Happy birthday Alberto Contador

Alberto keeping a watchful eye on a potential future contender

Alberto keeping a watchful eye on a potential future contender

Feliz 30 cumpleaños! As he reaches the ripe old age of 30, Alberto has been musing a bit about retirement, possibly after his current contract with Saxo-Tinkoff expires in three years. You might find this surprising but probably not when I show you the demands placed on a multiple Grand Tour winner in the ‘quiet’ season.

After trips to the presentations of both Grand Tours, Alberto was back on his bike and training with gusto for the forthcoming season despite not knowing whether or not his team were going to stay in cycling’s elite. Here’s a look at just some of the things he’s been doing:

But as his charitable commitments show, he’s not too busy to spare a thought for those less fortunate:

Better stick to the cycling, Alberto, leave the tennis to Rafael Nadal [isn’t that yet another of Kitty’s faves? – Ed]

Alberto’s not one to forget either his friends or his supporters:

Time for some more training, this time in mountainous and verdant Asturias, home of Samu Sanchez (Euskaltel).

Like me Alberto shares a fondness for MotoGP and its latest young star, the MotoGP2 World Champion, Marc Marquez, who’s moving up to MotoGP. Remember that name, Marc’s a MotoGP World Champion in waiting.

Then it’s off to Gran Canaria and the first get-together of the new Saxo-Tinkoff team which has been strengthened to better help Alberto win Grand Tour titles.

All abord for Saxo-Tinkoff

All abord for Saxo-Tinkoff

Alberto and team mates visit a children's hospital

Alberto and team mates visit a children’s hospital

Apart from all the usual things one does at team camps, there was time for a bit of all-important team bonding with messing about on the beach and in the water. The team also undertook a ride for charity on the island and visited a children’s hospital.

All too soon the fun and games were over and it was back down to training and commitments with sponsors. Although there was still time to cheer on fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso in the race to the F1 title.

Alberto was awarded the ‘Quadrifolgio d’Oro’ (four-leaf clover) at a dinner in the company of who’s who in Italian cycling in recognition of his Grand Tour successes. It was made by Elvio Chiatellino, a businessman  – and fan of Alberto – from Cuneo which has hosted stages of the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. Chiatellino is helping the town bid for the 2017 Road World Championships which might offer Alberto the chance of a rainbow jersey before he retires.

Alberto’s also been freezing his butt off in Russia with Bjarne Riis undertaking a few commitments on behalf of the team’s sponsors:

Alberto braving the cold in Moscow (image courtesy of Alberto Contador)

Alberto braving the cold in Moscow (image courtesy of Alberto Contador)

Fortunately after braving the cold and Oleg Tinkoff, Alberto’s back among friends ready to celebrate his birthday:

But there’s no peace as no sooner than he’s back, he’s off signing autographs …

Men’s Olympic time trial review

Great Britain’s Bradley Wiggins satisfied his country’s expectations when he won gold  – his fourth in total – in this afternoon’s Olympic time trial, held in the magnificent setting of Henry VIII’s Hampton Court Palace. 32-year old Wiggins has now won more medals (seven) than any other British Olympian – exceeding the haul of Sir Steven Redgrave – and, after his recent historic Tour de France win, cemented his place in the history books amid cries for him to be knighted or, at the very least, win BBC Sports Personality of the Year. [With those purple and gold rococo thrones as hot seats, I thought he was going to be crowned at the very least – Ed.] This medal caps a truly remarkable and well deserved season for Wiggins and British cycling as all the sacrifices he’s made have paid dividends.

Wiggins hurtles through Hampton Wick (about 2.5km from the finish) en route to golden glory (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

It is Wiggins’ first Olympic road title, having won his three previous golds in track cycling’s pursuit events. On winning his fourth gold medal, he said:

I cannot put it into words. I wouldn’t do it justice. To win an Olympic gold in your home city. When you win in the velodrome, there are three or four thousand people cheering. Here, around the streets of London, the noise is just amazing. I don’t think anything will top that. I’ve just won the Tour de France. It’s just been phenomenal. Just to be mentioned in the same breath as [Sir Steve] Redgrave  and [Sir Chris] Hoy is an absolute honour. To be up there with those guys is very special.

Froome added bronze to his Tour de France second place (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

Wiggo finished 42 seconds ahead of the reigning German world champion Tony Martin who, given his season – car crash, broken wrist and oodles of bad luck – did remarkably well to finish as runner-up. In third place – ever the bridesmaid, he’ll surely one day be a bride – Wiggo’s wingman and compatriot Chris Froome won the bronze. Taylor Phinney (USA) put in a valiant effort to finish fourth, replicating his road race result. The last three are all young enough to burn brightly in Rio in 2016 as is the youngster in ninth place, Basque Jonathan Castroviejo who came in as a substitute for Samuel Sanchez and was left holding the flag for Spain after Luis Leon Sanchez‘s karma totally deserted him. A snapped chain as he tried to power away from the start gate, followed by a puncture, it wasn’t to be his day.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for Spanish national time trial champion Sanchez (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

Popular with a lot of our female readers, along with VeloVoices’ Kitty, defending champion Fabian Cancellara mounted a heroic defence of his golden crown but he was clearly in pain from the injury he received after falling in Saturday’s road race. He still finished in the top ten but we’re handing out soft tissues, cuddles and comfort to scores of disappointed ladies. He’s endured a miserable two seasons since leaving Bjarne Riis’ team and will have an opportunity to return to the fold if those stories about unpaid RadioShambles wages are true.

How the race was won

Wiggins was the penultimate rider to leave the start house and he finished the 44km course in 50:39.54, having demonstrated his form by winning both the Tour de France’s long time trials. Despite his efforts to help Mark Cavendish to gold on Saturday, he showed no sign of fatigue and reached the first time check after 7.3km in 8:27, five seconds behind Martin, but thereafter surged ahead to take the lead at the second time check after 18.4km, where he was 11 seconds faster than the German world champion, in 23:14. He increased that advantage to 22 seconds at the third time check at 29.9km, and virtually doubled it over the closing 14km.

Teammate Froome, who had set off ahead of the other contenders, finished strongly to set the provisional best time before being subsequently beaten by first Martin and then Wiggins.

Positive note

With only 37 riders setting off at 90-second intervals over the 44km, this was one of the shortest time trials in time terms I’ve ever seen. But instead of large portions of the peloton coasting round or taking notes for their faster team mates, every man here meant business, setting off with intent from the start house in the grounds of Hampton Court and heading out around Surrey’s pricey commuter belt with the cheers of thousands of supporters ringing in their ears. Wiggo may have had the loudest support, but the crowds which lined the entire route cheered everyone. Britain is finally appreciating cycling. It started with Le Grand Depart [of the Tour de France] in London 2007, has been stoked by British Cycling’s success on the track, Team Sky on the road and it’s reached a crescendo in London 2012. Britain’s gone cycling mad. It’s taken them a while to catch up with their continental cousins, but finally, finally they get it.

Conclusion

They say that to become good at anything requires 10,000 hours of practice. To become great requires so much more. You’ll have to ask Bradley Wiggins whether it was worth it, but I’m guessing he’d answer in the affirmative.

Result

1. Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) 50:39

2. Tony Martin (Germany) +0:42

3. Chris Froome (Great Britain) +1:08

4. Taylor Phinney (USA) +1:58

5. Marco Pinotti (Italy) +2:09

6. Michael Rogers (Australia) +2:11

7. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) +2:14

8. Bert Grabsch (Germany) +2:38

9. Jonathan Castroviejo (Spain) +2:49

10. Janez Brajkovic (Slovenia) +3:30

Link: Preview

Friday Feature: Is this the end of the road for Saxo Bank?

Someone on Twitter joked the other day that Alberto Contador had put all his eggs into the basket of his ‘contaminated meat’ defence, only for it to turn out to be a red herring. Similarly, one could also argue that Bjarne RiisSaxo Bank team had put all their eggs into the Contador basket, with potentially even more serious implications. With their golden goose now suspended until August, Saxo Bank’s ProTeam status and their future existence are at stake. At the very least, Riis faces an uphill struggle to ensure his team remains in the upper echelon of professional cycling for 2013.

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