Name: Alberto Contador Velasco
Team: Saxo Bank
Role: Team leader and stage racer
2011 World Tour ranking: 3
- Giro d’Italia: 1st overall, won stages 9 & 16 (ITT), 2nd in stages 8, 13, 14 & 19, 3rd in stages 15 & 21 (ITT), 1st in points classification, 2nd in mountains classification
- Tour de France: 5th overall, 2nd in stage 4, 3rd in stages 19 & 20, 6th in mountains classification
- Vuelta a Murcia: 1st overall, won stages 2 & 3 (ITT), 1st in points classification
- Volta a Catalunya: 1st overall, won stage 3
- Vuelta a Castilla y Leon: won stage 4 (ITT)
Why I like him:
Like me he’s an accountant (‘Contador’ is Spanish for ‘accountant’) – unlike me he’s poetry in motion on a bike. I could watch him dancing on the pedals all day long. Not for nothing is he acclaimed the best stage racer of his generation. I love it that he always races to win; it’s never a training ride.
From a humble background, he’s overcome a cerebral vascular disorder, controversy as a Sainz prodigy, Lance Armstrong and falling from the sky on Saxo Bank’s recent team get-together. Very little seems to faze him. He’s mentally very tough and it’s that toughness, as well as meticulous attention to detail, that sets him apart from his peers.
Since first meeting him at Paris-Nice 2006, I’ve watched his meteoric rise with interest. I like the fact he’s loyal to his family, his home town, his long-term girlfriend, whom he recently married, and has kept his feet firmly anchored to the ground.
This month sees him gifted his – and his bike’s – bodyweight in honey by the mayor of a nearby town. Recent recipients of this award include two Nobel prize winners and Spain’s World Cup winning manager, Vicente del Bosque. Let’s hope that’s not his only award in 2012.
Where to see him in 2012:
After his second Saxo Bank training camp, this time on the Canary Islands (5th-15th January), he’ll be starting his 2012 season down in Argentina with the Tour de San Luis (23rd-29th January). Thereafter, he’ll follow a not too dissimilar programme to 2011, albeit with the omission of the Giro d’Italia and the inclusion of the Olympics, where he’s expressed an interest riding the individual time-trial.
However, all this is dependent on the Court of Arbitration of Sport’s decision on whether or not to support the Spanish Cycling Federation’s ruling in respect of the tiny traces of clenbuterol found in Alberto’s urine sample on the second rest day of 2010’s Tour.
Watch out for regular updates tracking Alberto Contador’s 2012 season over the coming months.
Your personal insights into the man behind the public face suggest a decent, humble man very much in the mould of Rafa Nadal. I find that both interesting and heartening.
My opinion of Bertie with respect to his doping case changes with every passing week. He is either a systematic doper or an innocent man accidentally caught with traces of clenbuterol. I started out in the former camp – a prejudice informed by my anger over ‘Chain-gate’ – but over time I have become less sure.
Even if he is innocent, though, rules are rules. Even a trace is punishable by suspension – therefore if he is found guilty (even if inadvertently) I think he must serve a suspension, perhaps a shortened one, to avoid creating a dangerous precedent in the war against doping. But if that is the case it should be made clear that he is guilty of having drugs in his system, not necessarily guilty of doping.
Regardless of all the above, though, he is a magnificent racer. He is one of the very best climbers in the peloton, a top time-trialist and quite simply the most exciting and complete stage racer of his generation. I loved the way he went on the attack at last year’s Tour (stage 19?), even when he knew in his heart that overall victory was beyond him. And his utter domination of the toughest Giro I can remember was spell-binding (even though it did make the race rather dull) – he won two stages, but in reality if he had not been handing out gifts he would have won five. This was domination of a kind that not even Armstrong achieved, and Bertie’s Saxo Bank Sungard team was not a patch on Lance’s USPS/Discovery squads. He won the toughest Giro in years, and he did it virtually single-handed. Incredible.
Yes, having met the guy and having enjoyed dinner with him (and a small group of others), I too feel conflicted by the whole situation but agree with you: rules are rules. Though I do feel the whole procedure needs to be re-examined and definitely changed. I felt sorry when Bertie was booed at last year’s Tour team presentation. Boo the process, not the man.
Bertie’s domination in the Giro was amazing but then he’s used to winning on his own, let’s not forget the Tour in 2009!
100% agree that the procedure needs changing. I understand that complex cases such as this need time to be done properly – there is evidence to be gathered and analysed, solid cases need to be constructed etc – but it’s already 18 months since the original offence and that cannot be right. Murder trials and appeals can be conducted in less time than this, often with forensic evidence which is even more complex than doping cases. Why does it take so long in cycling? That is unfair on the sport, unfair on the fans and most of all unfair on Alberto if he is innocent.
I echo your sentiments.
I have nothing but huge admiration for his ability on a bicycle, but I suppose my opinions on the man who should by all rights be Armstrong’s natural successor are colored not just his doping case, but also by his public persona (at least, as presented by my sources here in the USA). What I mean to say is that Contador is portrayed as a giant as a cyclist, but a person almost impossible to like simply because he reveals too little of himself.
As Tim says, my perceptions of him are negatively influenced by his role in “Chain-Gate”; on the other hand, many of the greatest champions in any sport display the same kind of ruthlessness. In F1, for example, Ayrton Senna had it; in baseball, Barry Bonds did as well.
For sure it is impossible to be indifferent to Senor Contador. I just wish I could like the guy more, but for whatever reason I find that to be so difficult.
It’s a valid comparison you draw between Contador and Senna/Bonds in terms of their single-mindedness and sometimes ruthlessness, although those two are quite different to each other and I think Alberto may be more like Senna than Bonds.
Bonds appears to have been a systematic cheat. There are clear rules; there’s little/no doubt he broke them.
Senna stepped over an ethical line which has always been a bit blurred. Some of that was just power politics within the team (fair game), but he was also occasionally willing to put lives at risk to get what he wanted.
I think Contador is a consummate politician (I mean that in a flattering way). He survived all Lance’s power-plays at Astana. He won the Giro with the threat of suspension hanging over him. And he has conducted himself with dignity through the last 18 months. My respect for him has increased over that period.
I adored Senna. Even as a Giants fan, I never liked Bonds. With Bertie, I’ve grown from dislike to a more neutral position, but you can’t help but respect his fighting spirit on and off the bike.
Hey, I understand, it’s natural that our perceptions are coloured by what we read and hear about someone. After taking on Lance, Bertie’s never going to top the popularity polls in US. However, I do think what he showed us in the Tour last year was very revealing. He was visibly upset at being booed by the French crowd, whom he’d previously won over with his “bonk” in Paris Nice 2009 and, of course, by beating Lance at the Tour in 2009. He went on the attack in Stage 19, of last year’s Tour – not his first attack- knowing he couldn’t win the overall, but wanting to show some panache (beloved by the French) and demonstrate that he’d given it his best shot. Of course, he also wanted to win an iconic Tour stage. I just love that he always wants to win.
I adore Bertie, his riding style, the way he attacks, how effortless it seems for him when accelerating away from his rivals, and his personality – Sheree – you back up the feelings I’ve always had of him from interviews etc, that he seems a genuinely nice man off the bike. When I first saw him in the 2007 Tour de France he instantly became my favourite GC rider and that hasn’t changed since.
I still have faith in him in regards to the clenbuterol case, although that may be more out of wishful thinking than anything else. Having done a bit of research into the effects of clenbuterol and its uses, it strikes me as unlikely that a rider would want to take it, especially in the middle of a three-week stage race. I just hope that, for Contador and cycling’s sake, he’s cleared.
You and me both Jack!
You know, Contador just leaves me … blah. I don’t actively like him, I don’t actively dislike him, the only time he figures into my thinking is when I’m evaluating other people’s chances in a race because, of course, he has to be reckoned with in any race he rides. And I can see that he’s one of the Grand Tour greats but, nope, he just doesn’t get the blood running for me. He always conducts himself with restraint and I did feel sorry for him when he was booed at last year’s Tour presentation but, then with his clenbuterol case still unresolved, I didn’t think he should have been allowed to ride the Tour – or any race, until the final verdict. I think that to be true about any active doping case.
Maybe the passion of your writing about him, Sheree, will change my mind this season!
Let’s hope I get the opportunity to do just that!
Pingback: Rider updates: Alberto Contador, Alexandre Vinokourov and Nicolas Roche « VeloVoices