This interview with Alberto Contador was conducted on June 17, the day before the Route du Sud, by Carlos Arribas of El País. It was the day, incidentally, of the 70th birthday of Eddy Merckx.
What does Merckx mean?
He’s been the greatest in history. I’ve run into him a few times, and the class that he had as a rider he continues to have as a person. To say Merckx is to say cycling and to say history. Indurain is Spanish, and that’s why he puts so much into it, but Merckx has been the greatest of all. He’s a cut above Indurain and all the other cyclists.
His palmares: five Tours, five Giros, a Vuelta… Is he a reference for you?
I’ve never thought about records or a great number of victories. I take it one year at a time, considering different objectives and, clearly, each time I’m adding more victories. That’s what motivates me, but I never think about breaking the records for most wins. And what Eddy Merckx has done is incredible.
If you were to win the next Tour, you’d be doing it eight years after winning your first – a test of longevity bested only by Giro Bartali, who won two, ten years apart.
I really hope I can achieve that. The Giro just ended and a fan sent me a pile of photos of my grand tour podiums. I saw them and it made me think about the number of different rivals that have come and gone. All kinds: time-trialists like Evans, climbers like Andy Schleck, new people like Froome and young riders who are on their way up. That’s the march of three generations. And that makes me feel proud, consistently being a race favorite since 2007.
Merckx said that the Giro is the best preparation for the Tour.
Well, I don’t know what to say. Until two days ago, I couldn’t even start to get up out of bed without pain in my leg muscles, or in other words, fatigue. In the training camp at altitude after the Giro, every morning the masseur asked me how it was going, and I told him that the leg pain must be because he was using too much pressure in the massage, but he said that no, he wasn’t using too much pressure. Later, on the bicycle I’m doing fine. But the last few days, the pain has gone away. I seem to have changed bodies, and that motivates me.
Psychologically I’m in great shape. I’ve had to say no to celebrations, to spending time with friends, to dining out, to drinking even one glass of wine in a month, to a thousand things. I’ve lived completely and utterly for the bike. It’s not exactly a pleasure to give up all those things, but when I made the decision to do the Giro-Tour double, I made the decision accepting all the consequences. Even though I know that it’s a big effort, I prepared myself psychologically – just as if I were training – for all the things that I was going to have to give up.
Is everything turning out the way you thought it would when you started the adventure?
Yes, even though in the Giro I did a huge effort with by means of massive concentration. There were three or four days in which I had to do a genuine time trial, apart from the time trial itself. Mortirolo, Verbania and on Finestre were days of maxium effort that made me exhausted when I got to the hotel.
In the Dauphiné, Froome was seen to be isolated, without teammates, in one stage. Is the epoch in which just one team could control the race over?
Yes and no. Astana had a good train in the Giro, although luckily it didn´t work out for them. Everything is relative. The Dauphiné stage was a complicated day and I don’t know what Sky was thinking. One thing is clear: you can’t focus on watts, reducing it to watts per kilo and how long you can maintain it on a climb. There are a lot of other factors: the weather, in every sense: rain, snow, sun, mist, cold… And then, the course and the race situation: A time trial could take its toll on the following day; the day after a rest day it might be hard for some people to re-start… You have to put everything on the balance, arrive in optimal performance condiition, and choose among whatever tactical possibilites are under consideration.
Do you have to ride with the audacity of someone who thinks that a risk always pays off?
There are times at key moments in which you have to make quick decisions, and you might hit the nail on the head, or not. And I like to try to create situations that can benefit me, often improvised. Personally, trying something different from what’s established, from what’s expected, from what’s normal, motivates me. But I don’t forget that you always have to think with your head and analyze things so that what you’re going to do makes sense. Senseless attacks are worthless because this is a sport in which winning matters. But, yes, sometimes it’s the way you win that’s important, too, with moves that people remember.
The favorite? Contador? Quintana? Nibali? Froome?
There are several of us, yes, and three of use know what it is to win the Tour. Quintana doesn’t know it yet, but he’s a young rider who was able to finish second two years ago, and he has prepared meticulously. The four of us are at similar level, but by virtue of the experiences I’ve had with him during my career, the one I’d highlight a little above the others, even though there’s no long time trial, is Froome.
Will you continue your custom of trying to put on the yellow jersey on the first day in the mountains?
That’s not something that I’m thinking about. What I think about more is taking advantage of opportunities. Say you have a good day, and there’s a good route, then you have an opportunity to take time on your rivals. If, on the first summit finish (Stage 10, Pierre-Saint Martin) you have good legs, you have to take advantage of it, obviously. Maybe you don’t distance everybody, maybe you don’t distance anybody, but maybe you distance one person, and already you’ve made progress.
But before you have to survive a first week that’s billed as terrible: pavé, echelons, a team time trial…
It will be complicated, and especially for me, coming from the stress of three weeks in the Giro, and I’ll have to tackle a really tense fight, team against team, narrow roads, wind, the northern rain, cobblestones… It will be hard psychologically more than anything else. And it will be like the Giro, ridden without respite. Cycling nowadays is more hotly disputed that it used to be. Every stage is fought as if it were the last one, either in a sprint, in a breakaway… Each rider is looking for his own opportunities and the ones that ride to win the GC always have to sprint to be among the first 20, whereas before we were able to ride farther back. Now, if you arrive 50 places down you could lose time, and that involves a risk. Maybe it’s the pressure or the tension of the teams who are being directed from the car, but it makes it so that each stage is ridden without respite, in spite of how it might seem on TV.
In the Giro, particularly, you gave the impression that you might be able to manage perfectly well without a team director, as if you could make all the decisions and orchestrate the tactics.
With the years, at the hour of decision-making, and at specific moments, I make the decisions analyzing my physical condition and how I’m feeling at any given point, which depends a lot on the pace that you’ve been going before, which sometimes they can’t evaluate in the car. But the car works well for letting you know the race situation, what impression the riders riding with you are giving, and, in the time trial, the splits and the curves, in spite of which I like to visualize the time trial with my eyes closed…
Is the role of the director less important?
In my case – except in specific moments influenced by how my legs feel, where, it’s true, I’m the one that makes the decisions – they play an important role in flatter stages. He warns you about dangers, about narrowings in the road, about wind… They’re important there.
What did you learn from 2011, the other year that you tried for the Giro-Tour double?
Even though it might seem like a fib, because I didn’t win, the 2011 Tour is one that gives me confidence. It’s a race that was cursed for me from the very beginning. On the first day, I lost 1:20 in a crash, and I gutted myself in the final 10 kilometers; in the team time trial we left first and lost 40 seconds to Schleck and Evans, my direct rivals. Losing two minutes in two days is not the most desireable thing. And before the Pyrenees I crashed again and hurt my right knee, and was on the verge of going home. I stayed for personal reasons. I got through the Pyrenees as best I could and focused on the Alps. I survived, but I crashed again. In the Alps I had a bad day on the Galibier, where I cracked three kilometers from the end, but on the next day I had good legs and did something that I’ll always remember, something that I feel more proud of than attacking five kilometers from Alpe d’Huez and winning the stage. I attacked from the beginning and in the end, people who love cycling enjoyed it, and I’m glad. And in the final time trial I was beaten by only two riders, Tony Martin and Cadel Evans… Doing a comprehensive review, without the bad day on the Galibier, in spite of all the crashes and all that, I would´ve fought to the finish for the win. And that gives me confidence.
What do you want to prove with the double?
It’s a personal challenge. A big dream. The Tour is the most important race, the race that changes your life, and I can vouch for that. Until you win you don’t realize its impact and repercussions, but, on the other hand, in my career as an athlete, one Tour more or less is not going to make it more memorable. On the other hand, if I won the Giro-Tour double, it would be something that everyone would remember in the history of the sport. In life, you have to live for incentives and challenges, and for me this is a really big one. There are people who think that it’s impossible. I think that the first thing you have to do is to try. It will be really hard. I’m doing absolutely everything in order to recover, every hour, every minute, every day, everything last thing in order to be the best I can possibly be in the Tour. Then we´ll see if it can be done or not, because it’s not only a physical challenge, but, above all, a mental one. And then the race has to go well… But, the people who bluntly dismiss it as impossible motivate me even more.
Alberto Contador's second big objective of the year, the Tour de France, starts this Saturday, July 4, in Utrecht! Check back often for race reports, photos, videos, interviews and more.
Riding for Tinkoff-Saxo: Alberto Contador, Ivan Basso, Daniele Bennati, Roman Kreuziger, Rafal Majka, Michael Rogers, Peter Sagan, Matteo Tosatto, Michael Valgren
Follow @Contador_Notebk on Twitter for updates and live commentary during the Tour de France.
Route du Sud winner Alberto Contador flanked by Latour and Quintana (Colin Flockton)
Stage 4, June 21: Revel - Gaillac, 166 km
Alberto Contador took the overall win in the 39th Route du Sud today, adding the triumph to his palmarés only 22 days after winning the Giro d’Italia. Contador got his fourth win of the season by finishing safely in the bunch sprint behind stage winner Bryan Coquard, then claimed the winner’s cup on the podium with Nairo Quintana, 2nd, and Pierre-Roger Latour, 3rd. He now becomes only the second Spanish winner in the history of the Pyrenean stage race, following Óscar Sevilla (2007).
“I’m really happy with this result. We weren’t thinking about the victory; we wanted to do well in yesterday’s stage and my team has supported me really well. We have to be aware that the level of seriousness will really ratchet up in thirteen days in Utrecht, at the startline of the Tour. I’m going to keep focusing on my preparation, with the goal of arriving at the start in the best form possible. As of this very moment, all I have to do is rest and recover so that I’m at 100% when I get there,” Alberto said.
Alberto was sheltered by his teammates throughout today’s ride, which was a far cry from yesterday’s queen stage in terms of interest. The Tinkoff-Saxo squad drove the pace in the pack while keeping the breakaway on a short leash. “It was a hot day and it was all about controling the race and defending our position. The whole team worked hard and I’d like to thank all of them for their effort. I feel proud of them.”
What happens between now and the Fourth of July, when the riders will rev their engines at the startline of the Tour de France? “Basically, recovering from the efforts. These four days have been demanding, and very good for getting the speed back in my legs. And now what we have to do is fool around with rest and a little training, but only light training. The job is already done; now what’s important is that the body recover.”
“Winning always makes you happy, but this changes nothing and you can’t relax. You have to be aware that every race is different. I think that it would be a serious mistake on my part to think like that,” said Alberto.
Patxi Vila, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: ""Although it might have looked like an easy final stage, it turned out to be harder than expected. It took more effort to bring back the breakaway, but all in all we’re obviously happy with the result. It has been a good and fruitful week. We came with two main objectives: to win the queen stage and to have a good GC position. Alberto won both the stage and the race, so it’s a satisfying result for us. Alberto was in good shape and hopefully he’ll keep his form until the Tour. However, it’s still too early and we expect his rivals to be strong. His victory is the result of very hard and dedicated work by the entire squad, especially in the two last stages.”
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 4, 31st (s.t. Coquard - 3:42:10). Contador in GC, 1st (16:53:22)
TOP FIVE: 1 Contador, 2 Quintana (0:17), 3 Latour (0:41), 4 Rossetto (1:06), 5 Sepulveda (1:06)
Alberto Contador's newest leader jersey is orange, not raspberry, lemon or cherry like the others (Colin Flockton)
Stage 3, June 20: Izaourt - Bagneres-de-Luchon, 181 km
Alberto Contador won the queen stage of the Route du Sud today, not with his customary uphill attack style, but rather by descending like one of the best in the business. He finished the stage 13 seconds plus bonifications ahead of Nairo Quintana. Contador is the new race leader going into tomorrow's final stage.
“Every victory is always important and raises morale, but this one doesn’t mean too much," he said after the stage. "My principal objective continues to be the Tour.”
Even though Contador played down the importance of winning a full-blown Tour de France-style mountain stage, he clearly felt good about the accomplishment. “I’m very happy about this victory. I make an effort to win in every race, not just for me but also for my team and my sponsors. That’s why it’s always important to try to win,” he said.
The winner of the Giro d’Italia highlighted the work done by his team, who drove a pace meant to wear out the opposition. “All my teammates did a great job today and the least I could do was to finish it off.”
Contador and Quintana, who are both riding in the Pyrenees with a bigger picture in mind, rode side by side up the Port de Balés as if it were a training ride, albeit it one punctuated by occasional little digs by Alberto. He explained, “On the Port de Balés I was with Quintana and I asked him if he wanted to collaborate to bring back Latour, who was alone at the front of the race. Qunitana told me that he didn't want to because he considered that I was very strong. There was still a long way to the finish line but I tried to control the race until going over the top."
Contador summited first, although the two were still neck and neck. He accelerated and passed Quintana on the left, as the Colombian took a bottle from a soigneur to his right. “At that point I had a few meters on Quintana and I told myself then that it was all about gritting my teeth and hanging on until the finish line,” he said.
Quintana was dropped on the downhill, rode timidly at times and was outclassed by the descending ability of Contador, who he kept a laser-like focus for 20 technical kilometers at breakneck speed. Alberto claimed his prizes in Bagneres-de-Luchon: the queen stage win and the race leadership.
Patxi Vila, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “As we've said before, we came to the Route du Sud with one of the main objectives being to win the queen stage. The first two stages were meant to put Alberto and the team back into racing rhythm in order attack on the third stage. We achieved this goal and we're obviously happy with that.”
“Today, we took control of the race from the start and the squad did an incredible job. Every single rider, without exception, did a fantastic job today. On top of that, Alberto was able to round off the effort when it seemed very difficult. He didn't manage to get away from Quintana on the climb as it was windy, but he did it in the descent. He once again proved what a great champion he is and the extremely wide array of racing skills he has. Most riders have just one way to win but Alberto can do it under various conditions, which makes it even more impressive”
“It goes without saying that every victory in a race is encouraging but we don't think we can draw any conclusions today regarding the Tour de France. Quintana showed today that he was strong. In addition, he's also fresher and without any doubt he will be a strong rival next month. There will be other very strong rivals as well, so it's a long way until the Tour.”
“After today's hard work, all our riders are tired but so will be the rest of the peloton. We will enjoy our victory tonight. Morale is high but tomorrow is another day and once again we'll have to be very attentive and fight hard to maintain Alberto's leadership. We won't take anything for granted”.
Nairo Quintana, 2nd overall: “I’m very satisfied with what I did today; it was a great test, I felt strong.”
“Tinkoff took the stage very fast: it was a proper Tour de France day, at a very high speed. Contador put in a strong attack halfway up the ascent and I was able to make a creditable response.”
“At a certain moment, he asked me whether I wanted to take turns working together, and he’d leave the stage win to me. I answered that I wasn’t going to take a turn nor was I going to attack.”
"On the descent the road was gritty and it wasn’t worth the trouble to make a play for it. Contador took a lot of risks descending.”
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 3, 1st (4:48:05). Contador in GC, 1st (13:11:04)
TOP TEN: 1 Contador, 2 Quintana (0:17), 3 Latour (0:41), 4 Rossetto (0:58), 5 Sepulveda (1:31), 6 Rubiano (2:06), 7 Gallego (3:06), 8 Loubet (3:06), 9 Figueiredo (3:06), 10 N. Brown (3:06)
PHOTO DAYBOOK: PHOTOS BY COLIN FLOCKTON
Alberto Contador, a tough guy with a tough job (Colin Flockton)
Stage 2, June 19: Auch - Saint-Gaudens, 141 km
Alberto Contador finished Stage 2 of the Route du Sud safely today, as Bryan Coquard (Europcar) won in an animated sprint. Contador finished with the same time as Coquard and now sits in 11th overall, still 0:13 behind race leader Steven Tronet.
"My legs are improving and I feel eager to test myself," said Alberto, looking ahead to tomorrow's queen stage, "but I see myself as a bit of an unknown. Maybe it will cost me on the ascents."
Teammate Christopher Juul-Jensen, the young Irish Dane, rode brilliantly again in the finale, but his hopes died when the road took a last steep upward jab. He and a few other late-stage buccaneers found themselves swamped by the oncoming pack, and the sprint was on. Contador left the protection of his team at this point and latched onto the back of the sprinters in order to finish in as safe a position as possible.
Christopher Juul-Jensen: “Today we had a hard finale. The Route du Sud is a good training for the riders that will go on to the Tour. It's up and down all day and a good way to build your legs. In the finale, the riders in my group knew that our chances were getting thinner by the minute. I tried to attack towards the end but they were quickly coming from behind us. It was a tricky uphill finish and the final 500 meters were very hard. To have a realistic chance at winning we would have needed probably another 20 seconds of advantage in the final 2km."
“I'm very thankful to the team and Alberto who allowed me to give it a shot if I felt I had the legs. I'm still on the hunt for my first stage win as a pro, so I appreciate it they gave me that opportunity. Tomorrow, I will be focused on giving my best for Alberto. We have to make sure he is well placed to have the best result possible and, hopefully, we will then have to defend on Sunday. I had my chance yesterday and today but on Saturday and Sunday, we will all work hard for Alberto."
Patxi Vila, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “Alberto feels in good shape after the first two days of racing and is getting back to race mode. He looks forward to Saturday's queen stage. After the initial transition stages he wants to race in what is his terrain. As I said before, one of the main goals we have in this race is tomorrow's stage, which will possibly define the GC. With Alberto having a good shape and high morale we will try to go for it. We will see how we feel tomorrow and after assessing our rivals we will set the final strategy."
Nairo Quintana, rival for the overall win, about tomorrow's queen stage: "I didn't come with the idea of winning, but rather to get into competition rhythmn and speed before traveling to the Tour."
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 2, 16th (s.t. Bryan Coquard - 3:23:25). Contador in GC, 11th (0:13 Tronet - 8:22:56)
TOP ELEVEN: 1 Tronet, 2 Coquard (0:03), 3 Hardy (0:04), 4 Svendgaard (0:06), 5 Fonseca (0:09), 6 Molard (0:13), 7 Pacher (0:13), 8 Gerdemann (0:13), 9 Hansen (0:13), 10 Avila (0:13), 11 Contador (0:13)
PHOTO DAYBOOK: PHOTOS BY COLIN FLOCKTON
Alberto looks happy to be back on the bike (Colin Flockton)
Stage 1, June 18: Lourdes - Auch, 204 km
Alberto Contador finished in 10th place today in Stage 1 of the Route du Sud, arriving on the tail of a sprint that was won by Steven Tronet of the Auber 93 team. Contador rode near the front protected by his team for most of the stage, but in the tricky finale, he skipped ahead to be in the safest possible position.
“It was the first day of competition since the Giro and a relatively calm stage," he said at the end of the day. "There was an escape at the start of the stage, while Europcar together with us controled the pack."
Tinkoff-Saxo's Chris Juul-Jensen was sent ahead to follow a late attack by Julien Berard of AG2R at 16.7 km to go. They broke away in the wake of 19-year-old Daniel Martínez of the Colombia team, who was sweeping up KOM points alone in front. The move lit the blue touch paper in the peloton, which sputtered with one attack after another on the narrow, twisting road.
Contador explained, "We decided to have a rider up ahead to have some type of control over the race. At the end, it turned out to be difficult owing to the undulating terrain, but I felt in good form.”
Juul-Jensen was caught by a short string of riders that emerged from the feeding frenzy, but things did not calm down in the main pack. “In the final 500 meters, which were uphill, I decided to go to the front," said Contador. "With so few days until the start of the Tour de France, it’s better to be in front with the aim of minimizing the risk of a crash."
Alberto and the other race favorites finished together, three seconds behind the stage winner. Bonifications do apply in the Route du Sud, so he now sits 13" off the lead.
"Being my first contact with competition since the Giro, it was a long stage – 220 kilometers," Alberto continued. "It turned out to be very useful – with a finale on a hill – after having rested for three weeks, and in general, I felt well physically.”
Patxi Vila, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “It was a long and relatively quite stage. There was a breakaway that started very early in the race and set a strong pace. In the main group, Europcar initially took responsibility to work towards bringing the breakaway back and we helped as well towards that. We alternated with them at the front and had one rider to pull initially and two later on. Alberto decided to stay in the front as well and in the final sprint he moved ahead. It was an uneventful stage that played out the way we had planned. We managed to stay safe and avoid any crashes and incidents and it was a good return to competition after the Giro."
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 1, 10th (0:03 Steven Tronet - 4:59:41). Contador in GC, 10th (0:13 Tronet - 4:59:31)
TOP TEN: 1 Tronet, 2 Hardy (0:04), 3 Carbet (0:06), 4 Pacher (0:13), 5 Skjerping (0:13), 6 Gerdemann (0:13), 7 Roux (0:13), 8 Molard (0:13), Avila (0:13), 10 Contador (0:13)
PHOTO DAYBOOK: PHOTOS BY COLIN FLOCKTON
Scroll to 11:16 to see an interview with Contador
Look for Alberto Contador wearing bib number 1 today as La Route du Sud begins a four-day trek through southwestern France. Eurosport will carry live video coverage of all stages.
Start time for Stage 1: 11:30. Live pictures start at 2:15 CET (7:15 am CDT).
Contador has never ridden the Route du Sud before, but since arriving he has already taken advantage of the locality by doing a recon of Cauterets, the finishing climb of Stage 11 of the upcoming Tour de France.
PHOTO DAYBOOK - RACE ATLAS: ROUTE DU SUD
Riding for Tinkoff-Saxo: 1 Alberto Contador, 2 Ivan Basso, 3 Christopher Juul-Jensen, 4 Jesús Hernández, 5 Oliver Zaugg, 6 Sergio Paulinho, 7 Michael Rogers, 8 Ivan Rovny, DS: Patxi Vila
The 39th edition of the Route du Sud runs from Thursday, June 18 through Sunday, June 21, 2015.
This year, sixteen teams of eight riders each will leave from Lourdes to cover 692 kilometers in four stages through the Pyrenees, including three first-category climbs.
This is Alberto Contador's first career appearance in the Route du Sud. He will face off here against Nairo Quintana, winner of the 2012 edition, as both riders continue preparation for the year’s biggest confrontation: the Tour de France.
There has been only one Spanish winner in the history of the Route du Sud to date, Óscar Sevilla in 2007. Another past winner is Michael Rogers (2003), current teammate and road captain of Alberto Contador at Tinkoff-Saxo. Last year’s edition was won by then-teammate of Contador, Nicolas Roche, who shares his spot on the honor roll with his father, Stephen Roche (1985), and his cousin, Dan Martin (2008)
Tinkoff-Saxo directeur sportif Patxi Vila explained the team's approach to the race in a press release today: “Firstly, it's the first race after the Giro for Alberto Contador, Ivan Basso and Michael Rogers and these three riders need to compete before the Tour. The main objective for Tinkoff-Saxo is that they compete and enter into race-mode once again. After nearly three weeks of break they have to get into the mindset of a competition.
“Secondly, these four days of racing will provide a very good assessment of their form, especially for Alberto. The real test will come in the third stage. It's the race's queen stage with three Cat 1 climbs, including the famous Port de Balès and will give a very good indication of Alberto's form. He will, obviously, fight to be in the front and being a very competitive athlete, we don't rule out the possibility that he might try to go for a stage win. However, there will be other, fresher, riders from other teams that will give their best because the GC will most probably be decided there."
Vila went on to say, “The first two stages are fairly flat and suited for sprinters. Tinkoff-Saxo will not bring sprinters to the race and as a result these initial 350km of racing will be used to bring the riders to race-mode and prepare for the third stage. If Alberto feels good on the third stage, he will obviously need the entire squad to help him and that will be their task. The fourth and final stage is also fairly flat and will provide the last, real-race training for Alberto prior to the Tour de France."
Riding for Tinkoff-Saxo: Alberto Contador, Ivan Basso, Jesús Hernández, Christopher Juul-Jensen, Sergio Paulinho, Michael Rogers, Ivan Rovny, Oliver Zaugg, DS: Patxi Vila
Read more, and see daily maps, profiles, start times and more information at our RACE ATLAS
Alberto's Route du Sud card (La Route du Sud)
Alberto Contador returns to competition this Thursday, June 18, after having won the Giro d’Italia on May 31. After two weeks of active rest, Alberto is very motivated in view of his next challenge, the Tour de France. “If it were easy, I wouldn’t have this motivation. I hope to arrive at the startline in the top condition,” says the leader of the Tinkoff-Saxo team two days before the start of the Route de Sud.
“Physically and muscularly I still feel the wear and tear of the Giro, especially from the final week, which was really tough. As a result of that, I’ve tried, above all, to rest as much as possible during this time,” said Contador. “I focused on recovery and I’ve only done three days of specific training to activate my body.”
How to you think you’ll feel in the four days of the Route du Sud?
For me, it’s an unknown. I can’t know now what my form will be like. I’ve been really careful about all the details, both rest and nutrition, which is somewhat complicated, because you have to eat lightly, just the opposite of how it happens in a competition. The most important thing is that I’m eager to ride the Route du Sud, since it’s going to give me speed in the legs and I’m going to be in motion again. Surely, it’s going to take me a while to get up to pace, but I have a good foundation and it will allow me to get some good training done in race mode.
Are you already thinking about the Tour de France? How do you see yourself right now?
I see it with uncertainty, but also with the motivation to experience something that’s new for me. I’m mentally very excited and motivated by this challenge. Physically, when I get up, my legs still hurt, I feel a little muscle fatigue, but this is normal. If it were easy, I wouldn’t have this motivation and, on second thought, there are still more days left to recover than days that have passed since the end of the Giro. I hope to arrive at the startline in top condition.
Where have you been training?
After going to Pinto to celebrate the victory with my friends and family, I went to Lugano and from there to Livigno, where I was cloistered and focused. It’s a good place, with climbs of iconic mountains very close by, like Gavio and Stelvio, and also with the chance to train on flat terrain at an altitude of 1,800 meters. I took advantage of it to prepare my return to competition, even though I’m going to tackle this race is a more relaxed mode.
Alberto Contador will ride the Route de Sud from June 18-21. The Tour de France begins on July 4 in Utrecht.
Team Tinkoff-Saxo via BICICICLISMO
Giro 2015 winner Alberto Contador and his amazing trophy in Madrid (Jesús Alvarez Orihuela)
MARCA | Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador, champion of the 2015 Giro d’Italia, commented on Monday in Madrid that his victory in the Italian grand tour “is the fruit of a lot of work and sacrifice.”
Contador visited the governmental headquarters of the Community of Madrid for a celebration of his latest grand tour win, which he took in Milan on Sunday and described as ¨the fruit of a lot of work, sacrifice and facing a large amount of difficult situations.” The cyclist, who was received by regional president Ignacio González, expressed his thanks for the reception and assured his hosts that it was “very special, in spite of it not being the first or second time” that he has come back with a new title.
“This year is going to be really taxing for me both on the physical and mental levels because I have one month of recovery time between the Giro and the Tour. It’s complicated to arrive there with guarantees, but this is the challenge that I’ve set. We’ll see what can be done in the end,” Contador said about his next goal, the Tour de France.
Contador, a native Madrilenian from Pinto, brought along a maglia rosa – the jersey worn by the leader of the Giro d’Italia – and after signing the guest book in the Real Casa de Correos in the Puerta del Sol, he gave it to President González, who said, “Once again, this year he’s made us suffer, with that crash, that shoulder dislocation, that climb of the Mortirolo, which seemed that it would never end. And once more, he did it all with that class, that strength of will, that conviction, and that faith that with work and effort he can do anything,” said González.
“Now he’s going to the Tour, and he’s warned that the season isn’t justified by the Giro alone, as others might be, but rather that he wants more,” said González, addressing a number of his counselors and other dignitaries, including mayor of Pinto Miriam Rabaneda, and Francisco Javier Fernández Alba, the head of the Madrid Cycling Federation. “I’m sure that with his strength of will, class and ability he will surely triumph again as many times as he wants. We really hope we can see him here again in July – *I don’t know if I’ll be here – but at any rate, Alberto is a great, great champion.”
Contador posed for photos with dignitaries before setting out for Pinto and a hometown tribute.
*González' future is a matter still to be decided after May elections.
With three Giro wins and three-times-three grand tour titles, Contador observes Trinity Sunday on the podium in Milan (Antonio Calanni/AP)
Stage 21, Sunday, May 31: Turin - Milan, 178 km
Alberto Contador won the 98th edition of the Giro d'Italia today after a 178-kilometer celebratory triumphal march from Turin to Milan.
Alberto has now won a remarkable nine grand tours - three Triple Crowns: Tour de France 2007, Giro d'Italia 2008, Vuelta a España 2008, Tour de France 2009 and 2010, Giro d'Italia 2011, Vuelta a España 2012 and 2014, and Giro d'Italia 2015. His new total moves him to third place on the list of all-time grand tour winners, behind Eddy Merckx (11) and Bernand Hinault (10) and ahead of Jacques Anquetil (8). In post-CAS numbers he is tied with Miguel Indurain and Fausto Coppi (both with 7).
Currently the reigning champion of two grand tours, this Giro and last year's Vuelta, Alberto will attempt to make it three in a row this July in France.
There's a reception tomorrow, Monday, in Madrid and a celebration in Pinto, his hometown. After the fêtes, he'll take a day or two for rest, but in within a week, Alberto Contador will be at training camp preparing for the Tour de France.
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 21, 45th (0:18 Keisse - 4:18:37). Contador in GC, 1st (88:22:25)
TOP TEN: 1 Contador, 2 Aru (1:53), 3 Landa (3:05), 4 Amador (8:10), 5 Hesjedal (9:52), 6 Konig (10:41), 7 Kruijswijk (10:53), 8 D. Caruso (12:08), 9 Geniez (15:51), 10 Trofimov (16:14)
Contador ends a difficult ride with a smile (Giro d'Italia)
Alberto Contador makes good on the podium after a bad day on the road (Dani Sánchez)
Contador does light duties on the second rest day(AFP)
AS.COM + | On the second rest day of the 2015 Giro d’Italia, Alberto Contador slept in, went out to ride for a few kilometers and held a press conference. The race leader said that he was going to “take a Spanish siesta, even if this is the Giro d’Italia.”
What’s your connection to the Mortirolo?
My first memory of it is from 2008, when I came to the Giro on the back foot. I only had four seconds of advantage on Riccò, but I was able to hang on and stay in pink. In 2011 it wasn’t climbed. We’re talking about a climb that I like, really, really tough, where time gaps are taken. Coming the day after the rest day – and with all the climbs that come before it – will make it complicated.
Will it be the most important obstacle between here and Milan?
No, there’ll be many more. We’ll have three mountain stages and two others, and the flat stages have been very problematic in this Giro.
What climb have you labeled as the toughest in your career? And your enemy?
The Zoncolan, which has no respite, I rank it over the Mortirolo and the Angliru. About the people that I’ve faced off with, Andy Schleck and Froome.
What’s your opinion of Porte, who has just announced his withdrawal from the Giro. Can he win a grand tour?
He’s a rider who, when he’s well, is very strong, in the TT and in the mountains. Why not in the future? It he feels well, clearly, yes.
Have you definitely decided not to ride the Vuelta in 2015?
First I’m thinking about the Giro. Then, about taking a break before the Tour. The Vuelta, unless something strange happens in the Tour – like a crash, or if it doesn’t go well for me – does not figure in my plans.
Did you picture yourself being in such a favorable situation on the second rest day?
I didn’t imagine this much advantage. I didn’t count out finishing with the maglia rosa, and I though of the mountain stages in the third week as an opportunity to take the leadership. Even though I am doing better than I thought, there’s a lot of Giro ahead.
What’s making the difference between you and Aru? Is it the legs or the experience?
In the time trial, the legs. But it’s been both things. I’ve ridden a lot of grand tours, paying attention to every detail. Even though he lacks a little experience, Aru is a very strong opponent who will bring a lot of joy to this sport and whom I still must mark closely.
You find yourself in the final phase of your professional career. Are you competing to reap your best-ever memories?
I’d like to finish my career on top. That means riding the three grand tours, and setting my sights on the victory or on conquering them. I don’t know how long I’d be able to extend my career, maybe enough, although I might not be at the highest level. The challenge of the Giro and the Tour is difficult, but one of my motivations is to leave the best legacy.
Are you looking to win a stage – one that you still don’t have in your Giro palmares – or to economize strength?
Getting a stage win is secondary, I can’t put the GC at risk. If I get one, great. The one goal above all others it to win the Giro. Getting a stage win would require an extra effort in the short term, and in this week, and I’d pay for it later.
Considering the GC and your toughness, who will the other two on the podium be?
I don’t know how everybody will perform, including me. Amador, Trofimov and König are riding very well, and then there are the two from Astana, Aru and Landa. We should wait to see their strategy as per the GC. If Landa is given the freedom, we’ll see him on the podium in Milan.
Do you want to prove something, considering that they disqualified you from the race in 2011?
Everybody that came to the 2011 Giro knows what they witnessed. I’m enjoying this Giro like the other two.
Would the Giro-Tour double be easier if Quintana, Nibali and Froome were also riding in Italy?...
That’s a question for Quintana, Nibali and Froome. Besides, new cyclists are always emerging. When I started it was the generation of Armstrong, Evans and Leipheimer, then the ones my age – Andy and Nibali – and now younger guys like Quintana. We’re talking about a difficult analysis.
You say that Fabio Aru reminds you of you when you were 24 years old. What would you do if you were Aru to put Alberto Contador under pressure?
When the Giro’s over, I’ll tell you. (laughs)
Contador in high spirits on the Stage 15 podium (Daniel Dal Zennaro/AP)
Stage 15, Sunday, May 24: Marostica - Madonna Di Campiglio, 165 km
Alberto Contador rode masterfully in Stage 15, the first true high mountain stage of this Giro d'Italia. Even though he was left isolated by his team to withstand a prolonged onslaught by the Astana team, he was unruffled by Aru's thugs.
He attacked cheekily at the sprint contest in Pinzolo, springing out from behind to take the bonifications while his rivals did nothing. Contador also showed grace under fire, ushering young Aru to the line, engaging him in chat, before gapping him by only one second and finishing 3rd with more bonifications.
“I’m happy about how the stage went and how my legs have responded,” Contador said after the stage. “The finale was complicated to control, plus it wasn’t very steep. But I’d would’ve like to have won the stage, thinking about Pantani, who was very inspirational for me.”
“It seemed like a team trial by Astana with me on their wheel,” he joked. “I didn’t speak with Landa, it wasn’t necessary. He’s a great rider, I’m very happy for him.”
Reporters wanted to know if Alberto thought that he had earned the title that marks the master and leader of the race in a statesmanly sense: “I’m the patron of the Giro? I don’t know, I can only dedicate myself to giving the best of myself. The seconds don’t mean much. I took the bonus because it was free, and if something’s free, it’s better to take it. But the bonus wan’t an objective,” he said.
Giuseppe Martinelli, manager of Astana: “Right now, Contador is practicing his profession like the patron of the race. There’s nothing to be done. We wanted to prevail on Madonna di Campiglio with Landa in order to get him as close as possible to the podium. Mikel has done a great job over two weeks and deserves his prize. Our goal is to put two guys from Astana in the photo in Milan."
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 15, 3rd (0:05 Landa - 4:22:35). Contador in GC, 1st (60:01:34)
TOP TEN: 1 Contador, 2 Aru (2:35), 3 Amador (4:19), 4 Landa (4:46), 5 Konig (6:36), 6 Trofimov (6:58), 7 D. Caruso (7:10), 8 Monfort (8:20), 9 Visconti (9:53) Geniez (10:03)
Leader again, Contador uncorks (Eurosport)
Stage 14, Saturday, May 23: Treviso - Valdobbiadene, 59 km (ITT)
Alberto Contador recaptured the maglia rosa with an authoritative blow today in Stage 14 of the Giro d’Italia, after a crushing 59-km individual time trial under pouring skies. He finished the stage in third place, bested only by Kiryienka and Luis León Sánchez, but it was his performance against the other GC men that told the tale.
Contador started strong, finished strong, and in spite of suffering, never flagged along the course. He passed his three-minute man Landa, was at all times superior to Urán, and caused Aru to hemorhage seconds for kilometers on end. Richie Porte, who put in a lukewarm performance as Contador's domestique in the 2011 Giro, failed utterly to produce a ride worthy of his status as a favorite.
"Thank you, I'm really happy but my legs are killing me. The wind changes were difficult," Contador said to reporters after the stage. “For me it was a great surprise,” he continued, after accepting his ninth maglia rosa on the podium. “I rode consistently at every moment, I felt well physically. I saw that I wasn’t going too fast in the first part, but I saw that the banners had changed direction due to the wind,” he said. “I focused on the GC, they gave me references from the very first, and I saw that they were good. I was able to catch Landa before the halfway point on the course and that helped me do a good time trial,” said the Tinkoff-Saxo leader.
In the general classification, Contador now leads Aru by 2:28, Amador by 3:35 and Urán by 4:42, while Porte has slipped to 8:52. “I'm very happy with the results. We came to try to win this jersey and we're going to fight for it until the very last moment. There’s still a lot left, one day at a time.”
Alberto had more to say at the post-stage press conference:
Will you tackle the third week like Indurain, on the defensive in the mountains after getting such a gap in the time trial?
Miguel Indurain did amazing things in time trials, he was unique. The time differences that I got are important, I didn’t expect them. However, they’re going to provoke many race situations, and we’ll see how the tactics develop. It can be hard for me to hold back, and sometimes the best defense is a good attack.
Does this make for a situation in which you can start to save something back going into the Tour?
I can’t allow myself to think the about the Tour, I’ve got to think about the rest of the Giro instead. In Jesolo I was involved in a crash at 3.2 km to go. Even though I hardly touched the ground, I saw that my bike was no good, and I had to hustle to get another one from a teammate and limit my losses. The same thing could happen tomorrow. When these three weeks are over, then we’ll focus on the Tour.
Will Fabio Aru be the opponent to watch?
Aru can be a very dangerous rival in the high mountains. I’ve ridden a lot of grand tours, and I know that everybody’s legs hurt. Fabio has shown that he’s not immune to a bad day… but who’s to say he won’t have a good day tomorrow?
In spite of your wariness going into the time trial, due to its length, and the discomfort that you said that you were feeling in your legs, you had a crackerjack day.
You’ve always asked me about the TT, and I’ve answered that it is what is and you have to adapt to it. And since being in Stage 14 of a grand tour influences your ability to recover, it’s gone splendidly well. Although the pain in my legs was unbelievable, I gave it everything from the very start.
You even put more time into specialists like Porte and Urán.
I can’t say much about Richie and Rigoberto because I don’t know the final splits.
How many times did you inspect the time trial course?
I came to see it after the Volta, together with Basso. I did it on the bike and in the car. Yesterday I wanted to see it, but it was complicated by the crash. I couldn’t use the rollers either. At eight o’clock I did a turn on the rollers to test the leg. I went to check it out afterwards, and I recorded a video with commentary. Afterwards I went back to watch that video, did a short warm-up and then to the bicycle.
Are you afraid of an offensive by Astana, and that Tinkoff-Saxo is wearing out?
Each team executes its own strategies. I’m extremely happy with my team. I can only thank them. They’re the very model of professionalism.
As you announced your retirement for the end of the 2016 season, does that make this your final Giro?
I’m not focusing on that. This will probably be the last. I don’t know if I’ll come back, that’s why I want to enjoy every moment here.
Stephen de Jongh, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “We are really happy for the win. Alberto has done great time trials in the past and today was not an exception. He did a nice job on the flat part and on the uphill section later on he had a lot of power. After his crashes on stage 6 and on yesterday’s stage we were of course paying close attention to his knee and shoulder, but he showed without a doubt that he could manage it. In the morning on the rollers, he complained a bit about his knee but I saw he could maintain a good aerodynamic position and perform.
“For sure it’s better to have this margin to Aru than the one he had before, which was only a few seconds. We are happy but we have some hard stages and tough weather conditions so we need to keep our focus and take it day by day. The team is without doubt motivated as we head into a very important part of this year’s Giro.”
Richie Porte, leader of Team Sky who also crashed in Stage 13: “I’ll have a talk with the team…but in some ways it might make sense and get out of here and look forward to the Tour.”
"I'll just take it as it comes and go see the physio. It's massively disappointing, so have the last few days. I know the form I came into this race with. I had a bit of bad luck, but it wasn't bad luck today, I just didn't have it.”
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 14, 3rd (0:14 Kiryienka - 1:17:52). Contador in GC, 1st (55:39:00)
TOP TEN: 1 Contador, 2 Aru (2:28), 3 Amador (3:36), 4 Urán (4:14), 5 van den Broeck (4:17), 6 Cataldo (4:50), 7 Landa (4:55), 8 D. Caruso (4:56), 9 Kreuziger (4:57), 10 König (5:35)
Stage 13, Friday, May 22: Montecchio Maggiore - Jesolo, 147 km
Alberto Contador sprinted to the finish like a bat out of hell today after falling in a mass pileup at just over 3 km to go in Stage 13 of the Giro d'Italia. Alberto was back up in a flash and flying to the finish on teammate Matteo Tosatto's bike. “I think that the loss hasn’t been too great, some 35 seconds,” he said at the team bus after the stage, “but it will cost a lot to get them back.”
The Tinkoff-Saxo leader reached the finish line 0:40 behind Fabio Aru, who took over the maglia rosa. Aru was in front of the crash when it happened and did not wait for race leader Contador to pick himself up and return to the fight, which in cycling is considered unsportsmanlike. Aru now leads the Giro d'Italia by 0:19 over Contador.
Alberto pointed out that the team had searched the last 3 km of the stage profile in advance to pinpoint the most dangerous sections, but “just at 3.2 km or so is where the crash was.” They had been riding, as usual, in relative safety near the front of the peloton. Alberto landed in a tangled nest of bikes, but rose quickly and spun around in search of a teammate. Tosatto spotted him and crossed the road diagonally, then dismounted and carried his bike to Alberto, lifting it over the wreckage. Alberto was already moving into position to mount the bike when the veteran Italian reached him.
The question is whether today’s knocks will make trouble for him on the time trial bike tomorrow. “The problem when you crash is that you automatically put your body in a very rigid position as a defense mechanism and the entire body resents it, not only tomorrow but in the upcoming days. Also there's this shoulder injury.”
“Now, what worries me the most is the bruise on my left leg. The crankset or something on a bicycle behind me rammed into it. That’s what could do me the most damage.” he explained, but added philosphically, “It could be worse, there’s not too much harm done, although it will cost me to gain back every second. I know I’m always saying this, but there’s not one single peaceful day in a grand tour; you always have to stay on guard. In this case we were well-positioned but got caught in the pileup. I got a bike as quickly as possible in order to minimize the losses. Now it’s time to apply ice and recover as well as possible for the time trial. It’s not ideal to tackle a key day like this, but it is what it is.”
Stephen de Jongh, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “We were caught by an unfortunate incident at the end of a very good day. We were waiting for the 3-km mark to be safe but, unluckily, it took place 200 meters before that. Fortunately, we had Tosatto close by and thanks to his fast reaction, Alberto got his bike so that he could cross the finish line, minimizing the time loss as much as he could.”
“Fortunately, Alberto's shoulder wasn't affected by the fall and we are very happy with that. His left leg was hit but tomorrow we have a very long time-trial and we can get some time back. We will see what happens but I feel confident today's incident will not be a big issue."
Fabio Aru, Contador's main rival: “I was close to the maglia rosa a few days ago, but I couldn’t catch up. Sadly, today’s stage was easy on paper, but the weather and complications in the final kilometers made it very difficult. We knew that we had to ride in the front and my team kept me up there and I was able to avoid the crash. Anything can happen in stages like that. I’m sorry about Alberto, but we were in front when the crash occured and, in 21 days, anything can happen: There are days when you don’t feel very well, like I had two days ago.”
“I’m only trying to give it my all, taking into account that Contador is a great champion who has won everything in this sport, and I haven’t, which is why being in the fight with someone like him is a great motivation.”
“I don’t know how I’m going to do tomorrow because I’ve worked in a different way than ever before on my time trialing. The route is unusually long and, after 13 hard stages in a Giro that was hot at first and rainy during recent days, your body feels the fatigue. The advantage that I have is that Alberto will start before I do, although in a time trial you go 100% anyway, so everything depends on how much strength and energy you have.”
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 13, 46th (0:40 Modolo - 3:03:08). Contador in GC, 2nd (0:19 Aru - 54:20:55)
TOP TEN: 1 Aru, 2 Contador (0:19), 3 Landa (1:14), 4 Kreuziger (1:38), 5 Cataldo (1:49), 6 Urán (2:02), 7 D. Caruso (2:12), 8 Amador (2:21), 9 Visconti (2:40), 10 Trofimov (3:15)
Alberto Contador fought hard for 2nd place and bonifications in Vicenza (AFP)
Stage 12, Thursday, May 21: Imola - Vicenza (Monte Berico), 190 km
Alberto Contador finished second and gained time on his opponents after following a late attack by Philippe Gilbert today in Stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia. Contador extended his lead over Fabio Aru by 8 seconds and added to that a 6” bonus at the line. Urán and Porte, arguably his most dangerous opponents in the upcoming long time trial, also lost a few seconds to Alberto during the treacherous, rainy stage.
“I seem to have good legs,” said Contador after the stage. “In the end, Gilbert was really, really strong; but I was thinking about the GC and I’m happy with the result.”
Contador worked hard for the extra seconds, riding within the protection of his team but striking out alone to stay safe in front on the wet roads, and always on the lookout for pitfalls and attacks. “We’re riding avoiding risks, above all, and, I think, with intelligence, watching every moment and every situation. Astana is very strong, but I do think that it’s true that we’re well-organized and in the end, it was a good day for us with this latest uphill finish,” he said.
“It was a really hard day, very fast. The first two hours were at almost 50 kilometers per hour. When it started to rain, the team kept the pace very high all the time and the tough climb (Crosara) broke everything a little.”
While Contador can thank his own initiative and expert squad for his success, Fabio Aru's failure to take on nutrition also apparently contributed to his time gain. Aru bonked near the end of the stage. Even though his teammate and mentor Tiralongo fought like a mastiff to prevent Contador from taking bonus seconds at the line, the young Sardinian now sits 17” behind Alberto in the GC, and cannot steal the maglia rosa by sprinting for bonifications tomorrow.
Alberto answered questions for reporters after the stage:
Do you see yourself as the strongest person in the race?
We’re riding what’s been a very competitive Giro from the first stage. Every riders is expending his strength and energy, the rain is taking its toll. Nothing’s been won yet.
Your rivals have already gone on the defensive.
They’re not riding defensively – maybe Richie and Urán are, because the time trial favors them, but Aru and Astana have not suspended hostilities and are in attack mode. Although I’ve been the one more on the move in these last two days.
Don’t you feel like the patron of the Giro?
No, I still see that as really far off, very difficult. A thousand things could happen.
In what way will you tackle the time trial with that change of position that you announced?
I must see what to do. Richie really has his sights set on the time trial, Urán too. The Astana riders will have to minimize their losses. In my case, Faustino will bring a bike to my room to test my position. It’s not ideal to go out without the best aerodynamics, meaning 10-15 fewer watts, but we’ll have to wait for the results.
For the moment, you’ve got another 14 seconds of advantage.
All of the advantage is important. On a bad day here you could lose minutes. The margins are key for playing with strategy.
Aru lost time on Monte Berico. You already warned that he wasn’t feeling great at Imola.
I’ve seen myself dispute grand tours many times. In these two stages, I found out that he was faltering, so I jumped. On this occasion, he didn’t have a good day and was gapped. But if you look at the route book, in the final week anything could happen.
It seems that you don’t need Tinkoff, Astana has facilitated the race to this date.
It turns out to be difficult to know what tactic that they wanted to use, they improvised according to the situation. If their leader has hit the wall it’s more complicated to interpret.
Have you gotten over your physical issues?
I think so, and my legs are still improving. There’ve been a few days in which I didn’t mention leg problems, the bruises, which really weighed me down, not just the shoulder. In a grand tour, it’s the ability to recover that really makes a difference.
Fabio Aru, Contador’s most direct rival: “Today I bonked at the finish; I didn’t have time to eat. I made a mistake in the final kilometers. It’s something that can happen to anybody over 21 days. You never quit learning. The Giro is still long and we’re focused. Now we’re going to recover, and afterwards we’ll think about tomorrow.”
Paolo Tiralongo, Aru’s teammate (and Contador’s loyal ex-teammate): “Another tough and active stage. In the finale, we sent Kangert ahead, given the presence of Gilbert, forcing BMC to do the work. When he left the Belgian behind, I was more than ready to take his wheel, but my chain jumped and I hit my knee on the handlebar, which made me unable to keep up, in order to keep Contador from taking the bonus. Fabio bonked and paid for it in the end, but you also have to take into account that this is a 21-stage race.”
Sergio Paulinho, Contador’s Portuguese teammate and member of his Iberian Guard for many years: “It was certainly a good day for the team, we knew that the finish was hard and good for Alberto, and in the last part we tried to make the stage as hard as possible. We continue to take it day by day and Alberto has recovered very well so far. We hope that he is super for the crucial last week.”
Stephen de Jongh, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “Today was hectic with wet roads from km 120 and to the finish. It was really pouring in some places, which made some of the sections dangerous. Our boys took control and worked well to keep us in a good position to protect Alberto also in the crosswinds. On the penultimate climb, Rogers pulled hard, while we had Kreuziger there to support Alberto.”
“It went according to our pre-stage plan and it’s of course nice that Alberto was strong enough to take some seconds on his rivals on the final climb. It was an uphill finish after a hard stage, so there were some riders who were marked on the last kilometers. Another important factor is that we avoided crashes on the wet descents, where the rain and small stones on the surface made it difficult. Everybody gets more cautious on descents like these and some are afraid to crash, so we also saw some splits”.
“It’s been a hard Giro so far and it has definitely not been easy for anybody. We’ve had a lot of up and down and left and right and very few really flat stages. So I think the Giro has been this tough due to the challenging parcours on nearly all stages.”
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 12, 2nd (0:03 Gilbert - ). Contador in GC, 1st ()
TOP TEN: 1 Contador, 2 Aru (0:17), 3 Landa (0:55), 4 Cataldo (1:30), 5 Kreuziger (1:55), 6 Urán (2:19), 7 Visconti (2:21), 8 D. Caruso (2:29), 9 Amador (2:38), 10 Konig (2:44)
Conatdor has said that the weather will work in his favor this week (@fjcontador)
Stage 11, Wednesday, May 20: Forli - Imola, 153 km
Alberto Contador survived a tough four hours of riding in the rain today in Stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia, and even jumped for an experimental attack in the final eight kilometers, on the last uphill before the finish line. “Every day I’m getting a little better, the bruises on my legs, too. It’s been a really hard day, grueling thanks to the rain and the terrain, much more so than yesterday, even though it was 50 kilometers less.”
Although young Russian rider Ilnur Zakarin was already en route to victory off the front of the breakaway – and the day’s finale was an unlikely place for gains by the GC men – Contador had reasons to try his legs. Did he attack to find safe ground in front of the pack on the descent, to test his shoulder, or to test his rivals?
“There was no terrain for trying anything, but instinct was telling me that maybe some riders weren’t feeling so great, that they were pretty much on the limit, and I wanted to see,” Contador said at the finish.
“Every day is important, but in a grand tour the most important thing is to survive the bad days. You never know. Maybe instinct tells you who’s feeling well and who isn’t. There are times that you have to test your rivals, to see what the strength of each one is like. Today wasn’t really the terrain for it, but these are important things.”
Alberto was clearly more comfortable than the other leaders, which prompted reporters to ask him afterwards if he could be considered the patron of this Giro. “No way,” he said. “Whoever thinks that is wrong, or knows nothing about cycling. There’s a whole lot left, a thousand things could happen. And even though it might seem simple, there’s no way it is. This Giro still has no boss.”
About the regrettable situation of rival Richie Porte, who lost 2:47 in earned loss and penalty in Stage 10, Alberto commented, “About what Richie did, it’s normal: Your heart is beating a mile a minute and the only thing that you want is to lose the least amount of time possible, you’re not thinking about the rules. There are moments in the race when it costs you to be organized, and there are situations that can complicate things.
“It’s easy to talk about it now. I would’ve waited for the car or changed with a teammate who was my size. From the first day it’s one of the things that we talk about.”
Is Porte out of the running for the overall win? “The Giro is one of the races that’s won by the greatest margin and whoever thinks that Richie is out of the race is completely wrong.”
However taxing and nervous these transitional stages of Week 2 might be, the biggest challenges are still on the horizon: “Tomorrow the finale is a small climb, a day without great difficulty. What’s really hard is what’s coming up starting this weekend and in the final week; it’s all ahead of us.”
Fabio Aru of Astana, second in the GC: “I wasn’t very brilliant. It was a rather strange day. Maybe I might have paid for the change from the heat that we were encountering during the previous days, because it was raining and the temperature had dropped. Nevertheless, doing a review at the end of the day, it seems that nothing particularly bad happened. We maintained the classification with no changes and we’re looking ahead.”
Stephen de Jongh, Contador's DS: “Again it was a hard parcours and a good breakaway group went away, while we could control the events pretty well. Some of the other teams pulled as well during the stage such as Orica, who took up the chase in the last part of the stage. However, Zakarin was very strong."
“Our ambition was to protect Alberto. The rain meant that the technical parts of the stage were trickier and we had to pay more attention during the stage. In the end, Alberto improvised a little attack to test his rivals just a bit. All in all, a wet but good day and we will start focusing on tomorrow. It looks as if it’s going to rain again and with the uphill finish in Vicenza it can become tricky."
Manuele Boaro, Contador's teammate: “We were in the front throughout the day, working hard for Alberto. It was even made harder with the rain but we are happy with the outcome. We did our job and Alberto retains the pink jersey."
“For me this is a great opportunity to be in the Giro racing for such a great team and a great leader like Alberto. It will certainly be the best Giro I have ever done and I will give my best. The first week has been very tough and we had to take it one day at a time but I think we are a strong team and a well-knit squad and that is what counts”.
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 11, 20th (1:02 Zakarin - 3:55:08). Contador in GC, 1st (46:54:19)
TOP TEN: 1 Contador, 2 Aru (0:03), 3 Landa (0:46), 4 Cataldo (1:16), 5 Kreuziger (1:46), 6 Urán (2:10), 7 Visconti (2:12), 8 D. Caruso (2:20), 9 Amador (2:24), 10 Konig (2:30)
Another podium in pink - that's six so far (Reuters)
Stage 10, Tuesday, May 19: Civitanova Marche - Forlì, 200 km
Alberto Contador finished Stage 10 of the Giro d’Italia safely today, arriving at the finish line with the peloton, 18” behind stage winner Nicola Boem. Contador said that the mostly-piano stage had been “a virtual rest day, even though the finale had some fast and tense moments, especially in the final ten kilometers. I’m happy to have survived without any problems.”
Boem won the day by attacking in the final kilometer off the front of the day's breakaway. The group's staying power managed to foil the big sprinters, who had surely dogeared this page in the route book.
The big news was that Richie Porte – 3rd in the GC at 0:22 when the day began, and a big threat for this weekend’s time trial – punctured at around six kilometers to go and was unable to catch up to the pack after changing wheels. Porte struggled to hold the wheel of the teammates who came to his rescue, and in the end lost 47” and one place in the GC.
“Nothing’s easy,” said Contador after the stage. “There’s never a simple day in the Giro, look what happened to Richie. They’re always talking about stages that are more important or less important, but you can lose time in any of them,” he continued. “They always tell me to have good luck; I only ask that I don’t have bad luck. I got caught up in a crash, this time he was affected, he punctured at a really bad moment.”
The worst for Porte, however, was yet to come. As the stage ended, photos were already circulating online of Porte, with a teammate standing nearby, accepting a wheel from Simon Clarke, a fellow Australian on Orica-GreenEdge, a rival team. According to UCI rules, it is not permitted for a rider from a rival team to lend a competitor a wheel or a bike. Porte could have accepted his teammate’s wheel or waited for one from neutral support, but it was not legal to take Clarke’s. The photos told the story, and the rule book is clear, therefore the race jury docked Porte 2:00, sending him backward in the GC to 12th place at 3:09 behind Alberto Contador.
“I’m sorry for Richie,” Contador said when he heard the news. “At points like that in a race you’re going flat out, your heart-rate is really high, and you only think about losing as little time as possible, not the rules. I think that with all that we have in front of us in the Giro, the amount of time that he lost today, which might seem like a lot, could be insignificant later.”
Tomorrow’s tricky stage ends at the Ferrari Autodrome, but Alberto was willing to let tomorrow take care of itself. “Tomorrow is tomorrow, I’m thinking about getting to the hotel, resting, putting my legs up, and in the morning we’ll see the route. The priority is rest,” he said.
Mauro Vegni, Director of the Giro d’Italia, about the sanction of Richie Porte: “Obviously as the director of the Giro d’Italia, I have to say that I’m sorry about this because it’s a further burden for a rider who hoped to do something important at this Giro, but this doesn’t mean that he can’t still do that. But clearly there was little to be done, rules are rules, and I think rules have to be respected for the credibility of this sport and, in this case, the credibility of the Giro d’Italia.
“I think it was a mistake made by the riders in absolute good faith. Perhaps if somebody had reminded them of the rules it wouldn’t have happened but that’s talking with the benefit of hindsight. Off the top of my head I can’t remember anything like it.
“They (Sky) maintained the penalty was unfair but that’s the rule and the commissaires have put out a communique where the rule is outlined clearly. For the first offence, it’s two minutes, for the second it’s five, for the third it’s ten and I believe for a fourth offence, the penalty is expulsion. So it’s not like they can say: ‘We’ll give you a discount, we’ll give you 1:30.’
“I hope they reflect on this matter and they realise that there has been no injustice here: a rule that has existed for a long time was applied to an incident in the race. I hope that when things calm down later this evening they’ll realise that the rule had to be applied.”
Stephen de Jongh, Tinkoff-Saxo DS: “Today was very good, we definitely can’t complain as the sprinters’ teams took control after the break grew to above two and a half minute. Our focus was on taking care of Alberto and making sure that he remained safe in the peloton until the finish line.
“It’s always hard with a fast stage right after a rest day. We had tailwind and high speed and it was hot as well. Combined with lots of roundabouts, these factors made the stage pretty nervous. So I wouldn’t say that it was comfortable for the guys today”.
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 10, 31st (0:18 Boem - 4:26:16). Contador in GC, 1st (42:58:09)
TOP TEN: 1 Contador, 2 Aru (0:03), 3 Landa (0:46), 4 Cataldo (1:16), 5 Kreuziger (1:46), 6 Urán (2:10), 7 Visconti (2:12), 8 D. Caruso (2:20), 9 Amador (2:24), 10 Konig (2:30)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATION - RACE ATLAS
Alberto Contador talked about modifying his TT position to favor his injured shoulder, among other things, at the rest day press conference (EFE)
Alberto Contador did a light training session with his teammates today, the first rest day of the 2015 Giro d’Italia. After a little over an hour on the bike, the Tinkoff-Saxo nine went back to the hotel for lunch. Alberto put off eating, however, to stick to his schedule and do a press conference which had already been delayed by a few minutes so that he could test his position on the time trial bicycle. The first question revolved around that topic.
This morning you also tested the time trial bike? Did you want to adjust anything?
I took advantage of today to do a little test of my position on the bike, even though within five days I should be better. But still I’ve decided to change position and open up the handlebars a little, affecting the aerodynamics a bit in order to put less stress on the shoulder. In this case I think that it’s more important to protect it.
Have you changed it only for the sake of the shoulder, or also because the final part is uphill?
No, only to protect the shoulder. This time trial is absolutely all about aerodynamics. We’ve already done an average of 40 km/hour in training, and the climb is very gentle.
What’s your condition like right now? Are you satisfied with your position in the GC?
I’m happy because I’ve been getting better every day since the crash. Yesterday I already had a pedaling cadence much more similar to normal than on Campitello Matese. As for my situation in the GC, I’m very happy about that, too. I’m leading my rivals and they’re the ones that have to do something about it, even though it’s true that the Giro has only just begun.
Aru asked you to collaborate and afterwards he sprinted. How do you analyze that situation?
It was something that I more or less expected. In the final kilometer I could’ve stayed on his wheel to save strength and not lose anything, but as I said yesterday, I hope that this Giro won’t be won or lost by a one-second margin.
You started the Giro with the idea of winning the double, and in the first week you crashed. Was all that going through your head then?
Yes, I thought about that at the very moment of the crash. I’ve never broken my collarbone and I was afraid that that was the case, but then I grabbed my shoulder and instinctively put it back in place. Then I thought about all the sacrifices that I’ve made, and that I had mortgaged the first part of the season on the double… but it never entered my mind to go home. As I said to a friend then, if I have to go home now, I’m going to need a psychologist.
Since your crash, has it been only the shoulder problem that’s limited you, or have your legs also been telling you that you’d better not push it?
Since the crash, I’ve been more conservative than combative, both yesterday and on Campitello Matese. Getting through these stages without losing time was good for me, because there’s still more than enough ground ahead of us. In this case, I preferred to err on the side of caution.
How did the idea of going for the double come about? Do you want to go down in history after having already won all three grand tours?
For me, it’s only an extra motivation. Were I to succeed – which is really difficult – it might be more remembered, but I’m doing it only for the difficulty that it entails, as a sporting incentive.
In your career, once you’ve gotten the leader’s jersey, you’ve never lost it. Have you thought about where and when you could lose it here?
I don’t want to think about that possibility. (laughs)
But if some weak point did exist, where would it happen?
The jersey could be lost in any stage, as we saw the other day, but we’ll have to see what happens in the time trial, because Richie Porte is very strong there. Maybe this year this tradition won’t continue, but there’s a lot of ground left for recovering it. In any case, that’s only statistics.
Hasn’t overcoming the shoulder problem given you even more motivation and desire to win?
No, because it’s almost impossible to have more motivation. I’ve worked so hard for this, I’ve prepared not just physically but also mentally... We’ll just have to see if I can do it.
Who looks the best of your rivals after this first week? Don’t you think that Aru has expended too much energy and that he might end up paying for it?
My main rivals continue to be Aru and Porte. Richie has the time trial in his favor, but we’ll have to see how the classification shapes up after that stage. Regarding Aru, it’s true that he has expended energy, but so have the rest of us. His turf, like mine, is the mountains, so for me they’re both dangerous.
This first week has been really hard, really stressful. Now, on the other hand, it seems that several transitional days are coming up, before the time trial. Are you worried about any stage between now and then?
In spite of not having very tough finales, this first week has been very taxing. The peloton has suffered and now it seems that a period of true relaxation is coming, but we’ll have to be on guard every day and, above all, save every ounce of strength we can for the time trial.
Are you worried about losing the jersey before the time trial?
No. We did consider that possibility, of ceding it to Niemec, but as for bringing down the tempo a little, Astana went to work and nothing happened. The true objective is to win it in Milan. Until then it’s possible that the jersey could change ownership a lot.
Alberto Contador press room
Porte had to scramble to finish with Alberto (Eurosport)
Stage 9, Sunday, May 17: Benevento - SanGiorgio Del Sannio, 215 km
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 9, 11th (0:57 Tiralongo - 5:50:31). Contador in GC, 1st (38:31:35)
TOP TEN: 1 Contador, 2 Aru (0:03), 3 Porte (0:20), 4 Landa (0:46), 5 Cataldo (1:16), 6 Kreuziger (1:46), 7 Visconti (2:02), 8 Urán (2:10), 9 Caruso (2:20), 10 Amador (2:24)
The pain showed on his face in the 264-km Stage 7 ride (Sourced from Twitter)
Stage 7, Friday, May 15: Grosseto - Fiuggi, 264 km
Alberto Contador was able to take the start in Stage 7 of the Giro d'Italia with his shoulder stabilized by kinesio tape. The stage was the longest in years - 264 kilometers - and there was often a headwind, but Contador was well protected by his team. He finished 30th, in a large group with the other favorites a few seconds behind stage winner Diego Ulissi.
Contador remains in the maglia rosa.
“I’m happy because I got through the day - something that had not been a sure thing - but on the other hand, I suffered a lot of pain. It was a windy seven-hour stage and starting at four hours in, I couldn't find a way to position my hand on the handlebar. That’s why I'm happy to have gotten through a touch-and-go moment.” said Alberto after stepping down from the podium, where today he was able to put on the maglia rosa.
About tomorrow's mountainous stage with summit finish, he said, “I might err on the side of caution on a climb suitable for attacking, but the main thing is that the arm gets better. Now it's time for ice and rest."
Before the stage, Contador had told reporters, "I had a good night, with analgesics, and I hope that I respond well. My morale is rising," he said, adding, "I really hope that it doesn´t rain,” in anticipation of the difficulty of putting on rain gear with restricted mobility in his left arm.
“My teammates will have to help me with food, and I´ll have to avoid rotating the arm above my head so that it doesn’t come out again. But I feel confident. I’ve done a lot of work to be ready to tackle these three week.”
Stage 6, Thursday, May 14: Montecatini Terme - Castiglione Della Pescaia, 183 km
Alberto Contador hit the ground in a mass pileup in the final meters of today's Stage 6 of the Giro d'Italia. A fan on the sidelines leaned over the barrier with a long lens camera and made contact with the peloton in the final sprint.
Contador was able to ride to the finish line, but disappeared immediately without talking to reporters in order to put ice on his shoulder before the podium ceremony. The anxiety level among those who follow the Giro skyrocketed when he declined to put on his new maglia rosa on the podium and did not uncork the prosecco, although this decision may have more to do with the ice pack than pain.
X-rays found a temporarily dislocated shoulder, but no fractures. Alberto plans to continue in the Giro tomorrow. Doctors will have another look in the morning, and the Tinkoff-Saxo team will issue a statement at that time.
The following is a translation of Alberto's comments in the video above, given after leaving the Giro's mobile medical unit.
Alberto Conador: "Initially it was a dislocation. I got up and my instinct was to pop my shoulder back in. I was frightened because I thought that I’d broken my collarbone, something I've never broken in my whole life. When I was going to the podium my shoulder popped out again and I was in big pain, so we had to take the maximum precautions possible.
"It seems from the exams that there's nothing more to this than a dislocation, we have to be cautious that it doesn't re-occur. I have to get through the night well, keep the shoulder immobilized, and keep my fingers crossed that it doesn't slip out again, and endure the pain.
"Optimistic? We'll see, I've worked for this race so much since last winter, and I want to continue in it. We'll have to see tomorrow if I realistically can or cannot, but I hope so, yes. I'll have it bandaged to keep it as protected as possible. It won’t be very easy... but we'll see."
Translation by T. Rosales
Alberto pops the cork in celebration at Abetone (Eurosport)
Stage 5, Wednesday, May 13: La Spezia - Abetone, 152 km
Alberto Contador landed the first punch on his rivals today with a strong attack at 4.6 kilometers from the finish line in Stage 5 of the Giro d'Italia. The only opponents who could hit back were Aru and Porte. Swinging right and left, the three favorites fought to the finish on the summit at Abetone where, with a final swat, Aru took four bonus seconds to draw within two of Contador in the GC.
Contador is the new race leader. Aru is now 2nd overall at 0:02 and Porte is 3rd at 0:20. The stage was won by Jan Polanc, followed by Sylvain Chavanel, the surviving members of the day's breakaway.
At the post-stage press conference, Alberto fielded questions about maintaining the leadership, his direct rivals, and hidden motors in bikes.
You’ve never taken the leadership so early in any of your other grand tours.
Contador: I wasn’t thinking about attacking, honestly. I was there, at the front of the group, I looked at the other riders, I didn’t feel very well, but when I attacked I felt better. Sometimes it ends up being complicated for me to stay in the pack, so I gave it a try Even though we hadn’t planned to take the maglia, it’s a joy.
Then, are you satisfied with the time differences?
Yes, in the end I think that I got a nice result. Urán came unhitched, like some other dangerous cyclists. Even though Aru and Richie are very strong, I think it’s a good situation after the fifth stage.
Are you modifying your intentions or those of your team’s commander-in-chief?
Nothing’s changing. I didn’t expect the jersey, but having it is fantastic. It’s a fine gift and an honor. I’m very happy, because wearing this garment is incredible. We could lose it tomorrow, for example. For us, the most important thing is to be wearing pink in Milan. I love the Giro d’Italia, the people and the country, and seeing myself as leader during the next working day will be fantastic.
Mario Cipollini said on the RAI program after the stage that your change of bicycle at 35 kilometers from the Abetone doesn’t benefit cycling when there’s so much speculation about the possible use of hidden motors.
(Laughs sarcastically) Numerous reasons exist for carrying out a change of bike, and none of them has to do with a motor. You can play with different types of tire, one that works for 200 kilometers, and others that are good for thirty or forty. It doesn’t seem like something negative to me. On the contrary: I consider it positive that technological development exists in our sport, like in motorcycling. All these stories about motors sound like a joke to me, like science fiction.
Are Aru and Porte confirmed as the rivals to beat?
Yes, and at the moment Astana have proven that they’re feeling very well. Fabio and Richie are the strongest right now. Being a climber, Aru will try to take advantage of any opportunity to take time before he hits the Treviso time trial. As for Porte, the ITT favors him, so he’s looking to hold on until getting a margin there. Compared to when we were teammates, he’s much more experienced, and thinner (smiles). Nevertheless, the Giro has only just begun. We’ll see.
Contador was well supported by his team until the final meters of today's stage, with most of the squad protecting him until well into the last 10 km, although they were not the sole pacesetters in the pack. When Alberto stopped to changebikes at about 35 km to go, teammates dispatched him to the front.
At 4.6 km to go, Alberto attacked powerfully, drawing Aru and Porte from the stressed peloton as yarn is drawn from an unraveling sweater. The rival duo managed to bridge to him at 4.2 km to go. Porte attacked in the wake of a motorcycle at the 5-km banner, and was easily marked by Alberto and Aru. Aru attacked immediately afterwards, but failed to shake the others. Meanwhile,Aru's teammate Landa joined the three favorites, while up ahead surviving escapees Jan Polanc and Sylvain Chavanel rode toward the line.
Landa pulled all three favorites until the final sprint for the remaining four bonus seconds while, incidentally, all kinds of ducks and parries happened at the front of the main peloton a minute behind.
Aru made a play for the bonus which was matched so beautifully by Contador at his side that the two seemed to be perfectly synchronized. The Sardinian pulled slightly ahead, however, and left Alberto boxed in against the barrieron the final curve. Porte, in the end, was a hardly more than a supernumerary.
Stephen de Jongh, Contador's DS: “In the meeting before the start we spoke about that we should avoid letting a big breakaway go. Instead we could see an interest in a smaller group that wouldn’t be dangerous in the GC.
"Orica took responsibility and controlled much of the stage, while we remained focused on protecting Alberto. In the end, he took the decision to attack, as he knew that he had to drop Chaves in order to take the jersey. He managed to do so, while many GC contenders lost time. I’m pleased with the team’s performance and the guys remain focused on our overall objective."
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 5, 4th (1:31 Polanc - 4:09:18). Conatdor in GC, 1st (16:05:54)
TOP TEN: 1 Contador, 2 Aru (0:02), 3 Porte (0:20), 4 Kreuziger (0:22), 5 Cataldo (0:28), 6 E. Chaves (0:37), 7 Visconti (0:56), 8 Landa (1:01), 9 Formolo (1:15), 10 Amador (1:18)