected official, and president of the Association of Swiss professional riders.
He is also a member of the court of arbitration of the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale).
"I’m called upon less often now that I've been defending cyclists implicated in doping matters", he points out with irony.
The Italian lawyer has specialized in doping proceedings. He has won several cases concerning, notably, Franco Pellizotti, Michele Scarponi and Vladimir Gusev.
The Pellizotti case, cleared by the Italian anti-doping national court for insufficient proof, made a lot of noise last month. Hence the interest shown by the Contador clan, also recommended by Bjarne Riis.
"In fact, I have been working on this case for almost a month," Rocco Taminelli discloses. “The first contacts took place before the outcome of the Pellizotti case.
"This latter case is perhaps not closed yet. The UCI is waiting for the legal argumentation to consider an appeal before the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS). This authority will also have to reach a decision on the appeal of Pietro Caucchioli, suspended for two years, and the first rider to question the biological passport. Rocco Taminelli’s main argument.
"The biological passport is not reliable," he declared upon the decision in favour of Pellizotti."The idea is good, but the application of this method of detection is calamitous. It does not take into account all the variants. The comparison points are not always good. Certain experts involved in this program do not have proper diplomas."
The Tessin lawyer breached these gaps to win the Pellizotti case.
"I don't criticize the concept of the biological passport," he repeats."But it cannot be used as direct proof." Besides, this aspect had not been contemplated in 2008 upon its launching.
The UCI does not want to comment on ongoing cases. Behind the scenes, specialists rebut these accusations. The experts involved are all credible, we are told, and controls are regularly carried out. The outcome of the Caucchioli and Pellizotti cases should throw some light on the debate.
And Alberto Contador? Paradoxically, Mr. Taminelli should be forced to resort to the biological passport of the Spaniard to plead his innocence."I don’t expect too much, but I am optimistic” he says. “It ‘s a good thing that the proceedings are now opened. We’ll be able to move forward".
The defence will be mainly based on the food contamination issue to explain the infinitesimal traces (50 picograms) of clenbuterol found in the blood of the last Tour de France winner. Temporarily suspended since August, Alberto Contador is heading for long proceedings, which will no doubt end before the CAS.
The case of the German table tennis player Dimitrij Ovtcharov, cleared by his federation after a similar control involving clenbuterol, could advocate in favour of the Pinto cyclist. But since the Spaniard tested positive, he must bear the burden of the proof. Even if the UCI claims that the presumption of innocence predominates in his case.
"My client is in a certain way the scapegoat of WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) which puts the blame on the anti-doping policy in Spain," to Rocco Taminelli’s regret. It’s a minefield! (by jce, arcinfo.ch - Translated from French by Christine Kahane)
Photo: Rocco Taminelli (arcinfo.ch)
Alberto Contador’s legal team remains optimistic and confident about the resolution of his case after receiving and carefully studying the report sent by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) to the Spanish Cycling Federation. They had expected the news of the file’s transfer, and are now able to move ahead with preparation of the arguments that they will lay before the National Committee for Competition and Sports Discipline, the competent body to judge this matter.
Alberto Contador also confirmed that he is confident that all will end well: “I’m happy that the case has reached the Federation because it means that we can move forward.”
The dossier prepared by the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) focuses on the hypothesis of food contamination, just as Contador’s defense team expected. Thus according to documents sent by the UCI and WADA, food contamination remains the only reasonable explanation from a scientific viewpoint for justifying the presence of the tiny amount of clenbuterol in the rider’s system during the last edition of the Tour de France.
After studying the documentation received, Contador’s defense is finishing the preparation of scientific reports commissioned throughout the last few weeks by different international specialists, as well as other research and consultations that have been carried out with official government agencies with the goal of providing the National Committee for Competition and Sports Discipline with as much evidence as possible so that the decision has maximum legal and scientific validity.
Alberto Contador and his legal team—composed of the law firm Bardají & Honrado and the Swiss lawyer Rocco Taminelli—fully trust in the National Committee for Competition and Sports Discipline's ability to judge responsibly, as its objective is none other than establishing the rider’s innocence definitively and beyond any doubt. At the same time, it is working with the hope that a verdict will be given within as narrow a time frame as possible, with the goal of allowing Alberto Contador to begin the next cycling season without hindrance.
(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)
Alberto Contador reste confiant après la réception du rapport de l’UCI
Suite à la réception et à l’étude minutieuse du rapport envoyé par l’Union cycliste internationale (UCI) à la Fédération de Cyclisme Espagnole, l’équipe juridique d’Alberto Contador reste optimiste sur l’issue de l’affaire, puisque la transmission du dossier était l’événement attendu pour pouvoir continuer a aller de l’avant et préparer les pièces qui seront présentées au Comité National de Compétition et Discipline Sportive, organisme compétent pour juger cette affaire.
Alberto Contador a également confirmé qu’il était confiant que tout se résoudra de manière satisfaisante : « Je suis content que l’affaire soit maintenant entre les mains de la Fédération car cela signifie que nous pouvons avancer ».
Le dossier constitué par l’UCI et l’Agence Mondiale Antidopage (WADA) est axé sur l’hypothèse d’une contamination alimentaire, ainsi que le souhaitait la défense de Contador. De ce fait, conformément aux pièces remises par l’UCI et la WADA, la contamination alimentaire reste la seule explication raisonnable d’un point de vue scientifique pour justifier la présence d’une infime quantité de clembuterol dans l’organisme du coureur pendant le dernier Tour de France.
Consécutivement à l’étude du dossier reçu, la défense de Contador met une dernière touche à la préparation des rapports scientifiques requis, au cours des dernières semaines, auprès de différents spécialistes internationaux, ainsi qu’au reste des investigations et consultations menées à bien auprès d’organismes officiels, dans le but de fournir au Comité National de Compétition et Discipline Sportive le maximum de preuves pour que la décision finale puisse se baser sur la plus grande compétence juridique et scientifique.
Alberto Contador et son équipe de juristes, composée du cabinet Bardaji & Honrado, et de l’avocat suisse Rocco Taminelli, font entièrement confiance au jugement du Comité National de Compétition et Discipline Sportive, puisque son objectif est de parvenir à établir, sans l’ombre d’un doute et de manière définitive, l’innocence du coureur. En même temps, tout est mis en œuvre dans l’espoir qu’un verdict soit rendu le plus rapidement possible pour qu’Alberto Contador puisse débuter la prochaine saison cycliste sans aucun empêchement.
Photo: Tim de Waele galerie de photos à libre accèss
Fans of Dani Navarro, Alberto Contador’s crack domestique in the mountains, have set up a new cycling club in honor of their local hero and will throw a kick-off party tomorrow evening.
The Dani Navarro Cycling Club will be presented at eight o'clock in Sales (Colunga) in the Principality of Asturias, Dani’s home turf. The setting will be the Crespo Sidra Brewery, a family business that’s been producing hard cider (sidra) from its surrounding apple orchards for three generations.
The public are welcome to attend the celebration, which will take the form of an espicha, a traditional Asturian country festival built around food, fun and cider, cider, cider.
A variety of star athletes will attend the inauguration, especially some of the big names in cycling—who happen to be Asturians. Dani himself will be joined, among others, by Contador’s right-hand man Benjamín Noval, as well as recently-retired legend, Chechu Rubiera, plus Olympic gold medalist Samuel Sánchez, and Carlos Barredo, whose spectacular victory at Lagos de Covadonga was a highlight of this year’s Vuelta a España.
Admission is free for those wishing to join the club, who will pay 20 euros annual membership fee and be issued a card on the spot. Non-members pay 10 euros for the evening.
Navarro will also be honored on Sunday, November 12, when he will receive the gold insignia of the Association of Asturian Ex-Cyclists at a gala dinner in Porceyo. The merit comes after Dani—a professional for six years—earned his first career stage win in the queen stage of this year’s Dauphiné, then followed it by giving crucial help to Alberto Contador in his successful quest for a third Tour de France.
Alberto Contador has been invited, and it is hoped that he will follow his appearance at the Criterium de Oviedo with another trip to Asturias to attend the awards gala.
Photos: Right - Dani sets a blistering pace for Alberto in the Alps (as.com); Left - The Crespo Sidra Brewery sits amidst apple orchards (Crespo official website)
Chechu and Alberto pose with an Asturian piper (Eloy Alonso)
Northern Spain’s Prinicipality of Asturias welcomed spectator guest of honor Alberto Contador on Saturday to the splendid fiesta-cum-bike race, the II Criterium “Ciudad de Oviedo.”
Contador had been persistently sought after to attend the race as a VIP even after he turned down the invitation to ride, in deference to what is considered a provisional suspension by the UCI.
Asturias is a land of dramatic natural beauty, and has been known for being steadfastly independent since its legendary hero Pelayo held off the Moors in the 8th century.
During the past difficult weeks, the region has demonstrated to the cycling world that it continues to stand on its own two feet as it did in Pelayo’s day. Last weekend, professional cyclists, fans and organizers of the Criterium surrounded Alberto Contador with a strong public show of support, something that recently has been—for this brilliant champion and honorable man—in inexplicably short supply outside of Pinto.
The second edition of the criterium radiated goodwill. Overall victory went to reigning Giro champion Ivan Basso after a points race, a duel between Samuel Sánchez and Spanish rally champion Alberto Hevia, and an elimination race.
Basso prevailed in spite of being defeated in the elimination contest by the true star of the event, retiring veteran Chechu Rubiera. Chechu’s burst of joy at the finsih line was unforgettable, arguably the best televised cycling moment in 2010.
The soul of the second edition of the critierium was the farewell celebration for Rubiera, Contador’s ex-teammate who was instrumental in guiding him through the Asturian mountains in the 2008 Vuelta.
With Rubiera’s help in 2008, Contador seized the race leadership at the summit of Angliru and, thanks also to another Asturian, his primo escudero Benjamín Noval, he went on to triumph in Madrid. As a result, he became the youngest rider and the only Spaniard ever to win cycling’s Triple Crown, which he was awarded after winning the Tour, the Giro and the Vuelta all within fourteen months.
Also riding in the II Criterium Ciudad de Oviedo were Noval, Dani Navarro—also of Asturias and Alberto’s crucial mountain domestique in the 2010 Tour—teammate and friend Jesús Hernández, as well as other Asturian riders like Carlos Barredo and Luis Pasamontes.
Contador at criterium with Samu, Basso and company (AP)
LA NUEVA ESPAÑA – October 31, by J.E. Cima - Alberto Contador spent a sensational day yesterday in Asturias.
From waking up at the Balneario de Las Caldas hotel, enjoying the opening of the bicycle fair, then a stroll on Los Alamos and the *chapas race, at lunch with the mayor Gabino de Lorenzo and in the evening attending the Criterium “City of Oviedo” as a fan and director of the race, the three-time Tour de France winner received constant tokens of affection.
Alberto, accompanied by his fiancée Macarena, also received moral support from the participating cyclists. He had very emotional moments, like when he greeted and gave a big hug to the doctor Zubizarreta—who saved his life when he crashed in the Vuelta a Asturias in 2004—in the presence of his son, Santiago, who received a warm greeting from the champion. Also in climbing into the passenger’s seat as copilot in the car with Berti Hevia for a lap of the circuit on Calle de Uría, between signing autographs and posing for photos with fans.
Contador explained that “Asturias is always in my heart and it had a big impact on my life, starting with the accident in 2004, then when the illness was identified, and I was lucky that the doctor Zubizarreta was there to keep me from suffocating. And later with the victories that I had on the peaks of the Angliru and Fuentes de Invierno.”
Contador, in the face of so much support from the Asturian fans, said that “the people here always treat me with incredibly warm regard, and I like coming here. This welcome is fantastic. I also had to come to Rubiera’s farewell because as a cyclist he’s the quintessential teammate. He’s been a great gregario and a great person.”
“I had a great time at lunch with the mayor because he’s a true compatriot and he showed his support,” Contador added.
Samuel Sánchez was happy because the Criterium “has set a national standard. Last year it was a tribute for me as the Olympic champion and now it’s doing a great farewell for friend and champion Chechu Rubiera.
"I think that having Basso and Contador here is very nice for the fans. Alberto knew that the people treat him well here and he wanted to come. We cyclists appreciate it.”
*Chapas are bottlecaps, and a chapas race is a tiddly-winks version of a bike race. To play, a route is drawn on the sidewalk with chalk, and participants flick colorfully-decorated chapas—like cyclists in kit—with thumb and forefinger in a race to the finish line.
Photo above: Sprint to goal in a sidewalk chapas race (Juegos tradicionales aragoneses)
An exclusive for RMC Sport Channel from October 28: Douwe de Boer, the Dutch biochemist hired by Alberto Contador to defend him following his positive test for clenbuterol in the Tour de France, asserts that the UCI has not started any proceedings against the Spanish rider.
Professor Douwe de Boer, how were you chosen to defend Contador?
The rider asked the UCI if they knew of an expert who could help him. The UCI knows me because I intervened in other similar cases, such as last winter that of the Chinese RadioShack rider Li Fuyu, who had tested positive for clenbuterol. They gave my name to Contador, who called me. I also helped Floyd Landis. I’m not afraid of working with elite athletes.
What is the basis of Contador’s defense?
In some regions of the world there are cases of clenbuterol food poisoning originating from bovine meat. The minimum which can be measured by laboratories is increasingly lower. It is thus possible to detect clenbuterol that does not originate from doping but from food poisoning.
Is the Ovtcharov case (a German table tennis player recently cleared after a clenbuterol test) similar to Contador’s?
Yes, Ovtcharov was contaminated after eating bovine meat in China. It’s a food poisoning case.
What would you answer to some experts who, like Christiane Ayotte of the Montreal laboratory, assert that it could be a doping case despite the small level found in Contador’s urine?
That cannot be excluded but nor can anyone exclude that it could originate from contaminated meat. And if there is not a 100% certainty, the athlete should not be punished.
What about the plastic residues supposedly found in some of Contador’s samples?
Officially, there are no plastic residues in Contador’s urine, it was only mentioned in The New York Times (as well as L’Equipe), but the UCI said there is no case. Contador knows nothing, and if he knows nothing, nothing can be done.
Did the UCI impose a deadline on you?
We have no information, neither I nor Contador. For the time being, it should be understood that there is no Contador case. The UCI has not started any proceedings. They are still holding an inquiry. What’s happening is very unusual. I don’t have any explanation for it.
Are you optimistic for Contador?
(He hesitates) I don’t know. I have been fighting for a long time to install a violation threshold for clenbuterol. At a certain level, there should not be any penalty.
With Li Fuyu, I was not very optimistic because the rider was not famous. In Contador’s case, it’s different, I am a bit more confident.
De Boer, an honest expert
The Dutch biochemist is not involved in his first case. Before Contador, Douwe de Boer was able to prove the good faith of the German table tennis player of Ukrainian origin, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, who tested positive for clenbuterol after a visit to China. The thesis of food poisoning convinced the German federation, which cleared the athlete on October 14.
Also hired to defend Floyd Landis, positive for testosterone during the 2006 Tour de France, the expert and the rider finally put an end to their collaboration.
“I had concluded that the French laboratory had not made any error and that its conclusions were the right ones”. An upright scientist.
(By Louis Chenaille for RMC.fr. Translated from French by Christine Kahane)
Banner in Oviedo
Alberto and Chechu pose for us before the start of Vuelta 2008 (Kahane)
Alberto Contador will travel to Asturias this weekend, where he has been invited to attend the second edition of the Criterium Ciudad de Oviedo as a spectator and to share in the official farewell to professional racing of veteran rider Chechu Rubiera.
Contador did not want to miss the chance to be present at the tribute to a rider as emblematic as Chechu Rubiera, for whom he has always had a great sense of admiration and respect, both as a professional and as a person. He also looks forward to celebrating the Asturian event again in company with his teammates and friends from the Asturian peloton.
Contador will also take the chance to offer his personal thanks to all the Asturian fans for the warm support that they’ve always shown, especially during these recent trying weeks. (Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)
OFFICIAL PROGRAM, II CRITERIUM CIUDAD DE OVIEDO
José Luis (Chechu) Rubiera (b. 1973, Gijón) is retiring after 16 years as a professional. He and Alberto Contador were teammates at the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team in 2007 and at the Astana Cycling Team in 2008 and 2009.
Rubiera was a key gregario for Contador in four victorious stage-race campaigns: Vuelta a Castilla y León (2008), Vuelta al País Vasco (2008, 2009), and most notably, Alberto's Vuelta a España triumph (2008), where Chechu was crucial in the spectacular conquest of the Angliru.
The first few seconds of this video from the 2008 Vuelta capture a classic save by Rubiera after Contador crashes in Lillo del Bierzo.
For more about Chechu Rubiera, visit our affiliated website: ChechuRubiera.info
Cyclist Samuel Sánchez, Olympic road race champion, stated today that Spain’s streak of successes in sport is the consequence of hard work, but it could end at some point.
“Right now Spain is on top with people like Fernando Alonso, Rafa Nadal, Alberto Contador, myself, but it’s a cycle that, like everything, will come to an end. It’s a success achieved by means of effort.”
Sánchez spoke during a press conference in Cancún, Mexico, where he will ride next weekend in the Cancún Cycling Challenge, which Alberto Contador won last year.
“The climate in Cancún is perfect for the sport in question, the temperature is perfect and there are good roads. We hope that on Saturday everything goes the best it possibly can. After being here, I’m taking a break to rest before dedicating myself totally to France,” he indicated.
Sánchez took advantage of the moment to speak about his compatriot Alberto Contador, reigning king of the Tour de France, who had a positive control as a consequence of having eaten contaminated meat, according to the athlete's statements.
“I have 100% confidence in Contador, I hope that this ends positively. Alberto, apart from being a friend, is a colleague at work and I hope that it’s resolved as soon as possible,” he stressed.
Sánchez echoed some of the comments he made to the press after last week's presentation of the route for the next Tour de France.
Joined in front of the mike in Paris by Carlos Sastre, both Spanish stars expressed a desire for speedy clarification of the doping suspicions dogging their compatriot Contador, and a trust that his innocence can be proven and he'll be able to participate in the 2011 Tour de France with no problem.
Contador's was the most noteworthy absence at the unveiling of the route for the 2011 Tour, in which Sánchez and Sastre participated a week ago Tuesday in France.
Sánchez was especially vocal in support of Contador and said that he has conveyed to him his “unconditional support” and trusts absolutely in the Madrileño’s account of the presence of clenbuterol in his urine owing to having eaten meat contaminated with the substance.
“Alberto’s case is a case of contaminated food, like what has happened in other sports. Recently a table tennis player was cleared for an amount a little higher than Alberto’s,” commented the Olympic road race champion who came fourth to Contador in the last Tour.
“It’s a very tough and uncertain time for him, and I send him my unconditional support. He already knows it, but I’m sending it to him again,” he added.
Sánchez believes that the international cycling authorities are already clear that Contador is innocent and that’s why he trusts that they will soon announce their decision to “end the doubting”.
“It shouldn’t take much longer either, it’s a clear case. What they have to do is decide to make it public as soon as possible in order to stop the uncertainty, so that we can calm down and it all fizzles out,” he explained.
For Sastre, champion of the 2006 Tour de France, the Contador case is negative for cycling and he trusts in its prompt resolution because it’s “damaging all” the riders.
“It’s given the media the opportunity to talk about this subject, and it is talking. All we do is talk and speculate about something that is not over and that has damaged everybody, mainly Alberto, whether he made a mistake or not,” he said last week.
“My patience, if it hasn’t been exhausted since 1998—I’m responding to the same questions—is not going to run out. I’m prepared for almost anything,” he pointed out with resignation, bemoaning having to talk about doping so often, even though he has never been immersed in any case personally.
Both Sánchez and Sastre, in previewing the 2011 Tour, include Contador on their list of favorites, having faith in both the positive resolution of his case and the absence of possible sanctions for next year.
“Any climber is a candidate. Andy Schleck, Nibali if he ends up riding, Alberto of course, by all means… There’s a new generation who are demonstrating good things and it’s a route that’s well-suited to them,” said Sastre.
“Alberto is the favorite. It has summit finishes for taking time, I think that it benefits him,” said Sánchez about the route.
The Tour de France 2011 (July 2-24) will cover 3,471 kilometers in 21 stages, with four summit finishes (Luz-Ardiden, Plateau de Beille, Galibier, and Alpe d’Huez) and a 41-kilometer individual time trial.
Photos: upper right, Contador and Sánchez at the Beijing Games (Jordi Cotrina); middle left, Samu rides beside Denis Menchov on the Tourmalet; lower right, Sastre at Tour 2010. (Tim De Waele public access gallery)
Pinteños on the march for Contador (AP)
Thousands of people worldwide support and believe in Alberto Contador, but none are more dedicated than the citizens of Pinto, his home town.
A crowd of these passionate friends and neighbors gathered last Saturday to stage another demonstration in favor of the three-time Tour winner.
Pinteños have shown their loyalty and confidence in Contador regularly through creative acts of support since September 29, when his press office announced that a urine test during the Tour had discovered an infinitesimal amount of clenbuterol.
Saturday’s project consisted of a three-kilometer human chain, with bikes—supplemented by a few prams and family dogs—which formed in the morning at Juan Carlos I Park. Hundreds of supporters, many wearing yellow t-shirts proclaiming “All for Contador,” then circled the park in a march of support under a handmade banner.
Pinto’s Friends of the Mountain Bike Club coordinated the chain, believing that “it’s necessary and essential” to send the message to Contador that the citizens of the area, “and especially lovers of the bicycle and of cycling,” believe in him.
Club president Manu Sopeña said that the event was done “in light of the accusations and persecution that the athlete is having to endure in relation to the possible positive for clenbuterol” at the hands of the international press.
“We believe that it’s appropriate to do an act of support in favor of Alberto,” he said.
Saturday’s action began at 10:00, when participants were invited to write encouraging messages in a guest book before finding a place in the chain. The chain broke formation around noon.
The event was devoted to words as well as actions, many of them coming from indignant supporters of the rider.
Alberto’s mother, Francisca Velasco, was particularly direct, saying that her son “feels bad, like a person who’s being slandered in this way feels.”
She said that he “is ready to fight to clear any suspicions” arising from the clenbuterol positive, describing the situation as “a nightmare” that is creating great tension in Contador.
“He says that he’s thinking about quitting cycling when all this is over, that it’s not worth keeping on. But I don’t know what he’ll do,” she said to reporters.
“Alberto sometimes wonders what’s the use of staying in business. I say to him that he’s right. You have to consider that since he won his first Tour, he hasn’t had a single calm winter.”
Saturday’s event concluded with a reading of supportive statements by civic and cycling-related organizations.
Contador, who was training, did not attend.
Alberto Contador has chosen not to ride the Criterium Ciudad de Oviedo inspite of being legally eligible to do so.
Word came on Friday, in an official communiqué from his press office, that the three-time Tour de France champion willingly refrains from appearing in an eagerly-anticipated duel with Olympic gold medalist Samuel Sánchez in the second edition of the city race in Asturias.
The statement reveals a characteristcally honorable intent on the part of Contador to cooperate with UCI proceedings regarding what is widely considered a “provisional suspension” for an alleged positive for 50-trillionths of a gram of clenbuterol noted in a control during the 2010 Tour de France.
“Contador never had the intention to race the Criterium Ciudad de Oviedo or any other race, until the current situation is resolved,” read the statement.
The statement was released after news regarding preparations for the criterium fueled an outpouring of support for the rider coming from northern Spain's Principality of Asturias, the home several of Contador’s colleagues and key gregarios, as well as the scene of his spectacular victories in the 2008 Vuelta on the Angliru and at Fuentes de Invierno.
Asturias was also the scene of the health crisis that resulted in brain surgery and the determined recovery that led to victory on the bike within eight months, a part of Contador’s life story that has marked him as an inspirational champion to many.
Contador’s choice to say no to riding in Oviedo comes in spite of having a license currently in force, making participation in the crtierium a legally-valid option. Juan Carlos Castaño, president of the Spanish Cycling Federation, told the press yesterday that “we do not have any official notification from the Union Cyclist International and therefore, for the time being, Contador’s license is valid and he can compete.”
“The UCI has still not communicated with us that we’re proceeding with the suspension of his license, that is to say, there would be no legal impediment to him riding in Oviedo,” added Castaño, who neverthless announced that “on Monday we’re going to request that the UCI give us an explanation. That they tell us how we must act and if he truly is suspended.”
Photo: Contador takes the legendary Angliru in 2008's Vuelta (EFE)
The Asturian Association of Ex-Cyclists want Alberto Contador to be present at their annual gala. The event, traditionally held at the Marieva Palace restaurant in Gijón’s Porceyo parish, is scheduled for November 12.
Contador’s teammate Benjamín Noval and journalist/former cyclist *José Enrique Cima have proposed including Contador in an official act of recognition for the most prominent members of the international peloton in recent years.
Noval and Cima will be making the case for the three-time Tour winner to attend the gala at the Criterium Ciudad de Oviedo next weekend as Contador remains under provisional suspension. They hope to see Contador return to the Principality of Asturias for the criterium, which he also rode last year when the inaugural edition of the the race paid tribute to Olympic gold medalist and native son, Samuel Sánchez.
Highlights of this year’s event will be the farewell ride of Contador’s former teammate, veteran Asturian rider Chechu Rubiera, and a hoped-for duel between Contador and Sánchez. Contador’s star gregario Dani Navarro will also be there, as well as Carlos Barredo.
Alberto Contador has a special connection with the Principality, where he became ill and crashed during the Vuelta a Asturias in 2004. He was seized with convulsions due to a congenital vascular condition in the brain, and crashed heavily as the race entered Infiesto. The race doctor, Santiago Zubizaretta, saved Contador’s life by acting quickly to insert a tracheal tube before sending him by ambulance to the hospital in Oviedo.
*José Enrique Cima (born 1952) is one of Spain’s top cycling writers. An Asturian, Cima began his promising professional career in 1976 with six victories, including two stage wins apiece in the Volta a Catalunya and the Vuelta al País Vasco.
Enrique Cima—whose surname means “summit”—was a climber who excelled at summit finishes and cronoescaladas. At 26, he battled Bernard Hinault at the 1978 Vuelta a España, winning two stages. He earned 12 victories and 16 second-place finishes that season, making him the year’s highest achiever among Spanish riders.
Cima suffered a back injury in 1979 which adversely affected his few remaining years on the bike. He retired in 1982, having won 27 victories in six years, with much of that time spent struggling to regain form after the injury.
After a short tenure as a directeur sportif, he joined the staff of La Nueva España and has since covered both the Tour and the Vuelta twenty times. His 1999 book, Angliru, la nueva cumbre del ciclismo, is devoted to Spain’s legendary cycling peaks.
Photo, above left - Alberto and Samu at the first edition of the criterium (La Nueva España); photo, above right - José Enrique Cima card
Chechu Rubiera, a teammate of Alberto Contador from 2007-2009 and one of the prinicipal domestiques on Contador's winning Vuelta squad, has retired after 16 years in the international peloton.
Rubiera's last appearance as a professional in a race will occur on Saturday, October 30 in the Criterium Ciudad de Oviedo near his home in Asturias. Meanwhile, he has given a lengthy chat interview to the online audience at El Comecio Digital.
The following excerpt was translated from Spanish by Christine Kahane.
ECD: What is your opinion concerning the “Contador case”?
CR: It’s very awkward because it’s clear that such a small quantity can't affect performance. It's done a lot of damage even though there's no evidence that he took it voluntarily nor that it produced an improved performance.
ECD: What will happen?
CR: I hope he isn't punished but the truth is there are people who've been sanctioned for the same problem and perhaps they don’t want to have committed any injustice.
ECD: Do you think that everybody “does it,” as they say?
CR: I don’t think so. I know that not all riders do it. Only 1% are tested positive. Putting an end to doping is the same problem as putting an end to corruption in politics or malfeasance in courts. There is no solution, and if there is one, we don’t know it.
ECD: What's the margin of difference between a clean cyclist and one who uses a substance like EPO?
CR: I would say at most 5%. Taking into account that the differences are sometimes very marginal, that means a lot. But if you take a rider without any special qualities and increase his potential by 5%, he’s still an ordinary rider.
ECD: You don’t think that without doping the result would be the same, except that they would ride at a slower speed?
CR: In a way, yes. There are cases that surprise us all. For example, the German Kohl who was an ordinary rider and suddenly was on the Tour podium. This was the result of doping. We all wish it did not exist, but there is always a percentage of 1 to 2% who play dirty tricks, with all that it entails. The sponsors then disappear and we pay the consequences.
ECD: What about Fernando Alonso’s project to create a team where you would be director?
CR: To my knowledge there is nothing new nor any plan to do anything in the near future. What’s certain is Fernando’s great liking for cycling and his interest in creating a team with Contador.
Photo, above: Contador and Rubiera at Javea training camp, December 2007 (Pez)
EUROPA PRESS - Formula 1 driver Pedro Martínez de la Rosa has come out in support of cyclist Alberto Contador, owing to the pressure the three-time Tour de France winner is being subjected to after an adverse result for clenbuterol in the last edition of the Tour.
“I don’t believe it. Until we know the results and the UCI make a pronouncement, to me he’s one heck of a champion. I admire him very much and wouldn’t tolerate any criticism until we know what happened - I have to believe the athlete. And I believe him one hundred percent,” he said in statements to Europa Press.
De la Rosa doesn’t hesitate to rate the Pinteño as “the best” in his discipline and deplores the treatment he has received. “You have to wait, you can’t judge a super-champion who goes through 200 controls a year and has never given a positive.”
The driver wanted to make clear that he supports “the presumption of innocence.”
“I’m not a doctor, but the clenbuterol seems like a joke to me… You shouldn’t judge lightly, and especially when it’s someone so honorable, who's given everything in the saddle. For me, he’s a champion no matter what happens."
EUROPA PRESS - The president of Spain’s Olympic Committee (COE), Alejandro Blanco, has underscored today that it is necessary “to encourage and support” Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador, who in his opinion is going through “a bad time,” due to all the occurrences surrounding his possible doping case from the Tour de France.
“Alberto is going through a bad time; we have to encourage and support him because I believe in his innocence, and as a sportsman he’s a point of reference for our country and for the whole world,” said Blanco to Europa Press, after attending the presentation of a collaborative agreement between The Real Madrid Foundation and Spain’s utilities giant, Endesa.
Furthermore, the director says that all the time that’s passing “since the news was leaked until there’s a definitive resolution is bad for the sport.”
“As I believe that he’s is absolutely not guilty, I really hope that this is settled soon and that he can go back to doing what he knows how to do, which is showing the world that he’s número 1 on the bicycle,” he added.
The president thinks that the Pinteño’s image has been harmed by the leaks concerning his case, but says confidently that “people in the sport know who Alberto is, and know that Alberto doesn’t take banned substances.”
“But when there’s a lapse of time, there are people that are very interested in publicizing unusual situations. I really hope that this all ends soon, that we can give him a hug soon and that people know that Alberto is clean,” said Alejandro Blanco.
Chechu Rubiera: "For me, Contador is a totally clean rider, he's the best rider, and I hope he can prove his innocence." (La Voz de Asturias)
Black and Red fight, always to hold tight - to Contador (Club Atlético de Pinto)
CLUB ATLÉTICO DE PINTO - The Pinto Athletics, the Division 3 football club from Alberto Contador’s hometown, defeated C.F. Fuenlabrada 3-1 on Saturday after observing an official act of support for the three-time Tour winner in a pre-game presentation at Amelia del Castillo field.
Contador’s sister Alicia was present in the V.I.P. box to accept the gesture of solidarity offered by the team, who were joined in the act by their rivals as well as friends and relatives of the Contador family.
Competing under a banner that read “Alberto Contador, Estamos Contigo” (Alberto Contador, We Are With You”), the Athletics were clearly the better team from the outset, despite Fuenlabrada’s early one-goal lead.
The Pinteños capitalized on the positive energy of Contador’s supporters in the stands and soon established a winning margin, playing from the heart in what has been described as the best game of the season for the Red and Black.
City Hall in Pinto wears yellow to support Alberto Contador (Pinto Hoy)
EFE - The Pinto city council has once again made a show of unconditional support for its world-famous native son, cyclist Alberto Contador, by draping a huge yellow cloth from the balcony of the city hall, and have, through an official communiqué, encouraged the people of Pinto to do likewise.
The cyclist’s hometown is amassing a show of support for Contador against “the attacks that he’s suffering” after being accused of doping with clenbuterol in the last Tour de France.
The city government indicates that this huge yellow cloth is designed to serve “as a reminder of the multitude of receptions that they have thrown for Alberto after his three Tour victories.”
The city council has encouraged citizens to join them “in the task of making evident this support by festooning balconies, windows and terraces in yellow.”
Some of the houses in the Spanish cyclist’s hometown already display “the color that best symbolizes both Alberto’s victories and the receptions that all of us have given him, and we’re confident that we’ll continue to give him for many years.”
Ever since the news about Alberto Contador’s possible positive was made public on September 30, Pinto’s city hall has wanted to show their backing of the rider with an official notice that expresses the support of all the political forces represented in the council.
“Pinto is proud of his impeccable career, his unshakeable fight against cheating in cycling and his courageous decision to clarify, from the very beginning, this unpleasant matter with those in charge of the Union Cycliste Internationale,” stated the notice.
Pinto’s council trusts “in a prompt elucidation of this entire matter” so that the citizens of the town and of all Spain can continue to enjoy the feats of Alberto, “a champion who has acquired an international dimension, without stopping being a humble person, always willing to help others and to work with his city government.”
Alberto Contador is still awaiting a ruling from the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on his case, and the knowledge of whether he will, in the end, be absolved or sanctioned in this case.
Pinto knows how to get creative with yellow (Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images)
Pinto Althletics banner of support for their hero Contador (Pinto Athletics)
EUROPA PRESS – October 9, 2010 - The Pinto Athletics football team will take the field tomorrow (Sunday) at Amelia de Castilla under a banner of support for Alberto Contador, three-time winner of the Tour de France. The message will read ‘Alberto Contador. We are with you.’
The team wants to show support in what they consider the “unjust” situation that their hometown cyclist “is going through” after leaks about a possible positive for clenbuterol and the publication in some papers about a presumed blood transfusion during the last Tour.
The pre-game presentation of tomorrow's match against CF Fuenlabrada—starting at 11:30 in the morning—will see the Red and Black take the field accompanied by friends and relatives of the rider.
The president of the organization, Óscar Garvín, has stated that, with this iniciative, the club “intends to support a neighbor who has been oustanding by virtue of his principles, in sport and personally.”
“For us, it’s very sad that a person of his greatness and transparency has to go through a situation like this. From here we wish him much encouragement so that he can endure it and come out of this unfair situation strengthened.”
Retired Italian star Mario Cipollini spoke to the BBC while in London yesterday about the plight of Contador.
"We want cycling to be clean and we want cyclists who ride with guts up the mountains and against the clock," said Cipo. "But it's a very delicate situation and I hope he clears things up: not for me but for the fans and the authorities."
"If he can do that he could emerge even cleaner than before, and it would mean that sport wouldn't lose such an enormous talent."
GO TO Mario Cipollini backs embattled Alberto Contador (print article and BBC video)
Alberto Contador announces legal actions against defamatory information
The legal team of Alberto Contador will take legal actions against defamatory information published so far by various media and websites, due to their absolute lack of veracity; additionally, they will proceed in the same way with any defamatory information that will be published in the future.
Alberto Contador radically denies the veracity of the information published by some media and reaffirms his innocence, as proved by all scientific reports provided to the UCI that were made available to the public, and as confirmed by his biological passport.
Alberto Contador reiterates that the clenbuterol found in the analysis of the last Tour de France was solely caused by food contamination and in no case has resorted to an autologous or any other method of doping.
Finally, the rider asks the sport authorities and especially the ICU, to provide a quick resolution of this case, as this is the best way to end the speculations and the publication of false and defamatory news about his person. (Official press release, AC press room)
Contador and Noval training in Rotterdam (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images)
La Nueva España - “It hurts to see Alberto Contador sad and furious due to these accusations, being innocent.”
So commented, with force, Benjamín Noval—cyclist from Mieres and gregario to Alberto Contador—yesterday from his house in El Arco (Lavinia), at seeing how his boss suffers with accusations over anti-doping controls.
It’s little wonder, because the Asturian—apart from being his protector on the road—is also Contador's personal friend and roommate at the races. “Alberto is going through bad times and no one could wish that on him, even though he’s prepared to fight and I’m very sure that he hasn’t done anything bad."
"I stand behind him 100% because I know how he behaves and he has a very good biological passport. He’s always willing to submit to the controls. I hope that in ten days everything will be resolved, even though the damage has already been done, and he can go back to enjoying the bike,” he said.
Two weeks ago Noval and Contador met again in Madrid, along with their new director and manager of Saxo Bank, Bjarne Riis, as well as other staff members and cyclists Dani Navarro and Jesús Hernández. Later, learning of the news of the alleged positive for clenbuterol, Noval spoke with Alberto in order “to encourage him. Yesterday I did it again. You see him with anger and powerlessness at seeing how they persecute him, and every day they try to antagonize him more. So sometimes it just leaves you speechless.”
Just the Asturians Dani Navarro and Benjamín Noval, like Contador, ate the pieces of tenderloin in question twice. Noval explains that “the meat was very rich. It was tender white veal tenderloin, not aged. It wasn’t from a steer; instead it was from young calf. It was very buttery and I remember that we commented that you didn’t need a knife because it could be cut with the blunt side. And look at all the controversy that it’s unleashing.”
Benjamín Noval is clear that “if they had me go through a control it would’ve been worse than Contador’s because they would’ve already stuck me with a two-year sanction because it would be said that on other days my levels would’ve been higher and nobody would’ve believed in my innocence. In this Alberto has a defense because he did controls on days before and after he was leader, and this infinitesimal amount owing to contaminated food shows up. But despite being that champion, they’re giving him a lot of problems over a thing where he sees himself as innocent.”
Additionally, the topic has been opened in France and the USA that they’ve found a lot of plastic in a urine analysis of Contador and that that could indicate an auto-transfusion.
Noval is angry because “it’s being done with a method that hasn’t been correlated or proven, and according to some specialists I heard, that amount of plastic could be from tetrabrick cartons, water bottles, or the number of bidons that we drank in the really hot stages. It’s a form of continuing to persecute Alberto and it’s accusing for the sake of accusing, and to damage Alberto’s image. If that’s how things are, then they’ll have to analyze all the riders in the Tour and I’m sure that they’ll give positives for plastic as well.”
Finally, Benjamín Noval trusts that Alberto is “well-protected by his family and people that advise him to step away from this controversy that only looks for opportunism.
"The damage that they’re doing to Contador is very great and it’s not strange to me that faced with so much pressure he would start thinking about quitting riding. But Alberto is strong and I’m sure that everything will turn out well.”
Contador, by the way, said yesterday that he won’t speak again until there’s a resolution by the UCI. (J.E. Cima for La Nueva España)
Alberto Contador has readily discussed the clenbuterol incident with the press (Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images)
L'EQUIPE - Pinto/October 3, 2010 - Alberto Contador, temporarily suspended by the UCI, thinks he is the victim of an injustice. He even considered stopping.
For the past three days the lobby of hotel Las Artes in Pinto, a Madrid suburb, has been packed. Alberto Contador is the local kid, subjected to solicitations from all sides since his temporary suspension by the UCI, following abnormal analyses revealing the presence of clenbuterol in his urine, as a result of testing during the Tour de France. In the face of adversity, he chose not to remain silent. He is expecting German TV channel ARD, which precipitated the announcement. Friendly, but obviously hurt, the three-time Tour winner speaks in a determined voice. Without any of his inner circle nor lawyers by his side, and without trying to wiggle out of it: “All the time and the questions you want.”
What is your state of mind?
I’m very sad. I’m disillusioned by this small cycling world. This helplessness in the face of what’s being said and written is terrible. Even more terrifying since I’ve always encouraged the fight against doping, and now things are turning against me. But I hope this episode will make me even stronger.
GO TO L'EQUIPE INTERVIEW BY MANUEL MARTINEZ
This important interview was translated from the French by Christine Kahane.
EUROSPORT - Monday, October 4, 13:41:00 - Alberto Contador has told Eurosport he expects the doping case against him will be closed in just over a week.
The Tour de France champion was provisionally suspended for having a concentration of anabolic agent clenbuterol 400 times less than what anti-doping laboratories accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency must be able to detect.
The Spanish rider, who gave the sample on a rest day at the Tour in July, has maintained his innocence and blamed eating contaminated meat for the traces in his system.
And the 27-year-old Astana rider said in an exclusive interview with Eurosport that he is confident that his case will be resolved in around "8 to 10 days".
"People who know me and people who have been working with me know that I'm innocent," he said.
"I completely trust the dope test process. I had eight tests during last Tour de France. Scientific evidence supports me."
Asked whether he expected a ban, he said: "That's something that I cannot contemplate, especially when you know that you haven't done anything wrong.
"I don't know what is going to happen but I know that it is difficult to be banned when you haven't done anything wrong."
He added: "It is really hard to accept that I may be banned."
Contador revealed that his former team-mate Lance Armstrong, who has himself had to fight off rumours of doping throughout his career, has not been in contact with him since the revelations became public last Thursday, although he is convinced he has the support of Europe's cycling community.
"I haven't spoken to him (Armstrong) but I know what he thinks about it through other people," he said.
"I really think people across Europe trust me. It’s a totally unjust situation. I’m a completely transparent person, dedicated to the struggle against doping and the call for anti-doping sanctions against teams.
"I'm defending my position so ferociously because I'm speaking the truth, the whole truth.
"I don't want to think that people in France, Germany or on the Tour de France have something against me. I don't want to think that there is something else involved."
Photo of Contador training at Calpe from the Tim de Waele public access gallery
Spanish media have reported both Alberto Contador and the authorities are investigating the source of the contaminated meat which allegedly caused him to test positive for a tiny amount of clenbuterol.
CYCLING WEEKLY - October 2, 2010 - "We've done everything we can," Contador told Spanish tv station TeleMadrid.
"We've even been back to the same shop in Irun" - on the Spanish border - "where the meat was originally bought, bought some more and taken it to a lab for analysis."
"The problem is that not all the meat comes from the same place and the labs are normally not as specialised as the ones that carry out anti-doping investigations. As is well known only four labs in the world can detect the amount of clenbuterol that was discovered in my system."
Sports daily MARCA also reports that the Spanish authorities are carrying out their own unspecified investigation into where the meat had come from.
Given Contador has not named which butcher's shop his friend Jose Luis Lopez Cerron bought the meat in, yesterday Irun was apparently crawling with journalists visiting all 37 butchers in the medium-sized border town to try and find out which one it was. None succeeded.
Several meat-producing and agricultural associations, anxious to clear their name, have called for action to be taken against both the butcher who sold the meat and against the beef producer.
They also want to know if the meat came from Spain - which Cycling Weekly understands is thought to be unlikely - although there was an oubreak of sickness affecting dozens of Spaniards in the early 1990s caused by excessive doses of clenbuterol in meat.
Contador has also admitted that the first thing he thought about when he was told that he was positive was to give up racing, but that despite being "deeply disappointed" by what happened he "wants to wait and see how everything works out."
Which will be how long? According to Contador's interview in MARCA, he expects a further development to take place in the next two weeks. Meanwhile he remains provisionally suspended.
Meanwhile more details have emerged on the agreement to keep the Contador case under wraps - an agreement wrecked when the case was leaked to the German media.
According to Spanish newspapr El País, there was a meeting between the UCI, Contador and his representatives at the end of August in the town of Puertollano. Contador agreed to the provisional suspension and the UCI began their own investigation into the case. It was only when the German tv station ARD got wind of the case that first Contador and then the UCI, some hours later, decided to go public. (Alasdair Fotheringham for Cycling Weekly)
EL DIARIO MONTANES - David de la Fuente. His name was on the lips of Alberto Contador in yesterday’s press conference in Pinto. The Cantabrian rider admits he also accidentally ate the meat that caused the trouble.
“If the bad stuff is in that meat, I ate it too. It was pure chance, because on that day, they wouldn’t let us into the hotel kitchen so the teams that had their own chef then ate whatever meat they had. The people that came down late to dinner ate something different than the first people,” assured the lieutenant of the yellow jersey.
De la Fuente related what went on that night within the Astana headquarters. “After the stage we went to the hotel. We got massages, like every day, and clearly, some go down first and others afterwards, according to when they finish. The first ones ate hotel food but, in the end, those of us that came down last were eating our food. Simply by chance.” De la Fuente was one of the last of the team to come down, and acknowledges that he shared dinner with the champion from Madrid.
“It’s not sanctionable”
The Cantabrian cyclist was indignant after verifying how the events had transpired. “You say otherwise, and you and I might go back and forth about it, but on this occasion, it seems outrageous. If it’s not sanctionable, if he isn’t banned, then why make it public. The only thing that it can do is put a stain on cycling. To tell the truth, I’m getting a bit lost in cycling,” said David de la Fuente, who trained in Cantabria yesterday as if it were a normal day.
The cyclist cried out for uniformity of criteria. “Let me clarify, things that are positives are positives, but what isn’t banned, shouldn’t be made public, because it never stops staining this sport.”
The rider, who is still with Astana and who, probably, could be absorbed by the team directed by Josean Fernández Matxín next year with the Geox company, had no chance to speak with Alberto Contador yesterday. “I wasn’t able. What I want is for it to be resolved. Alberto is a champion.”
Photo from Tim de Waele public access gallery
EFE - José Luis López Cerrón, former cyclist from Valladolid and former directeur sportif of the Amaya and Seguros Vitalicio teams, among others, assured EFE today that he purchased the clenbuterol-contaminated meat that Alberto Contador ingested in the last Tour “in Irún” when he was travelling “on the way to Pau.”
“Every year I go to the Tour de France one or two days, and this time it coincided with the tribute to the Vuelta Ciclista a España in Pau, which was a place that was close to Spain as well,” said López Cerrón.
“When I was driving, I called Paco Olalla, the chef for Astana (Alberto Contador’s team), and Paco was a little annoyed because in Pau they’d been put up in a hotel in which they wouldn’t let him into the kitchen,” said Cerrón.
“He asked me for a tenderloin for the riders, I was on the freeway near San Sebastian and I exited at Irún. There I started wandering around until I found a butcher’s shop and bought a veal tenderloin,” he explained.
“When I got to Pau I gave it to Paco, who had to cook it on the bus,” as the chef himself confessed today to EFE, since they wouldn’t let him use “the services” of the hotel.
“I hope that everything is clarified because Alberto (Contador) is completely innocent,” concluded López Cerrón
From Eurosport, with some English interpretation:
After Alberto's statements, the floor was opened to questions, which he answered without reserve. Video when available.
The UCI confirmed today that Spanish rider Alberto Contador returned an adverse analytical finding for clenbuterol following the analysis of urine sample taken during an in competition test on 21st July 2010 on the second rest day of the Tour de France.
This result was reported by the WADA accredited laboratory in Cologne to UCI and WADA simultaneously.
The concentration found by the laboratory was estimated at 50 picograms (or 0,000 000 000 05 grams per ml).
In view of this very small concentration and in consultation with WADA, the UCI immediately had the proper results management proceedings conducted including the analysis of B sample that confirmed the first result. The rider, who had already put an end to his cycling season before the result was known, was nevertheless formally and provisionally suspended as is prescribed by the World Anti-Doping Code.
This case required further scientific investigation before any conclusion could be drawn.
The UCI continues working with the scientific support of WADA to analyse all the elements that are relevant to the case. This further investigation may take some more time.
In order to protect the integrity of the proceedings and in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code, the UCI will refrain from making any further comments until the management of this adverse analytical finding has been completed.
Read the VELONATION article - "UCI says Alberto Contador's Tour de France doping positive requires further scientific investigation" - plus the entire commentary of Dr. Douwe de Boer.
Alberto Contador has been affected by an anti-doping control administered in the 2010 Tour de France, where the substance clenbuterol was detected on July 21.
From the moment of the first communication by the UCI, on August 24, Alberto Contador indicated food contamination as the only possible explanation of what happened. The matter has since been turned over to the cycling authorities, trusting that the very serious problem which has now come to light could be clarified
The experts consulted thus far have agreed, also pointing to contaminated food as the origin of the case, especially bearing in mind the number of controls that Alberto Contador passed during the Tour de France, which—considering both the ability of the controls to pinpoint the moment of the substance’s appearance, as well as the minute amount detected*—discount any other origin or design.
Alberto Contado will hold a press conference at noon today, September 30, at the Hotel Las Artes de Pinto (Paseo de las Artes, n° 15), in order to tell the public what happened himself. (Official press release, AC press room)
*According to Cyclingnews: "The International Cycling Union (UCI) has confirmed the suspension of Tour de France champion Alberto Contador after traces of clenbuterol were found in a sample from July 21. The governing body highlighted that the amount of clenbuterol was 400 times less than the amount World Anti-Doping Agency accredited labs must be able to detect."
EFE - Madrilenian cyclist Alberto Contador said yesterday in Pinto that he sees the reigning champion of the Vuelta a España, Italian rider Vincenzo Nibali, as one of his “toughest rivals” to compete against in the next edition of the Tour de France.
The three-time Tour champion commented after opening a new municipal bike-rental system to be incorporated into city transport in his hometown, Pinto, and has pointed to the Italian as one of his principal competitors in the Tour de France.
“Nibali has enormous quality and is a sure candidate to fight for victory in the next Tour. In 2009 he already was, and he got seventh place,” he said.
Contador stressed that in the 2009 edition on “the days with summit finishes, he was one of the ones who was closest to Andy and me, and he’s definitely a rival for the future.”
The cyclist from Pinto further underscored the Vuelta a España winner’s youth: “He’s very young; he’s two years younger than I am. He’s a cyclist that’s still growing and I’m sure that he’ll be a tough rival.”
On another topic, after finding this Vuelta a España “so attractive,” Alberto Contador acknowledged that he “wants to participate,” but “the calendar is what it is, it’s very demanding,” although he reiterated that next year “the Vuelta is figuring into my plans.”
“In the coming year I’ll ride two grand tours, probably the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. It’s rash to talk about all three. I always like to ride one hundred percent to win in the races I participate in. I try to win them, and it’s impossible to participate in them all,” he said.
The only Spanish rider capable of winning all three grand tours is “very excited” about the project with his new team (Saxo Bank) and confessed that “today we’re going to hold another meeting,” since “there are still a lot of things to wrap up: losses, new signings.”
Finally, Alberto Contador said that he’s “very motivated” by the projects that come under the flag of his Foundation and elaborated that “you have to empower cycling at the local and national base level.”
“It’s very important to empower the base. We now have, at the elite level, probably the best era in the history of cycling, but we can’t forget the base,” he concluded.
Alberto Contador is participating today in the opening of a new bike-rental system to be incorporated by the city of Pinto, his hometown.
The concept is in keeping with one of the missions of the new ALBERTO CONTADOR FOUNDATION: to promote use of the bicycle, especially as a clean, sustainable and affordable means of transport.
Today the Foundation - also dedicated to support awareness of cerebral ictus (stroke) - has, as well, taken the first step in its program to reclaim, repair and redistribute used bikes for the benefit of people in developing countries and underpriviledged areas. The first batch of donated second-hand bikes has been gleaned from garages and attics in Pinto, and awaits the mechanics' attention in a warehouse provided by the city.
Watch this space for more on the events today in Pinto.
Alberto, without skipping a beat, segues into these activities after a weekend trip to Kazakhstan with Vino, Eddy Merckx and Jesús Hernández. Friday and Saturday found him in Almaty, where he held a press conference with dignitaries, then rode a criterium despite a bout of unseasonably cold weather.
Go to the ASTANA FAN CLUB for loads of nice photos of the activities on FRIDAY and from the CRITERIUM
Criterium video with Alberto's address in English to the crowd in Almaty:
(Upper left photo by FJ Contador)
Vincenzo Nibali, 25, won the 2010 Vuelta a España today in Madrid, and now he wants the Tour de France title. He knows he'll have to go through Alberto Contador to get it.
“Alberto Contador is the No. 1 of the grand-tour riders. Every grand tour he starts, he wins. It would be very difficult to try to beat him. If I continue to progress, I believe it’s possible to try to fight him 100 percent,” said the Italian.
GO TO VELONEWS
Alberto Contador, Eddy Merckx, and Alexander Vinokourov in Kazakhstan yesterday (Astana Cycling Team)
Alberto Contador has travelled to Kazakhstan this weekend as one of a handful of distinguished guests from the world of cycling.
The reigning Tour king joined Astana captain on the road, Alexander Vinokourov, and cycling great Eddy Merckx at a Friday press conference held at the headquarters of Samruk Kazyna, where President Keirat Kelimbetov thanked Contador and Vinokourov “for this exceptional year in which they proudly flew the flag for Kazakhstan.”
Contador and Vino, with their teammate Jesús Hernández, will ride a criterium in the former capital, Almaty, on Saturday. Eddy Merckx will also be on hand to attend the race as a guest of honor. (Official press release, Astana Cycling Team)
Building the fanbase for Astana (Stanislav Filippov/AFP/Getty Images)
AS.COM - Alberto Contador, winner of the 2008 Vuelta a España, visited the race as a fan during the Stage 17 time trial at Peñafiel. Spanish sport journal as.com was one of many to ask him a few questions.
How is the Vuelta seeming to you?
It’s very exciting, every day something new happens and there’s been no clear dominator. It was a shame about Igor Antón’s crash, since he was maybe the strongest man in the Vuelta.
The time trial has left Nibali and Mosquera in a hand-to-hand combat for the final victory.
Ezequiel did a great time trial, he was very strong. Nibali did his job and had bad luck with the puncture. The nice thing is that there’s nothing decided and a lot of things can happen on Bola del Mundo. I’m sure that Mosquera will attack to win.
Is it maddening not to be on the road competing with them?
A little, yes, but it turns out to be a sensational feeling to watch the race from the outside. Nevertheless, for 2011 I’ve pencilled into my plans trying to win the Tour and Vuelta, so I really hope that they save this route for the next edition, that it’s a good one for me. (laughs)
Unzué said that he kept in contact with you for the new Telefónica team. What kept you from signing?
In the last few years there’s been a lot of suspense surrounding my future, that’s why this time I wanted to clarify it as soon as possible. We talked, but the option of Saxo Bank came along and I decided on it. However, I’m excited about the possibility of riding for a Spanish organization, with a great sponsor like Telefónica. (Interview by J. A. Ezquerro, as.com)
Miguel Induráin and Alberto Contador, five- and three-time winners of the Tour de France, respectively, agreed about betting on Ezequiel Mosquera’s chances to win the present edition of the Vuelta a España.
“It’s up to the Vuelta to decide. In almost three weeks, it still hasn’t been settled and it remains to be seen who's the winner,” said Induráin, who shared a car with Contador while following some of the riders in the time trial at Peñafiel.
The five-time Tour winner from Navarre said that “Mosquera’s strength is holding well,” and that at Bola del Mundo he will have options over Nibali, the race leader. And about “Purito” Rodríguez, he thinks that the Catalonian “couldn’t maintain the pace and never managed to find the proper position on the bicycle.”
Alberto Contador, the first Spaniard to have the Tour, Giro and Vuelta in his palmarés, also stressed “Ezequiel Mosquera’s chances to beat Nibali” and that for him the Galician cyclist “will have to play the trump card in his own backyard.”
About “Purito”, the Madrileño said that the ex-leader “didn’t have his best day. I thought that things were going to go better for him,” he said. (MARCA)
Alberto Contador was present in the studio of Spanish television RTVE on Wednesday to answer questions and to commentate on the action at the culmination of Vuelta Stage 11 to Andorra.
Among the topics were his favorite for the overall winner of the Vuelta (Vincenzo Nibali), his satisfaction in joining Saxo Bank-SunGard next year and his feelings about his Tour de France rival, Andy Schleck.
And the most exciting news: Contador again indicates that he's seriously considering riding the Vuelta next year.
GO TO RTVE for video and article in Spanish.
Also see VIDEO: "Contador clarifies controvery with Schleck"
GO TO VELONEWS for article in English.
José Luis de Santos, head coach of the Spanish national cycling team, announced in a press conference today in Murcia that Alberto Contador has opted out of participation in this year’s World Championships in Australia.
“He has preferred not to extend this season and to rest in order to be better able to face the next one with utmost security,” De Santos said after speaking by telephone with the winner of the 2010 Tour.
The news comes as no surprise. Alberto Contador recently switched teams for 2011, moving to Saxo Bank-SunGard, which is experiencing a thorough re-shuffle in the wake of the Schleck brothers’ commitment to a new team based in their home country next year. He was, in addition, injured slightly last Monday in a training accident.
Spain has held the top place in the UCI World Rankings for many weeks, due in large part to victories by three-time Tour de France winner Contador. Even without him and his Astana gregarios, the nation will be well-represented when events begin on September 29 in Geelong.
Under the leadership of triple World Champion Óscar Freire, 34, Spain will field a team that will certainly be seen as a favorite, and will hope to follow the nation’s 2010 World Cup football title with another coup in cycling. Samuel Sánchez, 2008 Olympic gold-medalist in the men’s road race, will also ride for La Roja as they tackle a course similar to the one in Beijing.
De Santos has released a list of 21 riders from which eleven will be chosen—nine for the road race and two for the individual time trial.
Pre-selected are Javier Moreno, Imanol Erviti, Ivan Gutiérrez, Pablo Lastras, Luis Pasamontes, Rubén Plaza, José Joaquín Rojas, Luis León Sánchez, Francisco José Ventoso, Xavier Tondo, Koldo Fernández, Egoi Martínez, Samuel Sánchez, Carlos Barredo, Óscar Freire, Juan Manuel Gárate, Juan Antonio Flecha, Joaquim Rodríguez, Haimar Zubeldia, Gustavo César Veloso, and David García.
SUPERDEPORTE.ES - The powerful “land-rover” Benjamin Noval and the climbers Jesús Hernández and Daniel Navarro have been Bjarne Riis’ first gifts to Alberto Contador after his recent signing with the Saxo Bank team, but the rider from Pinto isn’t satisfied with that.
Next year, he’ll count again on his trusted trainer, the Valencian Pepe Martí.
Photo: Pepe Martí (hatless) with Noval, De la Fuente and Navarro in training (Astana Cyling Team)
After logging successes starting in 2007 with physical preparation carried out with the trainer from Almàssera, the three-time Tour winner has managed to free Martí from Astana for next year so that he can serve as his personal trainer in 2011, either within the structure of Saxo Bank or alongside it.
And although they still have a meeting pending with Riis to study the final form of the team’s technical schematic, as of today the most likely situation is that Martí will focus only on Contador’s preparation, leaving open the option to work in conjunction with the team or the rest of the Saxo Bank trainers, if in the end he does not take charge of the training of the entire group.
Pepe Martí started working with Contador in 2007 on the Discovery team and has been with him in all his grand tour victories. But the Valencian’s link with cycling started more than a decade ago when he went from Porcelanatto to US Postal in 1999, moving from there to Discovery Channel and Astana, in order to keep working with the best rider in the world at that time, Lance Armstrong.
But Pepe Martí’s successes are not focused only on road racing, since he was also the trainer of one of Spain’s best athletes, Joan Llaneras, who has four Olympic medals in his palmarès, including two gold and two silver medals in track cycling.
His beginnings in the sport, nevertheless, weren’t on two wheels, since he started with athletics, then continued his career as a trainer in basketball, both with Arroz Dacsa Almàssera and the collegiate women’s national team.
At 40 years old and with more than a decade of experience in professional cycling, Pepe Martí on his own merit has become one of the right-hand men of Contador, who’s clear that things that aren’t broken don’t need fixing, and that he’s relying on one of the most prestigious trainers in the international peloton.
Martí’s continuation at the side of the best cyclist in the world means another stroke of authority for Contador in his new team.
Astana's 2010 triumvirate of Vino, Alberto and Oscar poses at training camp in Pisa, December 2009 (photo: AC press room)
EL CORREO - “I’m alive,” said Oscar Pereiro when he opened his eyes after being thrown on a curve on the Colle dell' Agnello in the 2008 Tour.
He finished flying on that turn. He came from above, choosing, in the blink of an eye, between vaulting over the guardrail or smashing against it. Between the abyss or the slash of steel. “If you go beneath it, you lose a leg or an arm. I guessed right,” he related.
He survived, even though he dropped onto the ground like lead. When he left the hospital, he had tattooed over the tremendous scar on his left arm the date and place of his second birth: “Colle dell’ Agnello 2008.” But in his right hand has lurked an injury that now could now take away his Vuelta a España and, thus, hasten his farewell as a cyclist.
“I’ve gone a week without training. I can’t open a door with a key. I hope I’ll get to the Vuelta, but… Difficult, really,” he declared. The old crash on the Agnello has left him, for all practical purposes, currently one-handed.
“I have an interosseous lump that's affecting the metacarpal extensors,” he explained as if he were playing the role of a doctor.
His team, Astana, have registered him in the Tour of Limousin which starts tomorrow. Pereiro is not to be seen. “The only solution is to operate,” he prognosticates.
That would mean goodbye. “I wanted to leave with a stage victory in the Vuelta, but…” He had that goal, he’s 33, and if he doesn’t recover use of his hand, he won’t get the chance.
Pereiro’s story is the story of someone able to win the Tour (2006) without the capacity for such a feat. That fits. He weighs his enormous merit, and he knows: “I had the luck of winning that year. One occasion among a million. Winning that race wasn’t within reach of a rider of my characteristics. But I won it. After that, I stagnated.”
In fact, it was his most recent victory, and he reached it via the disqualification of Floyd Landis, the American Mennonite pumped up with testosterone.
The other face of the success
That unexpected triumph threw his life into disarray.
His achievement was not officially recognized until a year and a half later. “They didn’t let me start in yellow in the next Tour. I lost enthusiasm. It felt like I was fighting the world. I didn’t enjoy it.”
In 2008, at the guardrail, the Agnello wanted to hammer in the final nail.
He avoided that end. But in the 2009 Tour, he collapsed. Wrecked and devoid of strength, he abandoned in the Pyrenees. That was in July. “In September, I had already decided to quit cycling, I considered it done, although I didn’t want to leave with this image, of quitting.”
He went through some weeks as an ex-cyclist. “I felt liberated. At last, if I wanted to eat a plate of chorizo with potatoes, I could do it. And I was finished being policed by the antidoping controls every day.” He was already walking the path of his future. Actor? He likes it. He wants to get a day on the screen; to put a face to a certain celebrity from his favorite drama: “Red Eagle.”
Then suddenly Contador and Astana called him. One more opportunity. He had thought about riding the Vuelta and closing his chapter on cycling. Maybe it was already filed.
Maybe it had to be that way: to Pereiro, everything has happened to him in the Tour, the race that he knew how to lace up without even having a string, and which almost killed him on the Agnello. (by J. GÓMEZ PEÑA, El Correo)
Photo, left, by Oscar Pereiro at Twitter; right, by La Voz de Galicia
LA NUEVA ESPAÑA - by Alba García - Cyclist Benjamín Noval, born in Mieres in 1978 and a resident of Puente d’Arcu in Lavinia, has used his pedals to help with victories by Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador in the Tour de France.
He’s a super-gregario who at key moments also knows how to take the lead, although he considers himself a “pretty insecure” person.
You'd spend a crazy night with...?
My wife, of course.
The last time you were embarrassed was...?
I ‘m often embarrassed. I’m shy, especially when I have to speak in public.
If you were a historical figure, you’d be...
Your confessable vice is...?
Hunting, I like it a lot and I often go to the mountains whenever I have time.
Your hidden virtue is...?
I think I’d have to leave that to others, but I’ll go out on a limb and say nobility.
You lose your nerve when...?
Losing ground rapidly, but mainly when there’s some discussion, that’s when I get the most nervous.
A perfect plan would be...?
Going on vacation with my wife, my son and my friends to any corner of Asturias.
The next time you go to a karaoke bar…?
I’ve never been to a karaoke bar, and if I ever go, I’m certainly not going to sing. Like I say, I’m pretty embarrassed about speaking in public, there’s no way you’d get me to sing. (laughs)
The last compliment you received was...?
It was a long time ago, and my wife doesn’t tell me that anymore.
You can’t keep from laughing when…?
At anecdotes that my friends tell me, and jokes.
The part of the body that you like best is...?
You would take Belén Esteban [TV hostess and personality] to...?
I don’t know, she talks too much for me…I’d take her hunting.
When you’re on your own...?
I get pretty bored, I like to be with somebody.
Your greatest personal achievement is...?
Definitely, it’s reaching professional status on the bicycle, achieving what I’ve achieved through effort and sacrifice.
When you were little, your favorite toy was a...?
A toy gun that shot caps, but when I was six I got very excited about receiving my first bike.
Something you find hard to believe is...?
Sometimes it’s in myself, I’m a pretty insecure person.
Photo by Fernando Rodriguez
If you live in Denmark, you’re lucky.
Not only has the great Danish team Saxo Bank signed Alberto Contador, winner of three Tours and cyclings’s Triple Crown. Now you get to see him race live, tomorrow evening at Herning.
Contador will be racing for the first time on Danish roads and looking forward to visiting the home of the Herning Cycling Club, a group well-known to his new boss, Bjarne Riis.
"I'm happy to come to Herning. I've heard from the organizers that the route does not exactly favor my climbing abilities, since hills are rare in and around the city, but I'll do my best regardless, of course, and see how it goes," said Alberto, who is also looking forward to meeting the fans.
Good news for the rest of the world: you can follow the race live, too, thanks to Danish online cycling journal FELTET.DK .
LIVE COVERAGE starts at 19:25 tomorrow, Friday, August 13.
Photo by Caroline Blumberg
The official website of Alberto Contador's team for 2011, soon to be Saxo Bank-SunGard, has announced today the signing of three of Contador's primary support riders to two-year contracts.
The new recruits - Daniel Navarro, Benjamín Noval and Jesús Hernández - were widely speculated to be following Contador to his new team. The three provided crucial support for him at Astana in his successful campaign for a third Tour de France title, and are, moreover, trusted friends.
Noval has been Contador's roommate during the races since 2007, and Hernández has an even longer close asssociation, the two Madrilenians having been sparring partners since they were teenagers. Contador's working relationship with Navarro goes back to their days as young riders with Liberty Seguros.
As a step of constructing a powerful team for years to come, the future Saxo Bank-SunGard signed two year contracts with the strong all-rounder, Benjamin Noval and the two climbers, Jesus Hernandez and Daniel Navarro.
"The strong Spaniards have been a loyal and highly competent support for Alberto Contador and Team Saxo Bank owner, Bjarne Riis is looking forward to working with the Spanish trio:
“Having met the three strong and loyal riders, it was a natural and almost obvious move to sign with them. They have shown great stamina and loyalty during this year's Tour de France along with a great will to corporate and sense of team spirit,” commented Bjarne Riis.
And the three Spanish riders are thrilled to become a part of the Danish Team:
"I'm very excited about coming to Saxo Bank-SunGard and I'm happy that Bjarne shows great confidence in me. Here, I will be able to help the Team and Alberto to another Tour de France victory. I'm looking forward to working with the staff and to meet my new teammates and experience Bjarne's way of working. I am convinced that we will have a very strong team,” says Daniel Navarro.
“I'm very happy to sign with Saxo Bank-SunGard. Working with Riis, makes me calm because their team has always had a reputation for being well-structured with clear ideas. I hope it will be a fruitful experience for all of us and personally, my goal will be to help the Team in every race I do and to work with Riis,” said Benjamín Noval.
"This move is perfect for me. I get to keep riding with Alberto and I get to start working with a serious team with a lot of discipline. I'm very excited to start working with Bjarne as he has proven to be a great sports director. I'm convinced that we will achieve great triumphs together,” states Jesús Hernández.
Alberto Contador confirms today that he has made a commitment with Bjarne Riis and has signed an agreement with the Dane for the next two seasons, as announced earlier in a press conference by team officials.
After making the decision to leave the ranks of Astana, Alberto Contador has considered the offer by Riis’ organization the most solid and the surest bet for career success of all those on the table, a factor which has helped him reach a decision without further delay.
The support of the principal sponsors of the team, Saxo Bank and SunGard, has also been a determining factor in Contador’s choice of this proposal, as has been that of Specialized, who have not hesitated to continue backing Alberto Contador as the undisputed leader of their brand in competition. (Official press release, AC press room)
Alberto Contador courra sous les couleurs de Saxo Bank-SunGard
Alberto Contador confirme qu’il s’est engagé avec Bjarne Riis, avec lequel il a signé un contrat pour les deux saisons à venir, comme cela vient d’être annoncé au cours de la Conférence de Presse tenue par des responsables de l’équipe.
Consécutivement à sa décision de ne pas rester dans l’équipe Astana, Alberto Contador a considéré l’offre de la structure de Riis comme étant la plus sérieuse et lui offrant les meilleures garanties sportives parmi celles qui s’offraient à lui. Il n’a pas eu besoin de réfléchir longtemps pour fixer son choix.
Le soutien des principaux sponsors de l’équipe, Saxo Bank et Sungard, a également été déterminant dans le choix de cette proposition, ainsi que celui de Specialized, qui n’a pas hésité à suivre Alberto Contador comme leader indiscutable de ses projets de compétition.
Alberto Contador se sent « particulièrement motivé envers ma nouvelle équipe. Je pense avoir choisi la meilleure option et j’ai confiance en Riis pour former une grande équipe en 2011. J’ai hâte d’entamer cette nouvelle aventure avec une équipe et des sponsors qui me font confiance et auxquels je tiens à démontrer qu’ils n’ont pas eu tort ».
Contador and Hernandez at the Profronde van Lommel in Beligium (Peter Deconnick/AFP/Getty Images)
Alberto Contador, winner of the 2010 Tour de France, won the Profronde van Lommel criterium in Belgium yesterday.
Contador took the victory followed by Jurgen Van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) in second place and Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Transitions) in third.
Contador is making the rounds of northern European criteriums, common practice for winners of the Tour. The events draw huge crowds of cycling fanatics and give the champion a chance to display his new maillot jaune, as well as net him a tidy sum of pocket change.
Alberto’s first foray into post-Tour exhibitions occurred last Tuesday, July 27, in Holland’s 31st Profronde Stiphout, sponored by Bavaria beer.
Here he deferred at the finish line to distinguished colleagues after 2:15:42 of racing, arriving in third place behind victorious Robert Gesink, who rode to 6th place in the Tour de France in spite of a broken ulna, and Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), 2nd, who also finished 2nd in the Tour.
Alberto won at Stiphout last year, Schleck won in 2008. Other past winners include Pedro Delgado and Marco Pantani.
PROFRONDE STIPHOUT PHOTO GALLERY
Contador will travel to France on Tuesday to take part in the popular Chatillon la Bataille criterium near Bordeaux in the afternoon.
On the brink of disaster, Contador rides like the wind (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)
Benjamín Noval: “We couldn’t believe that the victory was in danger”
Dani Navarro: “Watching the time trial gave me a stomachache”
LA NUEVA ESPAÑA - 7/27/10 - by J.E. Cima - “We suffered a lot in the Bordeaux time trial seeing how Andy Schleck made things difficult for Contador when we didn’t expect it, nor did Alberto himself.” That’s how Benjamín Noval and Dani Navarro, the Tour winner’s super-domestiques, acknowledge the tension that they experienced after finishing their time trials and watching on TV as Contador competed for the conquest of his third title.
Noval explains that “the victory was not as easy as we expected in the final part. Schleck was very strong and he gave him more trouble than we thought.
"Alberto doesn’t let on about his problems because he wants for the team to be calm and to have a very cohesive group. He thinks that if there’s a lack of confidence in the leader, the team loses effectiveness and motivation. That’s why seeing him so emotional after the time trial is unusual and indicates that he suffered a great deal.”
Noval, who has Contador’s complete trust and is his roommate, added that “if Alberto said that he won the Tour at Morzine-Avoriaz, it was because he didn’t have one of his best days there, and he overcame it. Physically he wasn’t fine on that day, but he was fresh mentally for ordering Dani Navarro to pull hard so that the rivals thought that he was going to attack and didn’t make a move. It was a very good tactical decision to make when things were going badly.”
At the personal level, Benjamín Noval says that “I’m happy with my work protecting Alberto. The stages that wore me out the most were the ones in Holland—due to the wind—and on the pavé in Belgium, in order to be in a good position. The main thing is that Alberto won his third triumph.
“My greatest joy was entering the Champs Elysées with Alberto wearing the yellow jersey, because it felt like something really special. And if Contador won this Tour not feeling well, I’m sure that he’s going to win more.”
Dani Navarro was also happy with the great job he did for Contador in the mountains. “I got a lot of praise for what I did, but it’s because it’s the work that’s most visible and not the less-obvious and self-sacrificing work of Benjamín Noval and other teammates.
“If I could choose my best moment, it would be on the climb to Morzine-Avoriaz, but I’m happy with the other stages in the Alps and Pyrenees. The only day that I wasn’t fine was the finish at the Tourmalet and I blame that a little on the rain and cold. But only failing on one day is not too bad,” he said.
Nevertheless, their greatest case of nerves happened in front of the television during the time trial at Bordeaux. “I got back to my hotel room late after doing my time trial and I see that Contador has only 2 seconds on Schleck. Jesús Hernández and I paced the room until we got stomachaches.
“Thank heaven in the end Alberto prevailed and won another Tour. It was the worst day that the whole team experienced because we took for granted that it was going to be an easy time trial. Thank heaven Alberto was very strong mentally and knew how to suffer and pull himself together,” says Navarro.
Now both riders are thinking about the future since their contracts will be up at the end of the season.
Benjamín Noval explains that “within a few days we’ll know if Alberto is staying with Astana or is changing teams, and my future and Dani’s are united wherever Contador is. At the moment I’m going to rest and enjoy a little of the summer in Asturias.”
Dani Navarro, who will ride the Clásica de San Sebastián on Saturday, says that “Alberto told me to stay calm, that he’ll take me with him, and I’m very grateful to him. He gave me a maillot jaune with the dedication “For your great help in the mountains for winning this Tour.” For me, that’s something very moving.”
STAGE 19 PHOTO GALLERY
Photo (above right): Noval and Navarro arrive home from the Tour. Right to left: Noval, Navarro, Dani's father Daniel Navarro, his girlfriend Raquel, Sara Noval and little Benjamín (J.E. Cima)
L'EQUIPE (print edition) - FOR SEVERAL DAYS already, the rumour of his departure had been gaining strength (see L’Equipe of July 20). But Alberto Contador gave no hint of his intentions. And then yesterday, a press release outed the decision: the Tour de France 2010 winner won’t be wearing the Astana jersey anymore in 2011. He doesn't tell which team he will ride for next year, but one team has the inside track: that of Bjarne Riis.
It was known that the Danish manager was very keen to have Alberto Contador under contract. The more he crossed swords with the Luxemburger (the latter having announced his departure for a new Luxemburg-financed outfit), the closer the Spaniard was getting to Andy Schleck’s mentor. During the Tour, several meetings had taken place beteween the rider’s lawyer, his brother Fran who is also his agent; and Bjarne Riis, and more specifically in the evening of the arrival in Gap. These meetings were obviously held behind the back of the Kazakhs, a few hundred meters from their hotel, when the Astana and Saxo Bank teams were sharing the same hotel. In the Pyrennes, the arrival of the big boss of Specialized, the bike brand used by both Astana and Saxo Bank, undoubtedly convinced the Contador clan it was time for a change.
Bjarne Riis is putting the finishing touches to the financial plan which should allow him to manage a competitive team next year. Sungard (joined probably by German brand Siemens) will replace Saxo Bank and will finance the team, with the exception of Alberto Contador whose salary would be taken care of by the bike manufacturer Specialized. The three-time Tour winner already has a private contract with the American company until 2012. “I confirm that we have contacts with Bjarne Riis” announced Fran Contador. The three-time Tour winner should make a commitment for at least two years and several of his teammates, such as Daniel Navarro, Jesus Hernandez, David de la Fuente and Benjamin Noval should follow him and go with Riis.
Nevertheless, Alberto Contador had always maintained that he saw himself pursuing his adventure with the Kazakhs. The more so since they had almost reached an agreement on the Tour de France winner’s requirements, which included a revaluation of his annual salary of about 1.5 million Euro (i.e. a total of 5.5 million Euro), and especially the possibility of recruiting certain number of riders to strengthen the team. On Sunday evening, during the end-of-Tour party in a Parisian restaurant, the Spaniard even gave a toast in honour of his team and its sponsor. And when Alexander Vinokourov asked him in front of the whole assembly if he would be wearing the Astana colours again next season, he replied: “I indeed hope so!”
5.5 million per year
Officially, Contador was under too much pressure. In the press release broadcast yesterday by his press man, he invokes the ultimatum imposed on him by Astana for his contract extension. The Kazakh clan appeared taken by surprise yesterday afternoon. Alexander Vinokourov, contacted by phone while he was training at home in Monaco, didn't hide his disappointment. “We struggled for Alberto for three weeks, sacrificing ourselves without counting our efforts. I hope he had not taken his decision already before the Tour departure. It’s a shame that this gives the impression the Kazakhs are responsible for the negotiations breakdown. Alberto kept requesting a new contract for the last four months. It’s him who was in a hurry to sign with us. We never put any pressure on him”.
Yvon Sanquer, Astana’s manager, didn't want to comment on the piece of news. Fran Contador had let him into the secret as early as last Friday, which could explain the internal conflicts that have emerged recently. During the last days of the Tour various clans could be detected within the team: the Spaniards supported by Yvon Sanquer; the Italians led by sports director Guido Martinelli; and the Kazakhs united behind Alexander Vinokourov, starting to play tricks. Fran Contador, who never left his brother's side during the three weeks of the Tour, and kept him informed of the negotiations, without going into details in order not to disturb him, admitted he had a last conference call with the Kazah leaders the day before yesterday. "We were close to an agreement but unfortunately the discussions couldn't come to a successful conclusion. Our decision not to stay with Astana is firm and final. We made this decision because there are other very serious leads and negotiations are uderway."
Since the announcement of the parting of the ways between the Kazakhs and Contador, other teams have effectively shown their interest: Quick Step, as always pursuing its seach for a stage race leader, the Spanish team of Eusebio Unzue who states he has found a rescuer after the announcement of the withdrawal of Caisse d’Epargne (Telefonica or Banco de Santander 7); even Radio Shack. For Johan Bruyneel, however, the matter seems complicated because Trek, the US competitor of Specialized (with whom Contador is under contract until 2012) is a shareholder of the team. Contador’s decision should become official in the course of next week. (L'Equipe print edition, translated by Christine Kahane)
Photos from the Tim de Waele public access gallery
Alberto Contado has rejected an ultimatum from the Astana team that he make an immediate decision pertaining to his contract for next season. The team had asked for a final answer on Tuesday to their contract renewal offer for the upcoming seasons.
Contador had requested that the people in charge of the team allow him time to study the matter, given the importance of this decision’s bearing on his future. Despite the fact that the two parties were not far apart, the team pressed for a yes or no from the Triple Crown winner in order to begin planning a team for 2011, consequently the positions diverged.
Contador’s three-year tenure with Astana, due to conclude at the end of this season, began after the disappearance of the Discovery Channel team. During this time, Contador has won two Tours de France, the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España, in addition to other races.
After winning the 2010 Tour de France, Alberto Contador is calmly studying all possibilities on offer for riding in the coming seasons, not having discounted any at this time. (Official press release, AC press room)
Communiqué de presse officiel en français:
Les chemins d’Alberto Contador et Astana se séparent
Alberto Contador a rejeté l’ultimatum de l’équipe Astana, qui lui réclamait pour mardi dernier une réponse définitive à son offre de renouvellement de contrat pour les saisons à venir.
Contador avait demandé aux responsables de l’équipe de lui laisser une période de réflexion pour pouvoir étudier la possibilité d’une prorogation, étant donné l’importance d’une telle décision. Bien que les positions des deux parties n’étaient pas très éloignées, l’équipe a exigé de savoir immédiatement si elle pouvait compter sur le vainqueur de la Triple Couronne pour commencer à constituer l’équipe pour 2011, en conséquence de quoi les positions de chacune des parties ont divergé.
Le contrat d’Alberto Contador avec Astana, équipe avec laquelle il avait commencé à courir après la disparition de l’équipe Discovery, avait été prolongé pour une période de trois ans et expirera à la fin de cette saison. Pendant ce temps, Contador a gagné, en plus d’autres courses, un Giro d’Italie, une Vuelta a España et deux Tours de France.
Après sa victoire dans le Tour de France 2010, Alberto Contador étudiera en toute tranquillité toutes les possibilités qui s’offrent à lui pour les saisons à venir, sans en avoir éliminé aucune pour le moment.
Alberto Contador with Prime Minister Zapatero at Moncloa Palace (Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP - The champion of the 2010 Tour de France, Alberto Contador, had a grand reception on Monday upon return to Madrid, where he was received yesterday evening by the head of the government, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, before making his way to the nearby town of his birth, Pinto. PHOTO GALLERY
“He is an example of work, of tenacity, a great example of how to fight and how to behave in sport,” said Zapatero of the champion of three Tours (2007, 2009, 2010) who sealed a new success in Paris on Sunday in the most important bicycle race in the world.
Spain’s commander-in-chief took advantage of the occasion to underscore the “exceptional” moment that Spanish sport is going through. According to him, Spain is currently “the country with most successes in elite international sport.”
After the victory of the national football team in the World Cup in South Africa, Spanish athletes have been brilliant this weekend: added to Contador’s success in Paris are wins by Fernando Alonso in Formula 1’s Gran Prix of Germany and Jorge Lorenzo in the MotoGP, at Laguna Seca (USA).
Zapatero, who received a maillot jaune from the “Grande Boucle” as a gift from Contador, said that he was sure of “a fourth victory” for Contador, 27, in the French race.
“Riding along the Champs Élysees in the maillot jaune is something only the chosen ones do. He has won the Tour three times and this time, at least, they played the Spanish anthem,” joked the prime minister, in allusion to the technical problem that happened with the anthem at last year’s podium ceremony.
The winner of the Tour was very happy with the reception and the honors he received. “It’s a genuine pleasure to be here. I am Spanish and I feel very proud of contributing to this moment in Spanish sport, which is enjoying unbelievably good health,” said Contador.
The rider was also received by the president of the Community of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, who presented him with a commemorative plaque and dedicated supportive words to him.
“It’s an honor for Pinto, for Madrid and for Spain that you’re one of us,” she said.
Afterwards, Contador made his way to Pinto, a nearby town of 40,000 south of Madrid, where he’s the favorite son and where his neighbors had prepared—as they did in 2007 and 2009—a great reception in honor of their most celebrated citizen.
There, Contador greeted the crowd of fans from the balcony of the City Hall, while flying the colors of the maillot jaune and the Spanish flag.
“Many, many thanks, what more can I say?” said “ContaTres” as he addressed his friends and neighbors.
Contador is one of only seven Spanish cyclists to have conquered the Tour de France, after Federico Bahamontes (1959), Luis Ocaña (1973), Pedro Delgado (1988), Miguel Indurain (1991-1995), Óscar Pereiro (2006) and Carlos Sastre (2008).
Daniel Navarro and Benjamín Noval were indispensible to Contador's Tour squad (Photo by Kahane)
EL COMERCIO - Alberto Contador’s right-hand man, Benjamín Noval, and principal mountain gregario, Dani Navarro, are back home in Asturias today after helping their leader capture his third title in the Tour de France. Both of the Astana riders are happy with their three weeks of competition, having derived great satisfaction from serving as key men for Contador.
Navarro was jubilant “because I enjoyed the triumphal ride on the Champs Élysées like nothing else. It’s a magnificent feeling that I’d never experienced before.” He added that he’s happy “because I think that I achieved my mission of helping Contador in the Alps and in the Pyrenees.”
Dani, who will ride the Clásica San Sebastian this Saturday, hinted that he’ll follow the Madrileño wherever he goes. “I don’t know what team he’ll be on next year. Astana wants him to renew at any cost, but it seems that he wants another adventure. We’ll see.”
It’s worth noting that the Kazakh team paid Contador 5.2 million euros, but now the triple champion of the Tour wants seven, an amount which, in principle, the team seems willing to meet.
For his part, Benjamín Noval was also happy “because the goal was reached and the important thing is having seen Contador on the highest step of the podium.” Noval won in 2004 with Armstrong, “but there’s no comparison,” he says now. “I have a very special personal relationship with Contador and I enjoy it more.”
He also praised the work of his teammate Navarro. “It’s like Chechu Rubiera with Armstrong, strong man in the mountains to the best cyclist in the world. He has a great future.”
Alberto's neighbors watched Stage 20 in a cinema and are ready to mob him tonight when he comes home to Pinto (Dani Sastre/as.com)
Alberto Contador flew from Orly airport in Paris to Barajas in Madrid at noon today, arriving home at 2:00 this afternoon. His appointments for today include a reception and late lunch with Madrid president Esperanza Aguirre, followed by an evening visit to Spain’s prime minister José Luis Zapatero at Moncloa Palace, Spain’s version of 10 Downing Street.
Alberto and his entourage will be welcomed home to Pinto tonight, where he’ll address the crowd from the balcony of City Hall at 8:30. Tomorrow he’s off to the Netherlands for a criterium appearance. He will not ride the Clásica San Sebastián, set to take place this Saturday, July 31.
The Spanish champion's kit has dazzled eyes from Monaco to the Dauphiné. Goodbye to the colors until next time. (AC press room)
Alberto Contado has decided to give up riding the Spanish Championship time trial due to a case of flu that began last Saturday.
“It’s a real shame, but I’m not going to be able to attend the Spanish Championships because I’ve got a mild case of flu. I had wanted to defend the jersey, but unfortunately I’m in no condition and there’s nothing I can do about it,” said Contador today, speaking from training camp in the Sierra de Madrid where he is finalizing his preparation in spite of the setback.
Since Sunday, Contador, along with teammates Paolo Tiralongo, Dani Navarro, David de la Fuente, Jesús Hernández, Benjamín Noval and Óscar Pereiro (the most recent arrival, having come from the Tour de Suisse), has been conducting a training camp in Madrid that will be extended throughout this week as a final phase of training for the Tour de France. During the next few days, in addition, the directorship at Astana will decide the final roster for the Tour de France. (Official press release, AC press room)
AS.COM - Alberto Contador began a training camp yesterday at Navacerrada in order to fine-tune his form for the Tour, which begins on Saturday, July 3 in Rotterdam (Netherlands). The Sierra de Madrid is the environment that Contador often uses for preparation.
The length of this camp will depend on whether or not he participates in Spain’s championship time trial. If so, he’ll travel to Albacete on Thursday. If not, he could continue the training camp until Saturday.
Contador is the reigning Spanish champion in the time trial, after his 2009 victory in Torrelavega (Cantabria). This year the race will take place in Casas Ibáñez (Albacete), over a 25.4-kilometer route.
In addition to defending his title, the crono will allow him to do one more rehearsal with the new crono bicycle that has been prepared by Specialized for the Tour. Contador is weighing this option against the possibility of spending three more days doing specific training sessions in Navacerrada.
Also at training camp are the five teammates that reconned the Tour’s Alps stages with him after the Dauphiné, Spaniards David de la Fuente, Jesús Hernández, Dani Navarro and Benjamín Noval, plus the Italian rider Paolo Tiralongo. Óscar Pereiro will join them today.
Yesterday the group did its first session, four-and-a-half hours that included the climbs of Canencia and Cotos.
The seven riders are included in Astana’s short list of candidates for the Tour. Kazakhs Alexander Vinokourov, Dimitri Fofonov, Maxim Iglinskiy and Andrey Zeits, as well as the Ukrainian rider Andriy Grivko are also on the list.
Twelve riders - six Spaniards and six from other countries - from whom three will have to be eliminated in order to decide the nine who will participate in the Tour de France with the mission of helping Alberto win the great race for the third time.
Photo of Contador at the Dauphiné from the Tim de Waele free access gallery
The president of the Royal Spanish Cycling Federation, Juan Carlos Castaño, hopes that Alberto Contador will be defending his title as Spanish National Time Trial Champion when this year’s competitions take place June 24-27 in Albacete.
Castaño attended the presentation for the Spanish nationals on June 18 in Albacete, the capital city of La Mancha province.“I think that Contador will be defending his time trial champion’s jersey and it will serve as the finishing touch to his preparation for the Tour de France,” he said in statements released by the federation.
According to the federation chief, between 700 and 800 riders will participate in the 2010 events, which include categories for elite men and women, as well as for sub-23 riders and other professionals.
The championship individual time trial is set for Thursday, June 24, at 5:30 in the afternoon. The route out and back from Villarrobledo is 36.2 kilometers of gently rolling terrain.
Reigning champion Alberto Contador has said that it is likely that he will put in a repeat appearance at the championship time trial as a final test of his new crono bike. Contador won last year over 2008 champion Luis León Sánchez, 2nd, and Ruben Plaza, 3rd. Plaza was the winner of the the men’s championship road race.
The Spanish national championship road race has a long history: the first champion, José Bento Pesoa, was crowned in 1897. However, the championship race against the clock is relatively new, the first edition having been won by Abraham Olano in 1994. Interestingly, the great Spanish time-trialist Miguel Indurain never competed for the national ITT.
SEE THE ROUTE at our ATLAS, + map and more info.
Photo of Contador at the Dauphiné from the Tim de Waele free access gallery
SPORT.ES - Josep Jufré, one of the best climbers at Astana, followed in detail Alberto Contador’s progress at the Dauphiné, where he finished 2nd behind Jani Brajkovic. The results, as much as the details that he has seen in the leader of his team, leave little doubt:
“He’d be really worried if he'd gotten a spectacular win. Even Armstrong himself knows from experience that the Tour becomes very long to whomever wins the Dauphiné. In fact, since 2003 no one else has done the double.”
Contador went to the Dauphiné saying that “I’ve still got to work on some details,” among them the individual time trial, a discipline that he hasn’t been too satisfied with. Jufré is aware of the meticulousness and the rigor of the man from Pinto. For that reason, he confirms that “everything that he did in the Dauphiné was according to plan. His preparation for the Tour is fine. He didn’t have to put on an exhibition and he was always clear. He won the Alpe d’Huez, which was an excellent scenario for a test, but without a big show. Sincerely, he would not be comfortable if he had won the Dauphiné.
“Alberto knows that it’s very easy to get burnt by this race before reaching form. At three weeks before the start of the Tour – another week still before the completely taxing competition begins – to ride hard for the GC at the Dauphiné would have meant an unacceptable risk.
"That’s why Denis Menchov, who’s gone without notice in the past, hasn’t had the least problem with assuring people that his preparation is on the right path. That’s also why a lot of riders have chosen the Tour de Suisse as final preparation since it leaves them closer to the checkered flag at the Tour de France.”
Jufré considers that, for Contador, the value of the Dauphiné has been “his capacity for team-building, for motivating them and unifying them until they reach a high level. They’ve all been where they need to be. He has rounded up a group of climbers who have risen to the challenge at the critical points.
“Dani Navarro’s victory has been significant and without doubt has contributed to strengthening the morale of the whole group, but what has surprised me most has been the leap in quality by Jesús Hernández, who's been with Alberto every second. De la Fuente and Tiralongo have also been true to form.”
Jufré stressed Contador’s ambition: “He always wants to win. If it were up to him he would always be on the podium. That’s why it cost him to ride the way he did in the Dauphiné. Saying from the beginning that victory isn’t his goal is a way of restraining himself.”
Photo: Josep Jufré analyzes the race for TV (el9nou.cat)
Alberto takes a break from training to pose at Lac Léman, the scene of tomorrow's Dauphiné prologue (Photo by AC press room) ENLARGE PHOTO
Tomorrow Alberto Contador will begin the Dauphiné Libéré, a race that he has used during the last two years as a tune-up for the Tour de France. This season he's announcing that he’s coming to the race with the same intention, since he’s “still building the foundation for the Tour. Every day I feel better physically, but my physical level is not the best for riding to win the Dauphiné.” (AUDIO)
Contador said in today’s press conference that he feels “more relaxed than usual, because my plan is to do the race just as I have in the last two years,” although he admits that he’ll be doing some tests, especially in the time trial.
The route this year presents a long time trial and two summit finishes, have you planned any tests for yourself during the race?
Yes, I want to do some tests, mainly in the time trial. I’ve got a new bike, since luckily Specialized paid attention to everything I asked for, although we’ve been a little pressed for time and I’ve hardly had time to train with it. So I want to make the most of the Dauphiné, but taking into account my physical condition and that the bike is new, I don’t think that it’s best to expect results. In the mountains, of course, I’ll relax a bit more.
What’s new about this bike?
It’s quite different, smaller, because the last one was a bit big for me. It’s more compact and I can use it more to advantage when I’m out of the saddle, because I’m a rider that does a lot of changes of pace.
Isn’t this Dauphiné a good opportunity to add the race to your palmarés?
I’d like to have it in my palmarés, but this race requires a very large effort both for me and for my team and we might pay for that in the Tour.
Are you going to take advantage of opportunity if it arises?
If the situation looks promising I’ll try to take advantage of it, but due to my physical condition I don’t think that that opportunity comes easily. That’s why I’d rather take a more relaxed approached to the race.
Why choose the Dauphiné and not the Tour de Suisse?
Because in recent years it’s given me very good results. The Dauphiné is a little farther from the Tour and that allows for more adjustments to preparation, it leaves more room to maneuver.
Have you looked at the start list, who are the favorites?
I still haven’t seen the list, but I know that Samuel Sánchez is at a good moment of form and that Menchov could also be a good candidate, but there’ll be a lot of other favorites that I still don’t know.
You’ve done some tests in the wind tunnel, what conclusions have you reached about your position?
It was mainly more equipment tests than position, tests of clothing, helmets and shoes, always with the Tour in mind.
Have you changed your position on the bike or have you only made minor adjustments?
It’s practically the same position as last year, but since I’ve got a new bike I still have a lot of work to do, mainly when it comes to adjusting the handlebars.
Does the finish on Alpe d’Huez mean special motivation for you?
No, I approach it in the same way as the other stages, but certainly it’s a mythic peak that everybody knows and I feel like climbing it, too, but maybe it’s not the most suitable for me at this time. I think it's complicated to fight for a win there.
Do you think that the 2010 Tour is more difficult than 2009, owing to pavé, the toughness of the Pyrenees, etc.?
It’ll be a very difficult Tour in the sense that the first week is especially complicated and even though the Alps aren’t very hard, in the Pyrenees there’s plenty of ground for shaking up the race. I expect a hectic and difficult Tour, but a priori I like it more than 2009.
After Basso’s victory in the Giro and Armstrong’s crash in California, does that change the hierarchy for the Tour?
I don’t believe in hierarchies much, but it’s clear that Basso is a really great rider and even though he just won the Giro, in the Tour he’ll be very strong and he’ll be a clear candidate to win. Lance crashed in California, but he’s a rider that knows himself really well, he has a lot of experience and knows how to arrive at the Tour at 100%.
In the Giro there were very large time differences in the first few days, will that also be possible in the Tour?
Yes, it could be, but the Giro is a very different race from the Tour, it’s a crazier race, less controlled, while in the Tour all the teams are very solid and are 100% focused.
In Italy they say that next year you’ll ride the Giro, is that certain?
It’s a possibility, but nothing’s 100% sure. The Giro is a very nice race and I’m especially fond of it, because in 2008 I felt like I was at home, but I can’t say for sure that I’ll ride it.
Have you been surprised by Vinokourov’s level at the Giro?
No, Vino is a great champion, a tough rider with great stamina. I knew that he was going to be very near the front, despite the fact that the team that we took to the Giro wasn’t thinking about fighting for the general.
What’s your opinion about Valverde’s sanction?
These things can’t be put off so long, it’s a bad sign for cycling that you have to wait so long, close to six years to make a decision. You should be thinking about how to make decisions like this before so much time goes by.
What program have you planned from here until the end of the season?
The only competition scheduled before the Tour is the Dauphiné. I’ve got to decide if I’m doing the Spanish time trial championship if I’ve still got to perfect the bike, and only after the Tour will I think about the end of the season.
Alberto Contador before climbing El Morredero, April 2010 (Photo by Kahane)
SPORT.ES/May 8, 2010/Agustí Bernaus - He doesn’t go unnoticed in the streets of Pinto, no. Nor in the streets of Paris. His victories in the Vuelta, the Giro and twice in the Tour haven’t succeeded in changing him. Behind the best rider in the world there lies an unassuming person, affable, with very clear ideas, who shies away from the stereotypes of champions grown conceited with status, fame and money. Explanations…
The season for La Liga has run its course. Football is disappearing and cycling’s grand tours are taking over as the sport of choice. Alberto Contador will take the baton from Messi, Ronaldo and company. But that will be in July. At siesta-time, in the Tour.
You allowed yourself to abandon your monastic life in order to enjoy a Madrid-Barça game?
I was there. I was with my father because we had a special wish. My family is from Madrid, but I knew that Barça was playing in an unbelievable way. What Messi does is really amazing. It’s great to watch this team just to see Messi.
You played football, you know what that’s all about. And beyond that, you’re a Real Madrid fan. You’re such a star yourself, and yet you praise Messi—that’s nice.
There’s a play that he repeats millions of times, coming from the right, dribbling two or three times and...he always gets a good result. It’s difficult to do what he does.
How many times has David Bisbal told you that he doesn’t regret stopping cycling?
Millions of times. Sometimes he reminds me of when he had to go out training in a headwind in Almería... But what he does isn’t easy either. Between promotional events and concerts, he doesn’t have a second. His life is hard too.
You’ve been through a lot for your age. A cavernoma, your professional career hanging in the balance due to Operación Puerto, success, the clash with a legend like Lance Armstrong, loneliness. You’re 27 years old but you seem to have been through 50...
I don’t consider myself old. I feel rather more mature than a young person my age, but I like and I get excited about the same things as other people. I’ve had to make difficult decisions and instead of making me older, what’s happened is that I’ve assimilated these experiences. Now I know how to differentiate what’s a problem from what’s not. I’ve learned how to make myself concentrate and to skip what’s not important.
Has some psychologist taught you the way?
No, luckily I haven’t needed it. I’ve been learning with the situations that I’ve had to face. Each one contributed something. I take advantage of what’s positive and forget the negative.
You’ve always been crazy about your little brother – he suffers from cerebral palsy. Have you ever thought that it’s unfair and hard that he has to live this life?
There are four of us siblings and the youngest has been the one that brings us all together. My father’s the one who’s the most occupied with him. He’s dedicated so many hours that in the end it wasn’t worth it to keep working. And the truth is that nobody is better than he is at taking care of him.
My mother usually says that the world is parcelled out in a very uneven way. I’m an elite-level athlete who’s at the top of the world and my brother, on the other hand, has to depend on someone else 24 hours a day. These are the great differences that there are in life… and with someone so close. I believe that all that has also made me mature since I was a little boy. I think about what’s important.
It’s not normal that the best grand tour rider has only one week of vacation because his fiancée works and it doesn’t coincide with your competition schedule.
Well... it is normal. Maybe some people might think it’s unnecessary, but she wants it like that. She wants to work becuase I spend so much time away from home. And I think it’s good. If she were always at home it would be detrimental to both of us.
Since you won your first Tour, in 2007, you haven’t changed. You’ve only allowed yourself a few materialistic whims…
I don’t see why I should change. Because people flatter me? I haven’t found it difficult to stay the same. My friends are the same. And also my familiar surroundings. It makes no difference whether I win the Tour or win 10 Tours. They’ll still be there, with me, and always treating me the same. And I’ll keep being this way. I’ve allowed myself some things that I like, like cars. I can’t help it.
Independently of physical condition, what do you have to be like to be an ideal champion?
First of all, an amiable person. Look, I remember that when I was an amateur I approached a great rider to congratulate him and the truth is that he made a face that was not very nice. My brother was with me, and I said to him: “Fran, if someday when I’m a professional you see me doing this, slap me.” I always keep in mind that there are people, fans, kids, who hang around for hours and hours just to be able to shake my hand or ask for an autograph. A little effort, always provided that it’s not physically impossible, means such a great deal to them.
Would Induráin be the model of a champion?
Miguel was a complete gentleman. And the test of that is that everybody has good memories about him. People speak about him with a lot of respect.
I’ve seen you in very difficult situations. You’ve had to cope with press conferences that were truly difficult, but you’ve never stepped out of character. Do you train for that?
I imagine that experience ends up influencing it, but overall you have to keep your temper, have a calm demeanor so you can respond to everyone or, if it’s really off base, to be able to say: “Another question, please.” In some very complicated press conferences, I’ve terminated the questions because they repeat one question over and over. You have to live with it, with the repercussions, with the pressure, with the mass media and with questions that sometimes are not as agreable as you’d like.
Does a Tour winner have to be more honest than any other athlete?
It’s not about being honest. You have to think that you owe people something and have a responsibility. A winner of the Tour has to be an example to others.
Do you find it touching when a child asks you for an autograph?
Yes, of course. I enjoy them. When you see one that needs 15 minutes to get over being timid and embarrassed before coming up to you, and then he tells you that he wants to be like you when he’s older... that’s nice, isn’t it?
Are you working with some charitable organization?
We’re going to create the Alberto Contador Foundation, which will be dedicated to working with stroke-related illnesses, but we’ll be furthering the use of the bicycle. Now we’re already with the “Cycling for Life” campaign. We’ve got tons of bicycles here, forgotten in junk rooms and garages. These same machines, repaired, in Africa, could be vital for thousands of people. We hope to channel these ideas by means of the Foundation.
Another line that we want to promote is cycling at the grassroots level in Spain, which we believe is rather forgotten. In the professionals, we’re enjoying the best time in history, but the base is pretty lifeless. It’s important that we athletes use our popularity for good causes.
When you approached Armstrong for the first time, in the Dauphiné in 2005, and introduced yourself to him, you said that he seemed “nice.” Do you still think the same thing?
I remember that moment perfectly. I’ve only introduced myself to three riders in my life. One of them was Pantani, in the Clásica de Amorebieta. It was his last year. Another occasion was to Jan Ullrich. With Armstrong, it was the first time we were ever together in the same race. I used my English, and the relationship was even friendly. But with time you start to see the big picture. He defends his own interests very well and does it well…
Admit it, if Armstrong hadn’t come back, your reign would’ve been very calm. You’d even get bored...
It would be more boring for the public. Seriously, at the level of media impact, it’s been much much better owing to the rivalry that there was in the last Tour. But in order to be sincere, if before starting they would’ve given me a choice, I would’ve signed up for a more normal race in which everything went more calmly.
Do you see yourself at 37 or 38 saying that you’re coming back to professional cycling in order to satisfy your ego?
No, absolutely not. I’ll stop cycling when I see that the level doesn’t correspond to the results that I’ve gotten until now. The norm is 32 or 33, but I don’t see myself at 38 on a bike. Each champion has his era. You think about it and ask yourself, “Do I need this?”
Who’s the best cyclist in history?
Eddy Merckx, without doubt. I’ve seen old videos and he was really savage.
I understand that when you started you admired Pantani. Do you sit and chat with his director, Martinelli, sometimes?
Yes, he’s told me some stories. You can spend hours talking about Pantani. He was a great champion. Martino was always on his back. I still remember the way he would drop the entire peloton. The other day I was watching a video that compared his climb of the Peyresourde to mine, in the Tour. I liked it a lot.
Pantani was out of this world. He attacked from way, way out. He was incredible. But what attracted my attention even more was that he climbed mountains gripping the handlebars from below. After watching that video, I tried to do the same thing and I couldn’t. I ended up with terrible leg pain. I still wonder how he was able to do that.
Marco was the only one who truly unnerved Armstrong because he couldn’t be controlled...
Doesn’t surprise me. He was the best climber and he could put you in a tight spot any time. His level allowed him to disarm an entire team.
Alberto, what would you change about your career if you could?
Nothing. I’m one of those people that thinks that when things happen you have to overcome them because they help you to mature. It’s a learning experience.
Did Operación Puerto make you cry?
Yes. I cried because of powerlessness and because of rage. It put me in an unsolveable situation, something beyond comprehension. In the beginning you think that it’s impossible, that it’s all a lie, that it can’t be true. And afterwards you think that sooner or later the situation, which has neither rhyme nor reason, will be clarified, but it hurt me a lot.
What do you think of the situation that Alejandro Valverde is going through?
It’s the consequence of bad organization in cycling. Sincerely, I think that four years after all the talk began, it should be left alone. If we’re looking for the good in cycling, I don’t think that it’s positive to keep talking about this subject. Valverde has proven his quality by far and he’s still a winner. I think that the best thing would be to let it rest.
After your illness, do you enjoy everything more?
Yes, things that I never considered before are much more important to me. For me it’s much easier to be a cyclist now, with how hard it turns out to be. I even manage to enjoy suffering on a bicycle.
Do you still send your mother an SMS after every race?
If I forget, she pulls my ears.
In July, Dani Navarro of Asturias will ride the Tour for the second time in his career (Photo by Kahane)
LA NUEVA ESPAÑA - Dani Navarro (Gijón, 1983) returned happy from doing reconnaissance of the four Pyrenean stages of the next Tour de France with his team leader at Astana, Alberto Contador, and teammates Benjamín Noval (Mieres), Tiralongo, Fofonov, De la Fuente, Pereiro and Hernández. “Alberto is clear that the Pyrenees will decide the race because they’re harder than last year, he likes them and they’ll go much better for him.
"The Alps this year aren’t as significant and we’ll take a look at them after riding the Dauphiné, where we’re going to go solely for preparation, because if you stretch yourself too thin, then you don’t function in the Tour,” said Navarro, who will turn 27 during the Tour de France.
The group of climbers, together with Noval, did the finish of four stages where they met the Schleck brothers briefly, as well as Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez (Oviedo), who were also previewing the Pyrenees.
About the stages, Navarro explains that the finish at Ax-3 Domaines has “six very hard kilometers and the last two are gentler. But before that it has a climb of 20 very tough kilometers at 8% incline and that’s why the stage could be decisive. At Bagnères-de-Luchon you have to climb the Port de Balès and then it’s all downhill to the finish.
"Then comes the queen stage with Tourmalet and Aubisque, with 5,000 meters of slopes, although the finish at Pau is still fairly far away. Who knows what could happen. And the next one finishes on the Tourmalet, which is the one I like best.
"I felt good with Alberto in these training sessions. They’re stages that will decide the Tour, and Alberto is very happy.”
Dani Navarro rode the Tour in 2007 and now it’s fixed that he, like Benjamín Noval, will accompany Contador. The climber from Gijón explains that “Alberto told me that I have to be calm to do a great job in the mountains and that I shouldn’t take risks in other races because he needs me.
"Right now I’m in better form than I was, so all I’ve got to do is maintain in order to hit my rhythm in the Dauphiné Libere and later there’s a training camp in Navacerrada. It’s a huge joy when a champion is so positive about you.”
Benjamín Noval, close friend and roommate of Contador, is also already in good form and very motivated. Navarro says that “he’s lost a lot of weight and is skinny for France. I think things are looking very good for him to do a great job of covering Alberto and protecting him on the flat terrain and in the wind.
"Our leader Contador is very happy with the team’s work and the planning that we’re doing in advance of the Tour where he’s the main favorite.”
(J.E. Cima, La Nueva España)
News coverage of Pyrenees training from Spanish television (tve)
Asturian newspaper El Comerico Digital confirms that Dani Navarro and Benjamín Noval trained with their leader Alberto Contador in the Pyrenees and will ride with him in France next week.
Both riders agree that the Tour “will be decided in the Pyrenees.” Noval said that currently Contador “is at 70%, but he’ll arrive in spectacular form.”
Contador displays Spanish TT champion colors and prowess at the Criterium Internationale (AC press room)
Like last year, in 2010 Alberto Contador will not seek the road race championship of Spain in Albecete, but is more likely to compete for the time trial, the discipline in which he is the current champion.
Contador has explained in statements to Eurosport that the road race has been “ruled out, since the route is flat” and usually on “quite dangerous” roads. He’s a better bet for the crono. “What’s most likely is that I’ll ride it,” he said.
The leader of Astana has returned to training after a rest period and is already working “thinking about the Tour” and “in a progressive way” until arriving at the Dauphiné Libéré, an event that he’ll go to “relaxed” and always with the Tour in mind.
Alberto Contador unveiled a sculpture today in Barcarrota (Badajoz) that the residents of his extended family’s hometown wanted to dedicate in homage to him. (PHOTO GALLERY)
The sculpture, which represents a group of cyclists combined with different images taken from the world of the bicycle, was created by the alumni of the Adelardo Covarsí School under the direction of Luis Martínez Giraldo.
Nearly all of the residents of Barcarrota, lead by mayor Santiago M. Cuadrado, turned out for the event. Alberto Contador’s grandparents also played a key role, accompanying their grandson—the winner of two Tours de France, the Giro and the Vuelta--throughout a day that was, for him, particularly moving. (Official press release, AC press room)
Alberto Contador will be awarded the Great Cross of the Order of the Dos de Mayos (2nd of May) today at the Puerta del Sol, the headquarters of the regional government in Madrid.
The presentation coincides with the anniversary of the uprising of Madrid’s citizens against Napoleon’s troops on May 2, 1808. The bloody supression of this act led to the War for Spanish Independence.
Today’s observance will begin at 10:00 a.m., when President Esperanza Aguirre will present flowers at the graves of the heroes killed by the French troops. Before concluding with a traditional reception at 1:00 p.m., a number of contemporary Madrilenians will be presented with medals for their contributions to society, among them, Alberto Contador.
The day will also be marked by two flyovers of the Puerta del Sol—where much of the bloodshed occurred in 1808—by the Eagle Patrol of the Spanish Air Force, and a military parade.
The 2nd of May uprising is the subject of a well-known painting by Goya: 2nd of May, 1808: The Charge of the Marmelukes (above)
Óscar Pereiro, Peter Van Petegem, Alberto and Benjamín Noval study the Belgian pavé (Photo by AC press room)
April 27 - Alberto Contador held a press conference today a few kilometers from the finishing point of Stage 3 of Tour de France 2010, after doing reconnaissance of the seven sectors of pavé that will be included in this year’s edition.
Contador was accompanied by Óscar Pereiro and Benjamín Noval, as well as Belgian ex-professional Peter Van Petegem, the winner of the 2003 Paris-Roubaix/Tour of Flanders double. Van Petegem acted as guide to the three Spanish riders from Astana.
Contador said that doing this reconnaissance to prepare for the end of the stage, including a visit to the Arenberg Forest, “is very important. It was essential to get acquainted with it in order to test the equipment and for security’s sake. I reached good conclusions and I’ve finished happy, feeling good physically with the behavior of the bike on the pavé sectors, in spite of the fact that I’m a little tired after Liège. I’m leaving here with a good feeling.” (AUDIO)
What’s your impression of the pavé, are you afraid of losing time?
I’m not afraid, I respect the stage. It’ll be very complicated, extremely tense to be towards the front, but in the end the time differences won’t be that big or there might not even be any. It’s a very important stage, but I’m not obsessing about it.”
Do you think that it’s good that there’s a pavé stage in the Tour from time to time?
People have different ways of looking at it. It’s true that it’ll create spectacle, we just need to see how these reconnaissances go, but it could also cause one of the favorites for the GC to crash and to have to abandon the race. Personally, I’d rather not have pavé, because it could skew the classification, but the route is what it is and we’ve all got to adapt to it.
Was having Peter Van Petegem along important to you?
Yes, absolutely. Having been with a great champion like him both yesterday and today is an enormous advantage. He’s given me good advice about how to tackle the sectors when the time comes, about the equipment, etc. During these two days I’ve learned more about pavé than in my whole life. His advice will be very important.”
After this, are you still enthusiastic about riding Paris-Roubaix?
Why yes, certainly. The Arenberg Forest is perfect for me and of course I’ll try to win it (he laughs)…But seriously, right now, no, I’d rather watch the race on television from home.
Of all the pavé sectors, which one seems the most difficult to you?
The last four sectors are fairly similar. There are some with some curves that could be more complicated if it rains, but the final four are pretty much alike.
Is it only a question of technique or do position, etc. also have an influence when you’re riding the pavé, are you confident?
I’m completely confident, and it’s also lucky that Specialized has a model of bike that’s specifically for the classics and this type of stage. That’s an advantage, because ever since I first got on the Roubaix, I’ve felt super comfortable.
What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned today?
The most important thing is the equipment. The type of wheels, the tire pressure at all times and the best places to enter the pavé, which way to go, the position of the hands, etc.
And what about the gear ratios?
I’ve spoken with Van Petegem and the best thing, period, is that each person retain his natural pedaling rhythm, maybe lower the cadence a little, because mine is very high.
Is it possible to lose the Tour on this stage?
Yes, but also on all the others due to some incident. In this one there’s more risk of breakdowns or crashes and it’s clear that you’re not going to win the Tour here, but you could indeed lose it.
Are there team tactics in these stages?
Yes, obviously, in order to see how the riders position themselves to deal with the pavé. In the race, it won’t be so easy to do it, but we’ve already thought about who’ll go on ahead and who’ll stay behind on the pavé.
Can the other GC rivals attack you here?
I think that it’ll be like a windy stage. Everybody will be looking to profit from finishing towards the front.
What does it mean to you to count on Vinokourov for this stage?
Enormous peace of mind, because he’s a great rider, with a lot of experience and very tough.
Have you divided up the roles for the Tour?
Since the beginning, we’ve been clear and he’s always made me feel calm. He’ll be there to help me with everything.
Do you think that there’s any particular rival who will try something on this stage?
I think that they’ll try to profit because it seems like a stage that won’t go well for me, but there’ll still be a lot of Tour ahead of us and if there are time differences, at the end of the Tour they won’t be that important.
What result would satisfy you?
I don’t like to call the result before we’ve even raced, but the goal is to finish with the front group and, above all, not to crash. (Official press release, AC press room)
The Astana team scout out the Liège course. Contador's team will include Alexander Vinokourov, who has won a past edition. (AC press room)
April 23 - Alberto Contador did reconnaissance of the last 80 km of the Liège-Bastogne-Liège route today together with his teammates from Astana, on a sunny day with spring-like temperatures between 15 and 20 degrees. After training, Contador held a press conference prior to the race and gave his impressions of this great classic.
What sort of performance do you expect to have next Sunday?
I don’t know, it’s a bit of an unknown how I’m going to respond. My goal is to keep getting experience, because in order to try to win here you need more experience and to know the route better. I’m an unknown.
What’s your opinion of the riders who’ll be going for the GC at the Tour already being competitive in the classics?
I think it’s good. It’s good that riders like Evans, Nibali or the Schleck brothers are here. For me, it’s the first time that I’ve included these races in my program and I’m also aware that the result in these classics is totally different from what will happen later, in July.
Is the result important to you?
Of course, I’m always happy when I’m ahead, but these results don’t influence my preparation and the chances for my performace in July at all. It makes no difference if I finish third or thirtieth.
What will you do between the classics and the Tour?
The plan isn’t made yet, but mainly I’ll base it on training camps and on doing reconnaissance of the Alpes and Pyrenees stages, besides riding the Dauphiné and doing the final tune-up in the Sierra de Madrid.
Are the 260 kilometers of Liège a problem for you?
It’s certain that many riders hit a barrier at around 220 kilometers, but that depends on what kind of day you’re having, etc. I’m thinking more about the allergy problems, because the forecast for those days is for better weather than in Flèche and that could put me in difficulties.
What are you allergic to?
To pollen. It’s a spring allergy, during the month of July it’s not a problem.
After getting third place in Flèche, are you motivated to come back and try to win a classic like the great riders of the past?
Yes, of course. In the future I want to come back and try to win some of the classics, because they’re very important races, with a lot of history, and everybody likes to win them. If my schedule is compatible, I’d like to come back 100% in form.
You’ve already won three stage races this year. In relation to the Tour, where are you in form, percentage-wise?
I don’t like to talk about percentages nor do I know exactly, but it’s true that at the Tour I’ll arrive with optimal preparation and I hope that my level will be superior to what it is currently.
Have you been to investigate the pavé stage?
Not yet. We’ll go next Tuesday to see it and to try new equipment.
The same as Cancellara’s?
Yes, the same, but the legs will be different.
Are you scared of this stage? They say that it could be your only weak point…
People are talking a lot about that stage, and I respect it. I know that it’ll be complicated, difficult, due to being 100% focused and to a lot of tension, but I’m not losing any sleep over it.
The team is doing well, does that give you confidence?
That always helps. The team is working to perfection, they’re focused on the Tour and also on other races, like these. Of course, that always makes you calmer and helps you to prepare better.
First, there seems to be a big difference between your situation on the team from what it was last year—does it make you calmer? And second, Cancellara has said that on the pavé he’ll set the Schleck brothers on his shoulders and that will really hurt the climbers—what do you think?
Of course, I’m much calmer than last year and, about Cancellara, if he’s going to carry the Schleck brothers on his shoulders, I think that they’re broad enough to have room for all three of us up there.
Evans has said that it’s possible to try to win the Tour and Giro in the same year. What do you think, would you like to try it?
Yes, I’m sure that with good preparation you can ride both with chances to win. I’ve also thought about trying the Giro and Tour or the Tour and Vuelta someday.
A question about Armstrong. You were together at the Critérium, what was your impression of him, did the two of you speak?
My impression was the same as any other rider in the peloton and no, we didn’t speak because we never met.
You’ll be riding Liège together with Vinokourov, who has already won it. What do you think of having him with you? Have you spoken with him yet?
No, he’ll arrive tonight, but Vino is coming in very good form since having won Trentino. I’m really eager to ride with him and, besides, that way we’ll have two options on the team, which is good for both of us.
In the event that you have a chance to win, how would you like to arrive, alone or risking a sprint?
If I could choose, I’d rather arrive alone. With riders like Valverde or Cunego—who are faster—it’d be harder for me, but with climbers like Andy Schleck or Igor Antón, maybe I’d have more of a chance.
Did you see Gilbert winning Amstel on television, is he a favorite for Liège?
I couldn’t watch it because I was still riding Castilla y Leon, but of course he’s a clear favorite to win Liège, because he’s riding at home, he’s 200%-prepared and is basing a large part of his season on this race. He’s a clear favorite.
You were the youngest to win the three grand tours, why are you also interested in winning Flèche or Liège?
Because these races have great prestige. In stage races I’ve got plenty of victories, but I’ve never won one of the classics. Besides, the pressure from the press (he laughs) made me come here…These races have a special charm.
You’re number one and, especially this year, almost wherever you go, you win. How do you feel when you don’t win, like in Flèche?
I feel totally normal, because the usual way is not to win, what’s not normal is winning all the time. In Flèche I only needed 70 meters and when you’re that close, you like taking advantage of it, but I’m aware that it’s difficult to win any race and that’s why when I don’t win, I’m just as happy at the hotel.
Have you seen the Dauphiné route yet? Will it be an objective at three weeks before the Tour?
I’ve seen a little and I know that it climbs Alpe d’Huez, but the Dauphiné is a race that I always take calmly and this year will be the same. I’m thinking about the Tour there and I’m not going to speed up my preparation in order to win the Dauphinè, to which I’ll arrive slightly under peak form.
What’s the new design that you’re wearing on your cap?
It’s my new logo that simulates the shooting hand from my victory slaute. From now on it’s going to be the insignia on my bike, my shoes…everything.
What’s the most difficult climb in Liège? Where will the race be decided?
You never know. In this race sometimes you attack from far away and other times from closer in, but the most difficult climb seems to me to be the Roche aux Faucons, where Andy Schleck attacked in 2009. It’s the most demanding and it’s after you’ve got 240 kilometers in your legs. If the selection hasn’t been made before, it’ll be made there.
(Official press release and photos of yesterday's course recon, AC press room)
Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2010 course profile
The Astana boys dig in to a few km of Belgian road (AC press room)
Alberto Contador reconned the final 60 kilometers of La Flèche Wallonne today, taking in two climbs of the Mur de Huy, the trademark finale of the race which, he said, “seemed even harder that I remembered.” (AUDIO)
“Today we saw the last 60 kilometers of the race and everything went pretty well. There are côtes that I already knew from 2007, but there’ve been some changes to the finale. We’ve had a good day, we've seen everything and now we just need for the legs to work,” said Alberto after returning to the team’s hotel.
“I roughly remember the Mur de Huy,” he said, “but it seemed even harder than I remembered—the last 700 or so meters are unbelievable.”
For him, among the favorites in this race will be “the people that were riding to win the Amstel Gold Race, people like Philippe Gilbert, Cunego, Ivanov and others like Alejandro Valverde. They’ll be the ones to watch.”
He, on the other hand, hopes to see how he responds after the effort of Castilla y León and the journey from Santiago. “It’s difficult to draw any conclusions after a trip of almost 2,000 kilometers. My physical sensations weren’t the best today, but I’m confident that will change tomorrow.”
In conclusion, Contador pointed out some of the differences between tomorrow’s race and Sunday’s. “Liège is a more demanding race than this one, people show the affects more when they reach the finish because there are 60 more kilometers and, cumulatively, the terrain has quite a few more ups and downs.
"I hope to do well and to get better acquainted with these races, but there are riders who are more experienced and mentally better-prepared than I am, I’m coming here in a little calmer frame of mind.” (Official press release, AC press room)
Friends today, foes tomorrow: Astana trains with Caisse d'Epargne (AC press room)
Alberto Contador arrived in Belgium today, reaching Astana’s hotel for the Ardennes classics’ week at about 3:00 this afternoon. The winner, crowned yesterday, of the 2010 Vuelta a Castilla y León left Santiago de Compostela on Sunday and made it to the Belgian city of Liège after a car trip of almost 24 hours and 1,900 kilometers.
Contador traveled in company with his teammate Benjamín Noval. On Sunday afternoon, following the fifth and final stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y León and its subsequent prize ceremony, the Astana riders bound for the Flèche Wallonne and Liège set out at about 4:30, heading in the direction of Pau, where the plan was for them to continue by high-speed rail to Paris.
During the trip, however, Contador and Noval decided to scuttle the train option and continue via the more direct and comfortable car. While Pereiro, Stangelj and Jufré continued with the original plan, Contador and Noval completed the first leg of the journey, some 1,200 kilometers, by overnighting in Poitiers. After seven hours of sleep, they left this morning and motored the rest of the way to Liège, where they arrived this afternoon at 3:00, after almost 24 hours of travel.
Alberto, after a light lunch, spent the rest of the afternoon doing gentle training, although he did take the opportunity to scout out a small section of the parcours for Liège-Bastogne-Liège, sharing the route with some cyclotourists for about 30 kilometers. His teammate Noval preferred to loosen up on the rollers, anticipating a day’s work tomorrow, when the complete team will do reconnaissance of the final part of La Flèche Wallonne.
“It’s been a hard trip,” said Contador, “but it was relatively comfortable and quick. We decided not to take the train after all, because it was jam-packed with people during the trip, as our teammates have told us, and it was not going to work out well.”
Riding for Astana at La Flèche Wallonne: Alberto CONTADOR, Dimitri FOFONOV, Andriy GRIVKO, Maxim IGLINSKY, Josep JUFRÉ, Benjamín NOVAL, Óscar PEREIRO, Gorazd STANGELJ
J.E. Cima of LA NUEVA ESPAÑA wrote yesterday that Benjamín Noval, Contador's chief gregario in flat and windy stages, and who will be his anchor in the cobbled sectors of the next Tour de France, has been diagnosed with mononucleosis.
The good news is that this crucial Astana rider is already on the mend. And he has more good news on the personal front that might put the spring back into his legs even sooner.
"Noval and Navarro protect Contador in la Vuelta a Castilla y León"
by J.E. Cima - 04/15/10
Contador is an ambitious cyclist and prefers more quality training to more frequent competition, and when he does it, it’s to win. The two-time Tour winner wants to do a test now in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon where he won on two occasions and now seeks his third crown.
For that reason, his team Astana was, yesterday in Stage 1, already at times assuming control of the peloton and the escapes because it wants the race to go that way until the summit finish at El Morredero in order to get time differences. Later he hopes to augment them on Saturday in the time trial at Ponferrada, before the end of the race in Santiago de Compostela.
Furthermore, the Madrileño now also has special motivation since he failed in the queen stage of the Criterium International owing to allergy problems and, because of that, he wants to confirm before everyone that he’s back to being the great victor of the beginning of this season.
And as if that weren’t enough, since there were doubts about the Astana team’s strength for protecting him throughout an entire Tour de France, in each big race it has to undergo a Gregario Test. So far the team has passed with excellent marks and also will have to prove it in this Castilla y León test.
In fact, Benjamín Noval, Contador’s right-hand man, is recovering from mononucleosis. El Toro de Mieres had been for some time “noticing a lot of fatigue and mainly that I took time to recover from big efforts.”
After the Criterium International in France, doctors did some tests that produced a positive for mononucleosis, but with “the advantage that I was already recovering,” said the cyclist.
Noval, owing to his very strong constitution, didn’t find out about the illness that’s forcing him to stop competition for a couple of months. Now Benjamin feels stronger and is already anticipating being able to prepare well for the upcoming Tour and with the good news that in November his second child will be born.
Dani Navarro will be called upon to work more in the mountains for Contador and the Asturian is competing these days with a bit of a cold, but he hopes that “it’ll pass and I’ll be able to perform well in this tour.” The climber from Gijon is very excited about preparing well for his first Tour and playing an integral part in the mountains for the Tour de France favorite. (La Nueva España)
Photo of Noval by Isabel Permuy
Alberto with the Specialized-Contador-MSF Team (AC press room)
Today in Pinto was the official presentation of the Specialized-Contador-MSF team, a project supported by Alberto Contador that includes his brother Fran as a rider.
Alberto attended the event to support an initiative aimed at raising money for the Emergency Fund of Doctors Without Borders (Médicos Sin Fronteras, or MSF). Fans will be able to sponsor the MSF team at the rate of 10 euros per kilometer covered by the team by going directly to the Doctors Without Borders page.
This is the second year in a row that the Contador team has participated in Titan Desert. In 2009, the team was made up of only four riders, but in 2010 it’s composed of 14, all friends of Alberto Contador who come from Madrid, Andalucía and Catalunya.
“When they told me about the project, I accepted right away, both for Specialized and for Doctors Without Borders, because it’s a great idea,” said Alberto Contador.
“The only advice I can give my brother and everybody else is to go and enjoy it. It’s a beautiful race and this year they have the extra motivation of Doctors Without Borders, so I think it’ll be a success.”
Alberto commented that, in the future, he might possibly have a go at riding Tital Desert as well. “Who knows, it could possibly happen in the future,” he said.
“Now it’s impossible because of both my schedule and the risks involved, but I might be able to ride it after I retire—like Jalabert, whom already I’ve been talking to about this race. For now I’ll leave it to to my brother and friends.” (Official press release, AC press room)
EFE - Many people criticized Lance Armstrong in past years when he refused to participate in the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España in favor of concentrating his preparation and strength on the Tour de France. The result? He won seven.
Today, the Spanish rider Alberto Contador, currently the best cyclist in the world, seems to be following in the footsteps of the Texan Armstrong and acknowledges that the French race is his main objective for the year and that his idea “is to make it tough from the very beginning”, while he left his participation in the Vuelta a Espana at the expense of whatever strength he has left.
“The Tour is going to change quite a bit this year, because the team’s goal is that we’ll be positioned as well as possible in the general. This year we’re also going to have to make the race tough from the very beginning,” declared Alberto Contador.
The Spanish champion made these statements at the presentation of the first electric mountain bike, held at the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce in Madrid.
Contador has started the season well and has already won two important victories: Paris-Nice and the Volta ao Algarve.
“Now I’m training very hard before taking the first total break to tackle the main objective of the season, the Tour, later,” he said.
According to this plan, he did not go to the Vuelta al País Vasco. “I think that it was a good decision, although now that they’re riding it, it I’m really sorry not to be there, because of the nice route and because of the fans, but I’ve spared my body a beating which will be beneficial later on,” he explained.
About the rivals he’s watching, Contador underlined the star from Luxembourg, Andy Schleck.
“The rivals are always very strong, some are dangerous for their own sakes and others for being surrounded by a great team, but I think that the one who’s most able to put me in a tight spot is Andy Schleck.”
Contador and Andy Schleck, backed by brother Frank, duel in 2009
(Patrick Herzog/AFP/Getty Images)
Alberto Contador, winner of two Tours de France, sees Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck, second in 2009, as his toughest rival in the next edition of the Grand Boucle, July 3-25, and admits that the race “is going to change quite a bit” without the presence of seven-time champion Lance Armstrong and directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel on his team, Astana.
“As for rivals, I see them as very strong. Andy Schleck really put the squeeze on me in the mountains last year and with another year of experience, he’s maybe the one that’s best able to put me in a tight spot,” said Alberto Contador after the presentation yesterday of the Mountain Wolf, the first electric mountain bike, at the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce in Madrid.
The rider from Pinto admitted that the 2010 Tour is going to “change quite a bit” without the presence of Armstrong and Bruyneel, currently at Team RadioShack, on the Kazakh team and with him as the only boss. “Last year there were several cards to play and to see who was best positioned in the general,” he said.
The winner of the 2008 Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España admitted to wistful feelings about not riding País Vasco, although he considers that the decision to change his Tour preparation schedule “was the most suitable.”
“That way I don’t punish my body or my teammates’, because when I go to a race, I do it with the intention of winning it,” said Contador, who was happy about the results that he’s gotten in the early season, including triumphs in the Volta ao Algarve and Paris-Nice.
On the other hand, he didn’t count out being present at the Vuelta a España, because he’s motivated by the ascent of Bola del Mundo near the Puerto de Navacerrada, a place where he’s “tired of training”, but that he’ll “have to see how it fits in with the Tour and my physical level.” (MARCA)
Alberto Contador assisted yesterday at the presentation of a new project in the quest for clean transport technology. In a ceremony at the Ministry of Industry, Contador helped unveil the Mountain Wolf, a mountain bike that can get over slopes of more than 50%, helped by a small electric motor which is used at will by the rider.
“It’s a very good idea because it allows people who aren’t in great shape to be able to enjoy the beautiful countryside, plus it provides exercise, because you have to pedal. I’m sure that it will be very successful,” Contador said of the bike designed by Rodolfo Bacaicoa and marketed by the Siempre Bici company.
The Mountain Wolf’s motor is situated in the frame and is powered by a rechargeable lithium polymer battery with a life of 60 to 90 kilometers per charge, depending on the demands of the rider. The cell—similar to those used in electric cars—can be charged in two hours. Handling of the vehicle is similar to a trial motorcycle.
The Secretary General of Industry, Teresa Santero, indicated that this novel model will allow the bike to recover its position as the major player in urban transport, a role that has been stolen by the automobile.
“It’s good news for the capacity of small companies to innovate, and I’m convinced that innovation is the best solution in these times of economic crisis,” she said.
Santero stated that the presentation was also “good news for the Ministry of Industry because it reveals the capacity of our small and mid-sized businesses to take on and tackle new projects,” and explained that the importance of the attitude of business owners is “particularly necessary in an environment of crisis.”
The Mountain Wolf, which will be available commercially at the end of September, will cost around €600 more than a conventional mountain bike and have an added weight of about 3 kilos. (MARCA, ABC.es)
PLAY THE VIDEO
The UCI World Ranking for the week of Monday, April 5th (including the Tour of Flanders) is as follows:
Alberto Contador remains in the top ten riders, even after a week without competing. Luis León Sánchez is still on top. Contador has moved to 9th, while his teammate Maxim Iglinskiy has moved to 7th.
1. SANCHEZ Luis Leon (Caisse d’Epargne), 222
2. BOONEN Tom (Quick Step), 166
3. RODRIGUEZ Joaquim (Katusha), 142
4. GILBERT Philippe (OP Lotto), 130
5. GREIPEL André (HTC-Columbia), 119
6. EVANS Cadel (BMC), 116
7. IGLINSKIY Maxim (Astana), 116
8. GARZELLI Stefano (Aqua e Sapone), 109
9. CONTADOR Alberto (Astana), 107
10. CANCELLARA Fabian (Saxo Bank), 100
In the teams classification, Contador’s Astana is ranked 4th out of 28 teams, behind 1) Caisse d’Epargne, 2) HTC-Columbia, and 3) Katusha. Team RadioShack is 24th.
Among nations, Spain leads the classification with 670 points, ahead of Belgium with 460 points and Italy with 393.
Photo from Tim de Waele public access gallery
Yesterday the Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) announced the six wild-card teams that will complete the roster for the upcoming Tour de France.
To supplement the list of 16 teams drawn up in accordance with the UCI, invitations have been offered to three teams from the USA, as well as to teams based in Britain, Russia and Switzerland.
The original 16 teams are: AG2r (France), Astana (Kazakhstan), BBox Bouyges Telecom (France), Caisse d’Epargne (Spain), Cofidis (France), Euskaltel-Eusakadi (Spain), Footon-Servetto (Spain), Française des Jeux (France), Lampre (Italy), Liquigas (Italy), Omega Pharma-Lotto (Belgium), Quick Step (Belgium), Rabobank (Netherlands), Team HTC-Columbia (USA), Team Milram (Germany), Team Saxo Bank (Denmark)
Wild cards have been issued to: BMC Racing Team (USA), Cervélo Test Team (Switzerland), Garmin-Transitions (USA), Katusha Team (Russia), Team RadioShack (USA), Team Sky (Great Britain)
An unprecedented 36 out of a total of 198 participants will ride representing American teams in the 2010 Tour.
The 97th edition of the Tour de France will take place from July 3-25, 2010.
The final podium at Paris-Nice reflects current UCI World Ranking (Graham Watson)
Alberto Contador is currently placed 6th in the UCI World Ranking, according to new statistics released Monday by the Union Cycliste Internationale.
The new figures take into account the results of last weekend’s racing at the Criterium International—where Alberto narrowly missed a win in the time trial on Sunday—as well as the Volta a Catalunya and the classic Gent-Wevelgem.
Spanish riders dominate the standings: Alberto and four of his compadres occupy five of the top ten places, with Luis León Sánchez in the lead. Alberto’s teammate at Astana, Maxim Iglinsky, has also earned a place in the top ten on the new list.
Alberto Contador was the No. 1 rider overall in the UCI World Ranking in 2009.
UCI World Ranking as of March 29:
1. SANCHEZ GIL Luis Leon (CAISSE D'EPARGNE), 222
2. RODRIGUEZ OLIVER Joaquim (TEAM KATUSHA), 142
3. GREIPEL André (TEAM HTC – COLUMBIA), 119
4. EVANS Cadel (BMC RACING TEAM), 116
5. GARZELLI Stefano (ACQUA & SAPONE), 109
6. CONTADOR VELASCO Alberto (ASTANA), 107
7. FREIRE GOMEZ Oscar (RABOBANK), 100
8. TAARAMAE Rein (COFIDIS, LE CREDIT EN LIGNE), 100
9. VALVERDE BELMONTE Alejandro (CAISSE D'EPARGNE), 99
10. IGLINSKY Maxim (ASTANA), 96
For more articles about Alberto Contador in 2010, go to RACE WATCH
The Asturians agree that “Alberto is the strongest in the mountains” and warn of the “danger of Lance on the pavé”
By J.E. CIMA – La Nueva España
Pola de Siero - March 22, 2010 - Everybody who likes cycling is anxiously awaiting the Tour de France duel between Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong. This is because the Madrileño is the best climber in the world and the great favorite, but the Texan, even though not quite what he used to be, will be looking to make a mess at the departure in Holland and Belgium in order to try to catch the Madrileño in a wind and pavé trap.
One such person is Chechu Rubiera (Gijón, 37, professional for 16 years) with RadioShack and the other is Benjamín Noval (Mieres, 31, professional for 10 years) with Contador’s Astana team. Both riders are analyzing next July’s confrontation for La Nueva España. Also helping Alberto in the mountains is Dani Navarro of Gijón.
The beginning of the season was very different. Noval explains that Contador “wanted to win a big race like Paris-Nice and he did it. What’s more, also to check the strength of the team, which was criticized by outsiders as not being able to keep him well-protected in France. We all gained confidence because he won in the Algarve, others were doing it in the Monte Eroica classic or Tirreno-Adriatico, and I’m sure that in July it will work even better.”
Rubiera says of Armstrong that “in Murcia he wasn’t great, but because things are calmer for him and he also has a lot of commitments to his cancer foundation. But there are five months left and I’m sure he’ll arrive in good shape.”
With respect to the Tour’s parcours, Noval argues that “it has more mountains in the Alps and the Pyrenees and there’s no team time trial and only one individual time trial. So that benefits a climber, and Alberto is the best. The problem will be the first week leaving from Holland and with pavé, where the Tour is not won but could possibly be lost due to nerves, wind or a crash. There Armstrong has an advantage.”
Rubiera comments that “the Tour is always hard due to the mountains and due the infernal pace that the riders set when they’re arriving at one hundred percent. In theory, not having a team time trial hurts Armstrong.”
About the favorite, both agree on Contador. Noval says that “Alberto has, after all, won his last two Tours and because he’s the best at climbing. But there are also other rivals, like the Schleck brothers, Kreuziger, Nibali and Armstrong, together with his teammates Klöden and Leipheimer.”
Rubiera assures that “Contador is the best right now in stage races, but then there are race circumstances or strategies for winning without the strongest man, and my teammates have an advantage there.”
The rivalry between the two champions has sparked a great deal of controversy and reams of comment. Rubiera manifests that “fortunately they’re not together and things are calmer on the teams, not the tension of last year. What the fans are waiting for now is the spectacular sport of seeing them face to face in the Tour. Now that Contador has switched races, they’ll meet at the Criterium International, but there won’t be that confrontation.”
Noval points out that “the summer duel sells a lot of papers. Contador already commented that he has no relationship with Lance, but now they do have mutual respect because they’re two great champions.”
There are different perspectives on one star’s ability to control the other. Noval says that “age is fundamental in cycling and Lance is getting up there (almost 39) and Alberto is young (27) and still improving. In the mountains is where Contador has a great advantage because he’s the best in the world and nobody can follow him. Armstrong has difficulty getting near him and, not only that, in the time trial he wasn’t so strong last year. Quite a bit of improvement is needed by Lance and that’s complicated, but with the American you can expect anything.”
When asked how the other champion could overcome his boss, Noval fears “race strategy, because they have a great team and very experienced people, including Lance himself, for days on the pavé with the help of Rosseler, Steegmans or Rast when people are tense on dangerous roads. He also has lieutenants like Klöden and Leipheimer, able to win a Tour with an escape, but if Armstrong arrives in good shape it will be difficult for them to be given the freedom.”
Chechu Rubiera is certain that “Contador is stronger in the mountains, he already proved it in the last Tour and, even though Lance was too, in his day, it will be difficult to follow him on the climbs. But Armstrong’s great virtue is his winning mentality which he forged by much work and great victories.
"If Lance arrives at the beginning convinced that he can win the Tour, he will be dangerous and Contador’s going to have a very hard first week in the wind and on the pavé of the first stages due to the Dutch and Belgian roads.”
Photo by J.E. Cima
Today's edition of The Guardian contains an eagerly-awaited article about F1 superstar and friend of Alberto Contador, Fernando Alonso.
Award-winning South African author Donald McRae, in his guise as sports writer, is distinguished for producing work that eclipses the journeyman cycling press. This article is no exception.
"He is also stimulated by his outside interest in creating a new Tour de France team with his friend Alberto Contador, who won the race in 2007 and 2009. 'It's a project for me – a kind of dream I have because I love cycling. Creating a top team and being in a position to win the Tour de France will give me a nice feeling. But I know it is not easy to create a top team from zero. You need good riders, good staff, a lot of preparation and, most important, a lot of sponsors. So I don't think we are in the right moment to start a project like this, because of the world economy.'
Would he wait until he has retired from Formula One before he attempts to fulfil his Tour fantasy? 'No, it can happen at the same time. It is something Alberto and I can work on. As I said I'm very open. I know this year he is with Astana but from next year onwards, for sure, if there is an opportunity I will be very interested. I think he will be interested as well.'
Did he train alongside the remorseless Contador in the winter? 'He invited me to train with him a couple of times but I was always trying to have something else to do that day! I trained with the Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez, who is from my city (Ovideo), and with some of Alberto's teammates from Astana.'"
Contador is ready to confront the international peloton in Portugal (Photo AC press room)
Alberto Contador returns to competition tomorrow after the longest voluntary rest period of his career, which makes the Volta ao Algarve a race that Astana’s leader has looked forward to with great desire, even though he also says, precisely for that reason, that “I won't have the same possibilities as in 2009, when I won the general.”
You’ve reached the first race of 2010—how are you doing?
I can’t wait. I’m a rider that likes to compete and that’s what motivates me. I think that I’m getting to a good level, but not like at this time in 2009, when I won. I’m fine, but what I’m looking for is doing a good warm-up for Paris-Nice, which I do want to ride to win.
Can you compare how you feel now with how you felt last year?
I feel good, but in 2009 I came from training camp in the United States where I worked really well, but this year there’s been very bad weather in Madrid and I haven’t trained the way I’d like. Anyway, it’s the first race of the year and there’s no need to worry about it too much.
Have you changed your winter preparation or have you continued as in past years?
No, I’ve done more or less the same as in the past, maybe with more long training sessions than in 2009, with the idea of tweaking my weight a little, because I’m still at 63.5 kg, two kilograms above my Tour weight, and it’s noticeable.
How's the route of Volta ao Algarve 2010 for you, better or worse than last year?
It’s very good for a warm-up, but it’s a little worse for me than in 2009, because it’s got a time trial that’s shorter and totally flat, they tell me. Last year’s race was very hard and that allowed me to take some time differences. This year, on the other hand, there are other riders better suited to this route.
What’s the participation going to be like? Who are the favorites?
Lacking confirmation of official bib numbers, I know that Leipheimer, Klöden, Luis León Sánchez, Iván Gutiérrez, Samuel Sánchez and Vande Velde are coming. And you have to take into account, among others, Chavanel, Ezequiel Mosquera and Joaquín Rodriguez, and not forget the riders from the Portuguese teams, who are very good and will have special motivation at home.
Do you want to check how you measure up to your rivals?
No, I only want to check my state of form and how I respond in a race, it’s not a question of making comparisons.
This has been the longest period of time that you’ve ever experienced out of competition, did time seem to drag for you?
Not at all, but starting up again is a handicap because you’re just a shade off the mark, it’s not like I finished at the Worlds. You have to train a lot in order to reach the same point, although there’s a good side to it, too. In the long run, it saves effort and the body appreciates it.
In 2010 do you think that you’ll be able to improve your performance and, if so, in the time trial? In the mountains? Where?
Yes, I think that I’m going to improve. In training sessions I’m very focused on working 100% and I think that I can improve both in the mountains and against the clock. I’m doing some tests and the results are even better that last year. I hope that that manifests itself in competition. (Interview by AC press room)
Alberto Contador’s season starts tomorrow at the Volta ao Algarve, February 17-21. This hilly five-day stage race in southern Portugal will be the first test of form for the winner of the 2009 Tour de France.
Note: Our correspondent Christine Kahane will be present for the entire race and will be sending reports from Portugal.
The rugged course will provide a point of reference for Contador regarding many of the new elements being incorporated into his schematic for this year. The Algarve will be a first for his partnership with director Giuseppe Martinelli, his new teammates Maxim Gourov, Andrey Grivko and David de la Fuente and the recently re-built Astana organization, including everything from staff cars to the press team.
Fans, friends and foes of Contador, the reigning Spanish Time Trial champion, are anticipating the premiere of bikes by Specialized. He’ll try out the prototype of his new crono bike for the first time in competition on Sunday and, simultaneously, debut the smart new national champion kit design.
Alberto won last year’s edition of the Volta ao Algarve, but in spite of riding as defending champion, he may or may not be looking for the overall victory. He told El País last month: “It’s true that last year I got the victory, but this year I don’t think that I’ll reach the same level as last, but it’ll be a good warm-up for the rest of the races.”
However, for a rider with a proven thirst to win and whose mantra is “I like to race,” a wait-and-see approach is advisable.
This year’s parcours is four hilly stages marked by the summit finish of the Category 2 Alto de Malhão in Stage 3. Alberto lost to Toni Colom by a bike length here last year but was satisfied with the result in his first test of form in the mountains.
Stage 5 is a 17.2-kilometer ITT over rolling ground, with two intermediate time checks. Alberto won the Algarve TT last year—a longer test occuring the day after the climb of the Malhão—saying that “everybody likes to start with a victory,” and adding, “Yesterday I felt like I went a bit in debt to my teammates, so this triumph is for all of them.”
The choice peloton at the Algarve promises good things for spectators. The other star of the 2009 edition, Heinrich Haussler, will be back. More stars with GC capability: Samuel Sánchez, Luis León Sánchez, Christian Vande Velde, Vladimir Karpets, Andreas Klöden. There’s an entertaining field of sprinters—André Greipel, Robbie McEwen, Thor Hushoved, Gert Steegmans—and crono specialists like David Millar, David Zabriskie and Levi Leipheimer, a TT/GC double whammy.
Contador’s seven teammates are beginning a five-month audition process for the Tour de France team. The Algarve roster consists of five Spaniards, two Kazakhs and one Ukranian. It’s worth noting that Benjamín Noval is back at Contador’s side. Noval raced the Algarve with Alberto last year, so did Sergey Renev.
Riding for Astana at the Volta ao Algarve: Alberto Contador, Jesús Hernández, David de la Fuente, Andrey Grivko, Maxim Gourov, Dani Navarro, Benjamín Noval, Sergey Renev.
Stay tuned for daily coverage of Alberto Contador's first race of 2010. More information at JORNAL CICLISMO
Alberto Contador, two-time Tour de France winner and winner of cycling's Triple Crown, has advanced to the final round of consideration for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award, according to a press release from the organization yesterday.
Contador has been voted one of six finalists by a panel of journalists representing approximately two-thirds of the world’s nations. The list now goes to the 46-member Laureus Academy jury for selection of winners.
This is Contador’s second time as a finalist. In the winter following his first Tour win he was voted second only to F1 driver Lewis Hamilton for Breakthrough of the Year.
Also advancing in the Laureus World Sportsman category are Usain Bolt, Roger Federer, Kenenisa Bekele, Lionel Messi and Valentino Rossi. With Contador, this roster takes into account the disciplines of cycling, track and field, tennis, football and motorcycling.
Laureus will award prizes in several categories to the candidates judged to have performed best during the last calendar year, a process similar to Hollywood’s Academy Awards. Also being considered for prizes are Mark Cavendish (Breakthrough of the Year) and Lance Armstrong (Comeback of the Year). Armstrong has already won Comeback of the Year, in 2000.
The gala ceremony in Abu Dhabi is scheduled for March 10, a date already reserved on Alberto Contador’s calendar for leading his Astana team in Stage 3 of Paris-Nice.
EL PAÍS. Carlos Arribas - 02/01/2010 - Clearly visible on the front of their tops, on the collar and the hood, the Astana riders, led by Alberto Contador, wear a tricolor lining—red, white and green—with the impressive shield of the Italian air force. It’s one of Giuseppe Martinelli’s main and visible contributions to the team that he’s going to direct. Another is a purely classic style in the manner of setting up the team—quintessentially Italian, if that’s not too much to say.
“The first time that they spoke to me about the possibility, when Shefer (Alexander—deputy director of Astana) proposed the idea, I immediately thought of a strategy, one that made something available to Alberto that he had never enjoyed before: a team for him, just for him, in which he was the leader of them all,” says Martinelli, a 55-year-old native of Brescia with the melancholy look of someone born on the shores of a lake, the one in Garda, his home, and the creased eyes of someone who has spent hours scouting the waters.
Shefer is Alexander Shefer, a Kazakh ex-rider who rode with Martinelli in 2003 at Saeco, directed by the Italian, and who is now one of the people that must decide the future of Astana. The organization launched its Astana 4.0 version last Saturday in Vienna, turquoise club neckties, matching turquoise flowers with sun-yellow rings decorating for the occasion the exuberant baroque Redouten Hall of the imperial Hofburg Palace.
“The team is from everywhere and nowhere,” says Martinelli in the Austrian capital, where Astana was presented because it is the seat of the Organization for European Security and Cooperation (OSCE), an organization presided over in 2010 by Kazakhstan, the country of the Asian steppes wedged between Russia and China.
“We’re made up of Spaniards, Italians, Frenchmen, Kazakhs…, and we bear the name of Astana, a city that they say exists, but whose whereabouts are known to few, like Kazakhstan itself, like an entelechy.” But the topic is not about Tartars. It’s about cyclists, about Contador.
“All champions are special, phenomena. His head is a bottomless well. He marches to a different drummer than normal people like us. Contador is one of these, but he has his head screwed on right. At 27, he has won a lot and can win much more,” says Martinelli, who knows what he’s talking about, because for more than 10 years of his life, practically his entire life as a director, he was occupied with the dominant figure of Marco Pantani, the Italian climber with whom he achieved the height, victory in the Giro and Tour in 1998, with whom he knew the greatest anguish, expulsion from the 1999 Giro, the depression and fall into the void of the rider, who died on February 14, 2004.
Martinelli, won back to cycling, remembers and compares: “What I like about Alberto is his humility. He’s a person that likes to speak and to listen. He has confidence in me or, at least, he doesn’t make me feel inferior when I talk to him. He looks me in the eye.
“When I spoke with Marco, on the other hand, often I didn’t know if he was listening to me or not. Alberto, when he’s listening, is listening. He’s a champion with humility and, from there, from humility, he wants to create his character, which is difficult when they place you at the highest level, on a pedestal.”
Everyone who has known him, even slightly, is surprised when they first meet him, is astonished at one particular sign, a symptom of excellence, a characteristic of a champion. Johan Bruyneel, his last director, emphasized his stubbornness, his extreme persistence. Íñigo Millán, one of the trainers with Garmin, was also surprised by him, back in 2003, when he worked at ONCE, when Contador was a lad of 20.
“He was just a kid, but he was the one that got farthest in the effort tests until exhausting the protocol. He suffered and suffered, but didn’t stop,” says San Millán; “he stood up on the bike from the beginning and I thought that he’d stop it right away, but he kept it up. That’s why when I saw him win the Tour, the Verbier stage, without showing signs of suffering—and I know how he is when he’s suffering because I’ve seen him suffer—I said to myself “Alberto’s going to take a lot of time.”
And his trainer in recent years, Pepe Martí, one of the people that knows him best, is surprised at how well Contador knows himself, how he interprets the signals from his body. “And every year that goes by he knows himself better. He knows how to manage the information that he gets very well, how to self-regulate,” says Martí, who speaks with Contador daily, sometimes three calls a day.
“For example, in the time trial at Annecy, in the Tour, he had calculated that in order to beat Cancellara and bearing in mind what he experienced at Beijing and Monaco, he would have to pass the top of the hill (ed. - the 3rd time check at Côte de Bluffy) with 46 seconds advantage over the Swiss. He told me before the start: If I pass through with 46 seconds, I win. He did it with exactly 46 seconds and won by three seconds.”
“Directing him will be an adventure, the zenith for a directeur sportif. A huge responsibility. The concern that something goes wrong, that Alberto doesn’t fulfill his potential because of an error of mine, because of bad directing…that’s the danger,” says Martinelli, who is defined as a vintage specimen, one of the few that prefer to direct from behind the steering wheel.
“The Astana of last year was, without doubt, stronger, but, when a team is with you 100% and you’ve got good legs, you can go very far. The team (Vinokourov, Pereiro, Tiralongo, Zeits…) is going to function this year, they’ll do whatever it takes. With Alberto it will be much easier, anyway, than with Pantani in 1998, when we had a really great team, but Marco only liked to go at the back of the pack. And so the whole team had to do that, surrounding him. They will also all be with Alberto, but ahead, at the front of the pack,” he warned.
EFE - Alcalá de Guadaíra (Seville), 02/02/10 - Five-time Tour de France champion Miguel Induráin trusts that Alberto Contador, who has won the Tour twice, will repeat his success in France, although he has warned that seven-time champion Lance Armstrong “will fight to the limit.”
Induráin, in statements to EFE after the presentation of the Andalucía CajaSur team—to whom he’s godfather—in Alcalá de Guadaíra, commented that “he’s had changes of teams, of riders and they’ve created new frameworks,” which will make it an “interesting” season.
In addition, he reminded, “when you’re a big name, the team matters,” and added that Contador “has got the hang of it and is in the prime of his career,” and so he expects that he will be a front-runner all season.
As for the duel between Contador and Armstrong, he stressed that “the other rivals are also preparing” and that the American “will fight to the limit, he has always been a fighter and, although his age is a handicap, he’ll keep fighting.”
Induráin also referred to the prologue of the upcoming Vuelta a España, an nighttime crono for teams in Seville, and commented that it could be a “nice” stage that he hopes “the whole city will enjoy.”
Photo by Krausse
LA VOZ DE ASTURIAS - 02/02/10 - The departure of Johan Bruyneel from Astana has restored the role of hero to Benjamin Noval, the rider who was shattered last year when the Belgian director excluded him from the Tour—to Armstrong’s benefit and at Contador’s expense.
If things go as planned, this year the indestructible rider from Asturias will again be right-hand man to the top Tour de France favorite and will prove on the bicycle once again that he was never really gone from the peloton’s crème de la crème. “Now we’re breathing a better atmosphere and I’m getting excited about real cycling again,” he says.
The rider from Mieres attended the team’s presentation ceremony in Vienna last Sunday (ed. –Saturday) and has gone back to Asturias with a program that’s clearly focused on doing the Tour de France.
“I’m going to have the same schedule as Contador, I’ll do what he does during the entire season and, even though nothing’s carved in stone, the aim is that, if things go as planned, I’ll be able to be in France,” he explained.
The season starts for both on February 17 in the Volta ao Algarve, then they’ll ride Paris-Nice, the Volta a Catalunya and the Vuelta al País Vasco. Before the Tour they’ll also take part in the Dauphiné Libéré.
Although last year Contador’s prayers to have Noval with him at the Tour were in vain, the Pinto rider has never been mute about his respect and admiration for the Asturian. He knows that Noval has always been a faithful lieutenant and that he was at his side in his triumphs, and so this year he’s reiterating that Noval’s experience and work will be essential for taking the maillot jaune all the way to the Champs Elysées.
For the Asturian, Contador’s words are always flattering. “Our relationship is based on more than just sport, we’re very good friends, but obviously he wasn’t going to bet on me if he’s not confident in my possibilities on the bicycle. What’s clear is that it’s always a pleasure when a great champion like Alberto speaks well of you.”
Benjamin Noval is “very motivated” and is dreaming of “coming into full form in June in order to help Contador in a race in which I consider him the top favorite.” At 31, the Asturian rider figures he’ll be on the bicycle for “three more years,” although “in cycling you can never attach a date because it depends on a lot of factors. One of the most important is economic, you can’t deny it. If you feel well physically it’s hard to turn up your nose at a contract for earning money that, once you quit cycling, is going to be hard to earn in any other way.”
Noval isn’t obsessing about leaving the peloton without having won a race. Although there’s still time, he knows perfectly well what his role is and that’s why he’s more than brilliant at performing his job. “I’ve always known what I have to do and how important it is for the team. My goal for what remains of my career is helping Alberto to get more titles,” he says.
Alberto Contador has also voiced amazement about the other Asturian on the Astana team, Dani Navarro, who he says is a very promising rider and that he relies on his “great qualities.”
NOT WITH BRUYNEEL
Six months ago, Benjamin Noval’s situation had nothing to do with the happy moments that he treasures these days. To Noval, it felt like a kick in the gut that Bruyneel did not take him to the Tour and he hit the ceiling, with good reason. “I’ll never stay on a team with Bruyneel on it, there are no words. I can’t be around a person who treats me like that after six years together,” he said then.
Benjamin Noval was sure that the criteria for the decision were not based on sport. “They’ve always told me that I was going to ride the Tour, but in three days, everything’s changed. It’s clear that they did it to weaken Alberto and benefit Armstrong,” he spat. Now things have changed and it seems that he’ll be back to put things right.
(Photo by Isabel Permuy for La Voz de Asturias)
On Saturday, March 27, a new episode of the series De Par en Par (Wide Open) featuring Alberto Contador and David Bisbal will air on Spanish TV’s Canal +. Program time is 19:00 CET (18:00 GMT).
The program was recorded over several days. In it, both stars share their enthusiasm for the bicycle, since Bisbal was an amateur cyclist in his youth, and discuss the subject at length, sharing personal perspectives and expertise on the sport of cycling.
David Bisbal, a native of Almeria, visits Contador’s hometown of Pinto with the two-time winner of the Tour serving as his proud guide, while Contador enjoys a concert of Bisbal’s music at the Circo Price Theater in Madrid.
During the program, Contador and Bisbal reveal mutual admiration and allow viewers a new and close-up look, demonstrating that both have kept their original personalities intact in spite of having achieved idol status in the eyes of their many fans.
The broadcast will coincide with Contador’s appearance in the Volta a Catalunya, March 22 – 28, 2010.(AC press room)
Vinokourov, Contador and Pereiro have a combined total of six grand tour victories (Samuel Kubani/AFP/Getty Images)
EFE - 01/30/10 - Alberto Contador has singled out as a goal for the new season recapturing the title of champion of the Tour de France. The cyclist from Pinto commented accordingly during the presentation of the Astana team in Vienna, although he did not want to label himself as favorite and pointed to Andy Schleck as his principal rival.
“The main goal is to recapture the Tour de France triumph. I know that it’s not easy, there are many riders who’re going to try it. I think that there’s a group of eight or ten riders with options, but both my team and I are going to do everything possible to achieve it,” said Contador.
The cyclist avoided the lable of favorite and stated that there exists a sizeable group of riders with options of winning the most important race in the world.
“I don’t like to think about things like that,” he said when asked if he felt like the main favorite, given his enormous palmares of victories.
“There’s a group, some due to physical strength and others due tactical factors, like the strength of the teams. So there’s a good-sized group of riders who have options,” he said.
Nevertheless, he named one particular rider among the favorites: “If I had to say a name of someone who could put me in difficulty in the mountains, like in 2009, it would be Andy Schleck,” second in last year’s Tour.
Contador also showed satisfaction with the work of Astana. “We’ve put together a very good team and we’re going to have a great season.”
“The team has done excellent work and I’m happy with the great motivation and determination that they all contribute. That’s the key,” he added. Contador’s team will also rely on Alexander Vinokourov of Kazakhstan and the Galician Óscar Pereiro, winner of the 2006 Tour.
Astana Cycling Team 2010 roster:
Assan Bazayev, Alberto Contador, Allan Davis, Scott Davis, David De La Fuente, Valeriy Dmitriyev, Alexsandr Dyachenko, Dmitriy Fofonov, Enrico Gasparotto
Maxim Gourov, Andriy Grivko, Jesus Hernandez, Maxim Iglinskiy, Valentin Iglinskiy, Josep Jufre, Roman Kireyev, Daniel Navarro Garcia, Yevgeni Nepomnyachsniy
Benjamin Noval, Oscar Pereiro, Bolat Raimbekov, Sergey Renev, Mirko Selvaggi, Gorazd Stangelj, Paolo Tiralongo, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andrey Zeits
Astana's new line-up (Samuel Kubani/AFP/Getty Images)
Alberto Contador has made the shortlist of candidates for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year prize. The award is considered the highest international honor for an athlete.
The Laureus prize, sport’s equivalent to the Oscars, is given to the best athlete of the year as chosen by jounalists and members of the Laureus Academy.
To determine the winners, a large panel of international journalists makes an initial selection, from which the 46 jurors of the Laureus Academy choose winners in six categories by secret ballot.
The winners will be announced at a ceremony to take place in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. on March 10, 2010, according to a press release.
Alberto Contador was nominated for Revelation of the Year in 2008 on the strength of his first Tour de France win in 2007, but came second to F1 driver Lewis Hamilton. This year, he is being considered for the highest honor and is up against an imposing list of candidates.
Edwin Moses, former Olympic gold medalist and now Chairman of the Laureus Academy, predicted: "This promises to be a tremendous fight for this year's Laureus Awards.
"I can rarely remember a year, outside of the Olympic Games year, when there has been such a strong line-up of potential nominees in the Laureus Sportsman of the Year category. I think the world's media will have a difficult job coming up with a list of just six from all the possible names and I think there is going to be quite a debate over the next few months about who should win," said Moses.
Nominees include past winners—Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt (2009) and tennis great Roger Federer of Switzerland (four-time winner)—as well as the following: Hideki Matsui (Japan - MLB), Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia - distance running), Mitchell Johnson (Australia – cricket), Lionel Messi (Argentina - football), Manny Pacquiao (Philippines – boxing), Michael Phelps (USA – swimming), Valentino Rossi (Italy - motorcycle), Santonio Holmes (USA - NFL), Andreas Thorkildsen (Norway - javelin) and Craig Alexander (Australia - triathlon).
Laureus believes in using sport as a tool for social change. The organization unites athletes from all disciplines and enlists their help in carrying out sport and humanitarian projects that benefit the world’s people.
Read more about Laureus at the OFFICIAL WEBSITE
Photo by Cesar Rangel
Alberto Contador is a fiery rider, a sensation, the rage of the cycling world. But what sort of person is he, really? And what's the secret to his success?
Astana fans wanted to know, so they spoke with the team's Kazakh soigneur Yuriy Kulishkin, a man who has closely observed the Triple Crown winner at work for over two years.
"I haven’t noticed anything special in the training," says the Astana aide. "He’s always motivated! He never races just to race. Always going for the victory, always fighting. And lots of riders do many races just for training. Quite a disciplined rider, routine is never disturbed."
As a person, Kulishkin describes Contador as "good, open, calm. He really loves racing. Alberto is very friendly and pleasant. He doesn't have a scrap of rudeness or arrogance about him, he doesn't allow himself to be that way."
Brilliant but disciplined, world-famous yet not, as Kulishkin says, "a celebrity nutcase." Yuriy offers you a closer look at Contador.
Testing the new Specialized TT bike on the roads of Valencia (AC press room)
EL PAÍS - C. ARRIBAS/E. GIOVIO - 01/25/2010 - A Kazakh team, a French manager, an Italian director, a Spanish leader, riders from various countries…”We communicate with each other in Italian,” says, at training camp in Calpe (Alicante), Alberto Contador (Pinto, Madrid: 1982), the best rider in the world, a rider condemned like Sisyphus to begin a new project every year from a shaky foundation. With 2010 comes the Astana 4.0 version. “My enthusiasm is not suffering. I’m starting the year more motivated than ever,” he warns.
What’s the difference in the atmosphere from last year’s training camp at Tenerife when Lance Armstrong returned? Do you miss it?
No, I don’t miss it at all. This year the atmosphere is more peaceful. Last year’s camp at Tenerife, with the hotel closed to everybody, seems to me like too much. You can’t leave people out like that.
The experts doubt the potential of your new team.
But unlike them, I’m surprised in a positive way by the team. We did tough training sessions and everybody responded. The Kazakh riders, in particular, are the ones that surprised me most - the excitement, the motivation that they have for riding with Astana.
And Vinokourov, the man that aspired to everything before his positive in the 2007 Tour—has he been well-integrated?
Vinokourov is essential, he draws in the Kazakhs, he keeps the group unified. Tactically, if he rides the Tour, he’ll be a very important element.
Do some riders already have a place on the Tour team?
Nobody, everybody will have to win it.
In your career you’ve had a Spanish director, Saiz, one Belgian, Bruyneel, and now you have an Italian one, Martinelli. Differences?
The Italian philosophy is different. The first thing that was clear to me is that for Martino the team must be built around a captain, that everything must revolve around the leader.
With you, Martinelli has returned to great cycling.
He’s very excited, Martinelli. In a way, his coming with us has revived his excitement for cycling. He’s a director with a lot of experience, he’s won I don’t know how many Giros and the Tour with Pantani and you can tell that that’s a part of him. To speak with him is to take history lessons. I could listen to him telling stories all night.
Tactically, aside from strife while in close quarters, aren’t you going to miss Armstrong?
Maybe so, having Armstrong on the team gave us more strength, we controlled things better. But now I’ll have the freedom to do my race. If that means doing an ascent really fast, I’ll be able to do it.
Contador and team rode over 1,500 km at camp to prepare for the season (AC press room)
Have you spoken with Armstrong since the Tour?
I haven’t spoken with him again. I don’t have anything to say to him, either.
Don’t you think that you’ll have to have a face-to-face conversation in order to clarify some things?
As far as I’m concerned, there’s no conversation pending. And as for him, I also think that. When I see him—I think that the first race that we ride together is the Volta a Catalunya, in March—I’ll greet him politely.
Are you afraid that from here to the Tour you might be worn down in a psychological battle with Armstrong?
As far as I’m concerned, I’m not going to do anything to make war, and I don’t know what Lance is going to do.
The Texan seems to like to push your buttons…
But I’m not going to push his buttons back if he does.
None of the eight Astana riders that you won the Tour with are staying with you. Does that mean anything?
That we only started to make the team in December, and from zero, and that I couldn’t carry the responsibility that the eight people depended on me for until so late. I understand that they’ve gone.
It’s very different to be a new team as of August. For example, we’ve just gotten the radios, which they’re riding without in Australia in the Tour Down Under, nor do they have the blue bicycles, they have the first ones that Specialized gave us, the ones from training. I couldn’t even be sure about leaving or about staying at Astana, while Bruyneel and Armstrong had already been contracting since August.
Did you ask any rider to wait, then?
No, I didn’t ask any rider to wait.
Physically, how do you feel going into 2010?
Stronger even than last year. The data from training says so.
Have you changed anything in your preparation, or is it that you continue growing?
Each time I’m more of a perfectionist. But the key is always training.
And always thinking about the same thing?
All my life I’ll try to keep winning the Tour.
But you’ve already won two. Isn’t it complicated to find motivation when you’ve already achieved your dream?
Each time, I enjoy being a cyclist more. The motivation is enormous, and as long as I’m maintaining the physical level that allows me to aspire to it all, I’ll keep being a rider.
To aspire to everything and in all the races. You’re one of those cyclists that wants to win everything he rides…
I don’t like that theory of training for the bib number. When I go to a race, I always go to try to be in front. Whether I win or not, we’ll see.
They say that you’re so superior to all the other cyclists that you’ll be able to lose up to 10 minutes on the pavé in the Tour and it won’t matter, because in the mountains you can take half an hour from anybody…
In the Tour I want a calm race, not one like that. Reaching the mountains in front and staying in front. The main rival will be Andy Schleck, who’s a very good friend besides and a very good person. He’s the strongest, the one who complicated my life the most last year. And then, a few others, and Armstrong, obviously.
Do you think that if you want to win a lot of Tours you’ll have to calculate and try to win by the minimum, not by a rout?
Some things can’t be calculated, it’s not all that easy.
You’ve always said that you’ll never stop being a person to be a celebrity. Isn’t it more difficult each time to keep that promise?
It’s not about choosing between being a benchmark or a person. It’s possible to be both things, both aspects can exist side by side in the personality.
It’s true that I’m not into Twitter or Facebook, like so many of my colleagues, because I believe that it’s a way to lose privacy, but the sponsors require it to a certain extent. So I’ll enter that world, but in a very moderate way. I’ll never put on my Twitter page, for example, that I’m with my fiancée at the movies…
Nevertheless, all the myths in sports have also been unique personalities.
But you can be a myth and be a quiet person, an ordinary man. Look at Induráin, the whole world admires him, everything that he’s won, and he lives a very quiet life.
Is it about being like Induráin, then?
No, it’s about being yourself.
Perfecting the form against the clock (AC press room)
Currently taking part in a training camp, Astana's Spanish star agreed to an exclusive interview with RMC (Radio Monte Carlo) Sport. The two-time Tour winner refuses a polemic with Lance Armstrong but does not make him his Tour de France number one rival.
Alberto Contador, what is your state of mind at the start of the new season?
I’m focused on the Tour de France. I’m awaiting the coming month of May with impatience. We’re already training for it here, near Valence (Astana's training camp is in Calpe). We’re working hard in order to be ready. I’ll see if it’s possible to come out on top. It will be hard, but it’s this year’s goal.
How are things going with your “new” team?
Very well indeed. I’m really surprised by everybody’s great motivation. Nobody’s skimping on the effort. They show me I can have confidence in them. They’re really doing a great job.
There are still some worries regarding the level of the team. Are you satisfied?
Yes, there were some worries, but I’m very pleased with everybody’s level. I’m impressed by everyone’s implication and concentration standard. They show me we have the capacity to be a very strong team.
Astana hired Frenchman Yvon Sanquer as team director. What do you think of him?
We’ve gotten on well from the beginning. He’s a good technician. He has the stature to help build this team and make it return to the straight and narrow path. I really think he will help us greatly.
How did you feel about the departure of your ex-teammates ? Were you disappointed?
No, I thought it was normal. I knew the situation and the future of the team were uncertain. I understand why they left. I don’t bear any grudges against anyone.
“Vinokourov will work for me”
You have nevertheless acquired the valuable help of Oscar Pereiro’s (Caisse d’Epargne) ...
It’s an important asset. The help of a rider like Oscar is valuable for any team. He’s already impressed me. He trains a lot. He’ll play an important part in this team and will be very useful in the Tour de France.
Alexandre Vinokourov is back from suspension. Are things clear with him?
There’s a very good atmosphere in the team. Things are going very well. With Vinokourov, it’s the same. We’re very close. It’s clear that he’ll be the leader in a lot of races. But in the Tour, he’ll work for me. That’s very clear.
Are you equipped to win a third Tour de France?
Of course. I think so. Some teams have a higher level but I think this team can give me what I need in order to win.
Who is your main rival? Armstrong? Andy Schleck?
I have lots of rivals. I can’t name one in particular. And anyway, I don’t pay attention to the others. I’m totally focused on my victory. It’ll all depend on race situations. But if I should name my main mano a mano rival, it’s Andy Schleck. He’s progressed a notch. I can see him heading the list of riders who’ll aim at a victory.
“I don’t want to talk about Armstrong”
And Lance Armstrong? Could he win?
This year he was able to come back from zero. He finished third in the Tour and was a very big rival. With respect to his chances of winning the Tour, let's wait and see. Other people also have a chance of winning.
Isn’t Lance’s team the best equipped in the peloton?
I don’t know if it’s the best. I think there are some teams which have as much or maybe more potential. I’m thinking especially of Saxo Bank. But RadioShack is a very strong, very solid team with a lot of experience. Its riders are very good. All these assets will help Armstrong.
Armstrong criticized you through the press. What do you think of that?
I don’t want to talk about that.
The Schleck brothers said you are beatable in the Tour, and especially on the pavé portions…
They’re right. Nobody’s unbeatable in whatever sport. I’m not safe from anything. My rivals could take advantage of these moments. Of course, there are the pavé portions. It’s not a good terrain for me but I am training and getting prepared for it. Everybody’s waiting for a weakness on my part. I have to admit, nevertheless, that some people are better than I am on the pavé.
Aren’t you your own best enemy?
I must, of course, be 100% fit. I’ll have to plan my season to be at my best level of form in June. I don’t consider myself as my own enemy, but I am keeping an eye on my rivals.
A last word on your future…
For the moment I’m only focused on this coming season. I’m not thinking about next year yet. I feel fine in this team. We’ll see how things evolve.
Photos from the Tim de Waele public access gallery: top - Contador at Calpe training camp; middle left - Vinokourov will help Contador in the 2010 Tour; lower right - Contador's brother Fran will be instrumental again in 2010
Many thanks to Christine Kahane for translating this interview from the French.
Today the Astana Cycling Team did the hardest training session so far at Calpe training camp. After taking it relatively easy on Sunday, Contador and his teammates went out for ride of six-and-a-half hours over 210 km of rugged terrain in Alicante’s interior. The ride took in several climbs, including the well-known Finestrat.
Under the watchful eye of director Giuseppe Martinelli, who follows his riders’ daily workouts in the car, Astana finished a taxing program that proved Contador, along with Tiralongo, Dani Navarro and Vinokourov, a cut above the rest of the other riders when the road got tough.
A press conference with Alberto Contador is scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday, January 20, at 4:00 pm in the Hotel Diamante Beach (Avenida Juan Carlos I, Calpe). Other members of the team will also be available to the press at that time. Photographers and television crews are welcome to record the morning training session, which will start at 10:00 am.
Astana hopes the Tour peloton sees a similar view often (AC press room)
Alberto Contador took the opportunity on Sunday morning, the first rest day of Astana’s training camp in Calpe, to officiate at the inauguration of a new cycle-friendly project in Alicante, a ciclovía. The ciclovía is an innovative take on urban bike trails, and is the first of its kind in Europe.
Contador shot off the opening gun with project leaders Alicante mayor Sonia Castedo and the president of the Puerto de Alicante, Miguel Campoy. The Tour champion pronounced it “a great honor” to fire the pistol at “the first Ciclovía in Europe.”
Ciclovías are distinguished from other types of bike path by being located on regular city streets where motorized vehicles are forbidden during open hours. They originated in the New World, especially in New York and in Latin America. In fact, the model prototype is in Bogotá, which converts 121 kilometers of road to non-motor leisure use every Sunday and on holidays.
The new ciclovía in Alicante’s capital city is an 8-kilometer circuit--4 kilometers of blocked-off city street running out and back along the seafront from the Plaza de Galicia to the dramatic Quarry Outlook. As of today, the route will close to motor traffic every Sunday for safe use by cyclists, skaters and pedestrians.
Ex-professional rider Santos González, current director of the Puerto de Alicante Area Sport division, was one of the creators of the project. His opus has generated great interest in other European cities that are also trying to promote urban and leisure use of the bicycle as a clean, quiet, affordable and sustainable vehicle.
Ironically, Alicante’s route will be closed in the summer, perhaps as a concession to heavier auto traffic due to tourism, or recognizing that citizens don’t require tempting to a bit of healthy excercise along the sunny coastal strip during the warm months.
The endeavor met with enthusiastic backing from the public this morning, as demonstrated by the massive crowd of about 40,000 people who flooded the route starting at 9:00 am.
Training on the TT bike
Alberto Contador spent the rest of the morning trying out his new time trial bicycle, to which he is adjusting as quickly as possible in order to be ready for his first race against the clock of 2010, which will happen in February at the Volta ao Algarve.
Astana’s captain devoted about two hours to testing different technical aspects and tweaking his position on the new machine, which is distinquished by its excellent aerodynamic performance. Meanwhile, the rest of the team took their road bikes out for a session of about two hours.
Tomorrow will be a different matter, since director Giuseppe Martinelli has prescribed six hours of long hard riding.
Contador bundled up for Col weather at training camp (AC press room)
Alberto Contador says he's not counting out riding the Vuela a España this year. He also trusts that the Armstrong polemics will be put aside.
In as.com's interview from Day 2 at Calpe, Contador speaks highly of his partnership with Vinokourov, and regarding the newest incarnation of Astana, he says, “I consider my teammates especially motivated to win it all at the Tour.”
You’re back to work now, how were your holidays?
Not as relaxed as I would’ve wished. I’ve had to meet plenty of commitments, attend some dinners and then there was the subject of sorting out my future. Finally everything was in order and I’m very happy and taken care of at Astana.
How do you spend your spare time at a camp like this?
It’s amazing, but you don’t have much free time either between training, meetings, press conferences…If I’m in Spain, I watch television. I also usually listen to music and read a little.
Have you studied English in order to meet the foreign media?
Yes, but I only went to four classes. I’ve got to find time to cram. If my teacher saw how I speak, he’d tear his hair out.
Are you hooked on Facebook or Twitter?
I’m not into it. I try to have my website updated with the latest news, but I don’t usually write in the blog or things like that.
Did RadioShack wish you a Merry Christmas?
Yes, Bruyneel wished me happy holidays, and so did I to him. I also got other cards.
Ha-ha, I got other cards.
Did it hurt you that so many Astana people went with Armstrong?
As the winter went on, I couldn’t offer them a secure situation. I didn’t even know where I’d be riding myself.
Do you think that you have a strong enough team at your disposal to tackle the Tour?
Yes, without a doubt. I consider my teammates especially motivated to win it all at the Tour. Vinokourov will be an important man, and we’ve signed quality people like Pererio, De la Fuente, Stangelj, Tiralongo.
Will you have the same leadership problems with Vinokourov that you had with Armstrong?
No, things are very clear and he’ll lend me a hand at the Tour. With Vino we’ll have more tactical cards to play.
Do you feel relieved without Armstrong?
Now I’ll be more focused on the bike. Our rivalry’s a topic that’ll keep the reporters happy.
Your director, Giuseppe Martinelli, says that you remind him a lot of Marco Pantani.
I’m flattered. I’ve always been a great admirer of the Italian. When I used to see him win on TV, I started climbing uphill to imitate him and doing it like he did. The difference is that Pantani climbed holding the bottom of the handlebars, and I hold them on top.
When might you do two grand tours in one season?
Competing in the Vuelta this year is possible. If not, in 2011, surely and without fail, I’m going to ride two: the Tour, and the Giro or the Vuelta. It depends on how we look at the calendar.
Contador submits to biomechanical testing by Andy Pruitt to improve his position on the bike (AC press room)
Today the Astana Cycling Team completed Day 3 of training camp in Calpe (Alicante). Alberto Contador and the 18 Astana teammates with him at camp left the hotel at 10:30 a.m. for a five-hour training ride, similar to yesterday’s session.
Contador is feeling increased comfort on his new bike, thanks to a biomechanical study conducted by technicians from Specialized on the first day of camp. The study was directed by Andy Pruitt with help from technician Scott Holz, who travelled from the USA to carry out a morphological study on Contador using the Specialized Body Geometry FIT (Specialized BG FIT) system. The focus was Contador’s position on the bicycle with the aim of improving his performance throughout the season.
In this first encounter, Contador got some pointers about how to make slight changes in position and will now try the effects of these changes during the rest of training camp. As of Friday, Astana’s leader is very positive and said that he feels more comfortable since making the adjustments which will enhance his already excellent adaptation to the new bicycle.
Astana will enjoy a change of pace tomorrow, Sunday, which is a scheduled rest day with a much shorter session of about two hours in the saddle. Contador will also go to Alicante in the morning to preside over the eleven o’clock opening of a new bike path, a project of more than 8 kilometers in length designed to set a precedent in Europe for popularizing urban and leisure cycling. (AC press room)
Dani Navarro and Alberto Contador happy to be training at Calpe (AC press room)
Alberto Contador and the Astana Cycling Team completed a windy 120 km ride today as winter training camp got underway at Calpe. Today's session on Spain's Costa Blanca included a climb to the summit of the Col de Rates and provided a first action-view of the new kit, a gambol of many gold bands on a sky blue and white background, designed by Italian firm Nalini.
Everybody on the team was present for the first day of activities, except for Alexander Vinokourov and the riders currently in Australia for the Tour Down Under.
In the evening, Contador visited the studio for a live-broadcast press conference hosted by his bike maker, Specialized. He addressed the mostly English-speaking journalists primarily in English, occasionally reverting to his native Spanish, also fielding questions sent in by fans via Twitter and Facebook.
A few interesting points from the conference: Contador thinks that teaming up with Alexander Vinokourov in the Tour could produce superior tactics, and that riding bikes by the same maker as those used by some of his strongest competitors - for instance, the Schlecks - could have tactical advantages as well.
He also revealed that he is considering riding the Tour of Missouri again next September.
The complete press conference is now available as live at Alberto's official website.
Alberto Contador starts his next block of work on Thursday, January 14 in Calpe, where he’ll meet his Astana teammates for a training camp that runs through Sunday, January 24.
The camp will jump-start the team for its first European races of the season and mark the premiere of new custom bicycles by Specialized, Astana’s official sponsor for 2010. In addition, Astana will hit the road for the first time in their new kit, made posthaste by Moa during the last few weeks.
Two days of training camp will be set aside for attendance by the media, specifically Wednesday, January 20 and Thursday, January 21. Alberto Contador will hold a press conference on Wednesday, January 20 at 4:00 PM. Other members of the team will also be available to the press throughout these two days.
Yvon Sanquer and Guiseppe Martinelli will direct all riders except the squad riding the Tour Down Under, which will be lead by defending champion Allan Davis under the direction of Guido Bontempi.
Contador himself is impatient to arrive at Calpe and get to work, and hopes to encounter good cycling weather, unlike the freezing temperatures and snow which have made regular training in Pinto impossible lately.
Alberto, the season is beginning already with the training camp in Calpe—what do you expect from this first official date?
It’s almost here, the 14th is already the start of camp and I’m eager to go. I expect us to be able to do a good block of training. We’re going to be there for a total of 11 days and things will go better than in the last training camp at Pisa, where it was all a little less organized.
I’m eager to see the level of all the riders, I’m motivated by them, I’m fully confident in the work that they’re doing and I believe that it’s going to do a lot of good.
What sort of sensations are you feeling in your initial training this year as you look ahead to the 2010 season?
They’re very good, although I’ve had to fit training in around some commitments, and well, the winter that we’re having this year in Europe and in my area in particular…I don’t remember anything this bad. It’s difficult to sort out training, but the truth is, I’m feeling really good and, comparing the data with other years, I think that things are going pretty well.
You’re anticipating a debut in the Volta al Algarve, like last year. What do you expect from this first race?
Yes, I’m debuting in the Algarve. Last year things went very well for starting the season at Paris-Nice and the races that came next. It’s true that last year I got the victory, but this year I don’t think that I’ll reach the same level as last, but it’ll be a good warm-up for the rest of the races.
The Davis brothers are the last to arrive on the team—what’s your opinion of the final draft of Astana 2010? Do you like the shape it has taken, and what do you think of the season with all these riders?
It’s a team that, considering the timeline we’ve had to deal with, has made up a very good group. In the end, it’ll be a very complete team that’ll have a presence in any race it goes to, and it’ll have riders who’ll be competitive in all the races it goes to. Then, thinking about the fundamental goal of the team—the Tour—I think that, all in all, quite a competitive team has been put together, quite complete, and that I can have a team at the level I need for the Tour.
We’ve seen the first pictures of the 2010 jersey—do you like the new jersey?
Yes, I like it a lot. They’ve taken away some of the colors, like the navy blue, and the white and gold are more predominant. I think it’s a jersey that people are really going to like. (Official press release, AC press room)
Photo: Contador started 2009 with a victory at the Algarve (Reuters)
Madrilenians consider that Alberto Contador and the Spanish Red Cross were “as good as bread” in 2009, according to a baking industry survey carried out by Quota Research, says Spanish news wire EFE today.
"As good as gold" in English is "as good as bread" in Spain, an apt description of the cyclist who won the gold jersey in the 2008 Vuelta, as well as two Tours and a Giro, and who has gone on record stating that his favorite edible no-no is Bimbo (Wonder) Bread.
The industry polled 2000 people across Spain as a part of “Daily Bread”, a campaign designed to honor outstanding individuals and groups in Spain in 2009, likening them to bread, the super-achiever of the Mediterrean diet, which they feel is not currently being sufficiently valued or consumed.
Contador received 25.5% of the vote, edging out Iker Casillas of Real Madrid and proving overwhelmingly more popular than Madrid’s mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón (7.6%).
Another testament to Spain’s football mania was the top score of Barcelona’s coach, Josep Guardiola, in the professional category. Guardiola won over professor and prize-winning inventor Celia Sánchez Ramos, who has invented a light filter for contact lenses that guards the retina and can prevent blindness, and Dr. Pedro Cavadas, the surgeon who performed Spain’s first face transplant.
For its contributions to society, the Spanish Red Cross was considered “as good as bread” by 40.5% of voters.
According to INCERHPAN, an association of big business and small farmers which promotes bread consumption, the rate at which people eat bread has dropped alarmingly in recent years, despite the fact that the food's richness in fiber and nutrients have earned it the nickname “the staff of life”.
In an official communiqué, the president of INCERHPAN, Antonio Catón, insisited that the “false myths about bread consumption are confusing consumers and they are moving away from a healthy and balanced diet.”
According to their data, 90% of Madrileños eat bread regularly at home, specifically 31.9 kilos per person per year, far below the national average of 41 kilos.
Pereiro won the Tour in 2006, but - like Vino - he wants to ride for Contador this year (photo: AC press room)
An article from December that was temporarily lost in the holiday shuffle...
For Óscar Pereiro, December was like taking a beating, a period of constant ups and downs. Only days ago the possibility that Astana would not fulfill its contractual obligation made him think about retirement; today he’s only thinking about pushing Contador towards his third Tour.
FARO DE VIGO - Armando Álvarez - 12/15/09 – Óscar Pereiro has run out the clock at Pisa training camp. Happiness is mitigated by the exhaustion of training, tough after four months without competing. Pereiro, a native of Mos, is pleased with the directors, teammates, attendants, equipment…”I feel like a boy with new shoes,” he confesses.
The Galician was in the doldrums when he went to Italy. Astana had only summoned him after he threatened to take them to court over fulfillment of a contract that the bosses of the Kazakh team wanted to reduce. “I had a certain uneasiness about what my reception would be like,” he recounted, “but the atmosphere is fantastic. I only talked about the subject at the beginning with Sanquer.”
The manager took the blame. He explained the disagreements as the product of the stress and confusion of those days during which Astana was fighting to get its ProTour license. “Nobody was concerned about the subject anymore.” For Pereiro, it’s no longer an issue either.
Another conversation, and one that he’s happier about, is the one that he had with Alberto Contador. The Madrileño, to whom Pereiro is devoted both as a professional and a human being, has a lot to do with the solution to the rough circumstances of his signing. Pereiro summarized the content of their chat: “He told me that he wants me to be an important man, that he has confidence in me.”
Contador wants him at his side in the next Tour de France, when he will try to climb to the highest step of the podium in Paris for the third time. Two of the seven Spanish Tour champions, one the leader and one his bodyguard, will combine forces against the other favorites. The seven-time champion Armstrong is set up as the main threat. “He’ll be focused on winning the Tour,” Contador anticipated yesterday concerning his ex-teammate. The ASO, the race organization, is smacking its lips at the idea of a rematch of the duel between the two cannibals.
Pereiro assumes the role of gregario with gusto. He has already done it for Valverde at Caisse d’Epargne in a more equal partnership. He has always accepted the orders of the people who pay him without complaining. Although he used to dream of reclaiming the role of sniper in the final part of his career, he will gladly sacrifice this freedom to collaborate in the heroic deeds of Contador.
Pereiro still has to win the place. He accepts that “Alberto is the only one who has a guaranteed place in July.” Astana has totally modified its organization (Bruyneel has taken Armstrong and the other seven cyclists who did the grunt work in the 2009 edition). “But there are great riders.”
What the team has assured Pereiro is a calendar focused on participating in the Tour. “You’ve got to prove your form on the bicycle. I’m super-convinced that I will get to that level.”
To that end, he has recovered motivation that has made him go from contemplating retirement to considering the option of continuing even beyond 2010. “I spend two days with Astana and I feel like a boy with new shoes."
"At the end of the year, we’ll see. My priority is to take advantage of this opportunity to get back to the place where I think I should be.”
Preparation for that summer appointment starts immediately in respect to official competition. Pereiro will premiere Astana’s jersey in the Tour Down Under, the Australian race coming up in January. And so he flees from Galician winter and might be working in temperatures of 40° C, to “get back my rhythm, without being too concerned about competition.”
He won't go to win, but his presence already means something for the organization. It’s what they hired him for, the undeniable advertising power that the Galician will bring.
“Pereiro has already ridden here and it’s fantastic that he’s coming back to do it again, his presence raises a lot of expectations among fans, it’s stupendous that a cyclist of his calibre has agreed to return,” said the race director, Mike Turtur. His visit to Aussie territory will coincide with Armstrong’s, a type that he admires, although now it's from the enemy trenches.
New Look: Contador in 2010 Astana Cycling Team kit (photo: AC press room)
Alberto Contador is saying a fond farewell to 2009, a great year, while already beginning to lay the groundwork for 2010, a year in which he only asks for peace and to suffer no mishaps during preparation. Impatient to get back to competition in the Volta ao Algarve, the leader of Astana is very happy with his “new” team, has total faith in his teammates and says confidently that they will soon prove that they are a “powerful and very competitive” team.
2009 has been a great year for you, with your second victory in the Tour de France and first place in the world ranking. What were your best and worst moments of the season?
The best moments happened in competition, because each time I competed I got results and my legs responded. Throughout the whole year, it was a great season as far as how I felt physically. And the worst, well, I couldn’t say, because nothing bad enough happened to be worth mentioning. I can’t complain about 2009, other than sometimes I would liked to have enjoyed a little more peace.
How do you rate having won the UCI ProTour classification?
It’s the result of a great season, during which I was very consistent because I made the best use of the races that I went to, even though I didn’t go to many.
Since the Tour victory in July, you’ve only ridden criteriums. Are you eager to put on a bib number for an official competition again?
Well, yes, I’m very eager. My wish is to get back to competing, because what I like best is enjoying the bike and competition.
How’s it going? Have you already started preparing for the 2010 season?
Yes, I’ve already started training, although I haven’t been at it for very long, because these days I’ve got to work around some commitments. But I’ve already done the first block of training and I feel pretty good. I’m motivated, excited and very happy with how I’m feeling on the bike the last few days.
What are your plans for the next few weeks? What’s your work schedule?
After having done the first block of training, now I’m looking forward to training camp in Calpe, on Januray 13th, where we’ll do an initial stage of preparation for the season, taking advantage of an area that’s great for training. There we’ll define the team’s goals and each rider’s calendar.
What will your program be?
I’ll definitely start at the Volta ao Algarve. Last year I really liked the race and I think that it’s a perfect way to start the season. In 2009 I won, but this year I’m going to take it relatively easy, although I always like to arrive in good shape to the races and besides, I’m eager to start racing. After that I’ll go to Paris-Nice, where more than anthing else we want to work on teamwork, on coordination and the tactics of controlling a race. Then I’m planning to ride the Volta a Catalunya and probably País Vasco, although I’m also leaving the door open for the classics, but I’ll decide about that later.
You only have a few faithful members of the old team left. How is that, what good do you see in it, and what do you expect from the new Astana?
This team is really like starting from zero, because almost all of it is new. I’ve got a lot of faith in the teammates around me this year and I think that we’ll be a powerful and competitive team. We’re all very motivated because we know that we’ll always have a lot of responsibility and that we can’t race like it’s a walk in the park. The team will be at a very high level.
You’re already using the new equipment – do you like everything? Will you have the best in 2010?
A lot of things have changed on the team, and one of them is the thing we use most: the bikes. I’m very happy with Specialized, because I’ve felt very comfortable from the beginning. The bike meets all my requirements, it’s rigid, light and above all, the company is open to all kinds of suggestions. That’s extremely important - a lot of times, winning depends on little details. And just like with the bike, I’m very happy with all the team’s equipment. We’ve been able to choose whatever we thought was the best in each case: groups, wheels, tubes, clothes…to me, that’s fundamental.
In closing, what are your wishes for the new year?
In 2010 I don’t want to ask for anything big, mainly for health, both personally and as an athlete. A few days ago I was really happy that Andy Schleck escaped unharmed from an accident with a car, because he’s a compañero and a good friend. So that’s the only thing I ask, that nothing happens that could spoil the season, that I’m able to train as normal and that I don’t have any mishaps during preparation. Everything else will come. (AC press room)
Alberto Contador's 2nd Tour de France, and much more
GO TO IN THE PRESS 2009
Press coverage from The Year of the Triple Crown
GO TO IN THE PRESS 2008