www.albertocontadornotebook.info - Alberto Contador Fans Notebook



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So busy

He's got the Giro zipped up

The Year of the Triple Crown

photo credits, top to bottom: Newsletter logo/Graham Watson for The Paceline; Dani Sanchez; Alessandro Trovati/AP


December 22 - Visits to sick kids become annual tradition

at Arganda hospital

Alberto brought a duckie to this young patient (AC press room)

Alberto Contador played Papa Noel to children at Southeast Hospital in Arganda (Madrid) today, bringing gifts and autographed photos to little ones and spreading Christmas cheer to parents, medical personnel and administration.

Alberto toured the pediatric and neonatal units, accompanied by hospital administrators. He made slow progress through the facility, being approached by so many admirers that the tour was, according to a press release by the hospital, “more difficult to complete than any of the stages in the Alps that he enjoys each summer.”

The hospital went on to say that “the best cyclist in the world didn’t hesitate to respond with humor and sensitivity, and left no kiss unbestowed and no autograph unsigned.”

This is the third year running for Alberto, the reigning Tour de France champion, to serve ex officio as Santa Claus. He visited Getafe after winning his first Tour in 2007, and Valdemoro after winning the Giro and the Vuelta in 2008. He now considers the service an annual tradition.


December 22, 2009

"Hello, everyone,

"This year that’s ending has been a really, really good year. A year ago, if I’d known that the result was going to be like this, I wouldn’t have believed it, but then everything that I set out to do this season has succeeded. Also the circumstances have been quite special, more so than in a normal year.

"I must thank you for all the great care that you’ve shown me, that makes me work with much more desire and makes everything much easier.

"I’d like to sign off by wishing you feliz navidad y un próspero año nuevo. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year."


December 18 - Noval: “We’re clear about our leader, our goals, our job”

Lean on me, when you're not strong Although on paper Lance Armstrong’s Team RadioShack is much stronger than Contador’s Astana, the Madrileño’s teammates, especially the Spaniards, are ready to sweat blood to help him win the 2010 Tour.

MARCA. JOSU GARAI. 17/12/09 - More than ever, paradoxes of fate, the Astana team is a tight-knit circle. Far from being daunted by the power of Lance Armstrong’s RadioShack, Contador’s new teammates are taking the 2010 Tour as a challenge. At stake is not only victory, also, in the next edition of the Tour de France, but their pride as people and as cyclists as well.

“We’re going to work our butts off for Alberto,” they all agree, especially the Spaniards, those who, by virtue of language and culture, are closest to the Pinteño right now. “We’re going to work for him, not like this year.”

Besides his ever-faithful lieutenants, like Benjamin Noval, Jesús Hernández and Dani Navarro, another three Spaniards have joined the Kazakh team this autumn. This means Óscar Pereiro—whose excitement makes him seem like a neo-pro after being recently unemployed—Josep Jufré and David de la Fuente. “I have complete confidence in them,” Contador says about his escuderos, the old ones and the new ones.

During Astana’s team training camp in Italy, the seven Spaniards stopped at the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, swarmed by tourists that couldn’t believe their eyes, especially an American couple who didn’t hesitate to be photographed and ask for autographs from the executioner of their fellow countryman, Armstrong. Like the Astana team these days, the Tower isn’t as strong as it should be, but that oddity makes it greater, something that’s also happening to Contador, for whom raising this team from nothing is an added challenge.

Noval and Contador Of the Spaniards, if anyone can speak accurately about the rivalry that has errupted between Armstrong and Contador and, indirectly, between RadioShack and Astana, it’s Benjamin Noval, because after having helped the American win two Tours de France (2004 and 2005), for the last few years he has worked for Contador, for whom he has become bodyguard, faithful companion and friend.

“In terms of names, it’s obvious that RadioShack has much more team than Astana,” acknowledges the Asturian, “but a team is not just made up of names, but of men, and I’m particularly convinced that at the moment of truth we’ll be equal to the task and everything will turn out well.”

Precisely due to his faithfulness to Contador, Noval was left out of the last Tour. “Like many other fans, I believe that the Astana team didn’t work for Alberto during the last Tour. They were not all together. In 2010, however, I’m convinced that we’re all going to paddle in the same direction. We don’t have the names that they have, but in the end I think that we’ll rise to the occasion because we have clarity about who the leader is, what our goal is, and what our job is.”

Noval knows Armstrong well. “I’m sure that, if you go with the possibilities, neither Klöden nor Leipheimer are going to have options, because Lance won’t allow it. Before, when he won, there were also great riders on the team, but the only leader was him. And that’s not going to change, mainly because I also think that in 2010 he’s going to be stronger than this year.”

Although now riding with his rival, Benjamin hasn’t lost admiration for the American. “He’ll be a year older, yes, but if this season, after a three-year absence from cycling, he made the podium—something that was commendable and surprising—in 2010 he’s not going to have any goal other than winning the Tour. I’m sure that there’s nothing else going on in his mind. I have no doubt that he’s going to be better, although that doesn’t mean that he’s going to be at Contador’s level.”

Benja hasn’t forgotten the years with Lance. “I can’t say anything bad about him, because he was a very important person in my career. In fact, everything I know as a cyclist, I learned from him…and from Chechu Rubiera. But now I have a duty to Alberto, I have a relationship with him that I never had with Lance, and right now I can't imagine my job as a cyclist without him, because I’ve always been a gregario and I have the good luck to be alongside the best rider in the world.”

So, knowing that Contador is going to need him in the next Tour, and especially in the famous stage with cobblestones—13 kilometers of pavé spread over seven sections—Noval foresees preparing himself in a special way: “I’m going to volunteer to ride the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. And then, of course, we’ll have to go and memorize the routes, because the setting and the knowledge of the terrain are going to be very important.”

Photos: upper - Contador props up the Tower at Pisa training camp (Josu Garai, MARCA); lower - Noval and Contador, June 2009 (Kahane)


December 17 - Bola del Mundo is the cherry on top of a big helping of rocky road

Alberto Contador attended the 2010 Vuelta a España presentation on Wednesday in Seville. There he took stock of the parcours of the 75th-anniversary edition of Spain’s grand tour, which will celebrate by replacing the traditional gold leader’s jersey with a new red one.

The world’s top-ranked rider appeared alongside Alejandro Valverde, winner of the last edition, and Samuel Sanchez, who placed second in the final classification.

Rough concrete covers road to Bola del Mundo “It seems like a very nice route to me,” Contador said in a press release after familiarizing himself with the parcours. “From soup to nuts, it’s going to be very interesting for the spectators.

"The new features begin from Stage 1—an evening team time trial—with an opening week that won’t allow anyone to relax even for a moment, because there’s rugged territory every day until Stage 8, where the mountains will start to create time gaps at Xorret del Catí, a short but very tough and explosive climb.”

“Then comes the following mountain stage in at Pal in Andorra, after the longest stage in the Vuelta and, although it doesn’t have any more mountains, the last climb is demanding enough to create some good gaps,” continued Contador.

But where “the race will truly take shape and where it’ll be virtually decided,” says Contador, “will be in the three stages in Asturias, with three consecutive very demanding finishes that, to top it off, will be followed by a 46-kilometer time trial the result of which will depend a lot on how much strength each rider gets there with.”

Finally, Alberto Contador emphasizes the last summit finish, Bola del Mundo, “a very tough finish that, being situated at the end of the race, will be doubly challenging. I know it pretty well,” he assured, “because it’s my training territory, and it’s very hard, due both to the slope and to the road surface, since it’s paved with distressed concrete so cars can get up to the ski station during the winter.”

In summary, Alberto Contador gives Vuelta 2010 excellent marks. “I like it a lot, in spite of a few doubts about a detail: the first time trial, because it’ll still practically be day when the first team leaves the gate, but the last one will start at 11 o’clock at night. They’ll have to light the route really well, because at night it’s difficult to judge the distance between yourself and the rider in front of you, and that could cause some crashes.”

Last of all, Alberto Contador wants to leave the door open to the possibility of lining up at the start line in Seville himself. “Yes, there’s a chance I’ll ride it, even though my high-priority goal is the Tour, although the Vuelta always motivates you because it’s the home race, and even more so when the route is so well-suited to my characteristics. In any case, I’ll make that decision after the Tour,” concluded Contador. (AC press room)

Photo: A distressed concrete road helps cars get to Bola's top in winter (as.com)


December 16 - Contador at Vuelta presentation eyes a try for Red

The route for the 2010 Vuelta a España was presented today in Sevilla, revealing stiff challenges and some special features that will add luster to the tour's 75th anniversary celebration.

2010 Vuelta presentation Next year’s edition will begin in Sevilla with an evening team time trial of about 16 kilometers, after which the first man across the line will don the Vuelta’s new red leader’s jersey, nicknamed La Roja.

There will also be a plethora of climbs, including another visit to Asturias and the much-discussed Bola del Mundo (Ball of the World) in the province of Madrid.

Assisting in presenting the 2010 route map were 2008 winner Alberto Contador, reigning Vuelta champion Alejandro Valverde and 2008 Olympic gold-medalist Samuel Sanchez. These three men, who together earned for Spain the top honor in the UCI world ranking in 2009, were first among many stars who relayed their impressions to the press.

Contador commented that the next edition of the Vuelta a España will be hotly contended and due to that, he warned, the riders will have to “pay close attention from the very beginning.”

“It’s a nice route, plus there are lots of summit finishes and I think that it’ll be pretty interesting for the specator. It’ll be necessary to pay close attention from the very beginning. The first week has a lot of little hills which, as far as you can say now, won’t create too many gaps, but it’s going to be punishing.

Contador also called attention to the demanding pass through Asturias. “Once they get to Asturias, with three consecutive summit finishes, then a time trial on the following day, it will really influence each rider’s capacity to recover,” he emphasized.

Contador hasn't ruled out riding his nation's tour next season, but will decide based on how the Spanish race fits in with his main goal of the year, the Tour de France.

The 2010 Vuelta a España will take place August 29-September 19.

Photo: Contador, Valverde and Sanchez headed the list of dignitaries at the presentation (elmundo.es)


December 14 - Alberto receives the trophy of a lifetime from UCI, is fêted at Kazakh Embassy - Extra: Transcript of Pisa press conference

UCI ProTour winner 2009

Contador with UCI ProTour prize (Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images)

Today the president of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), Pat McQuaid, awarded Alberto Contador the trophy that represents his status as the number one rider in the world ranking and winner of the 2009 ProTour individual rider classification.

The event took place in Madrid, and was also attended by the president of the Spanish Cycling Federation, Juan Carlos Castaño, who accepted the winner’s trophy on behalf of Spain for the UCI ProTour’s Best Nation classification.

Alberto Contador expressed appreciation for the courtesy shown by the international union in coming to Madrid to celebrate the award, and said that the trophy serves to commemorate a year which, for him, was possibly “the most important in my life to my career in sport.”

Contador said that he placed an “incredible value on being first in the world ranking. This is the result of an entire year of work, and I place this trophy at the same level as those of the Tour, the Giro or the Vuelta.”

This afternoon, Alberto Contador will attend a reception offered by the Kazakh Embassy in Madrid on the occasion of Kazakhstan’s Independence Day, during which he will be awarded a commemorative plaque by the ambassador in Madrid, Yergali Bulegenov. (AC press room)

rtve News VIDEO


December 14 - Contador: “We’re all very motivated and I believe that we’ll have a powerful team”

The Astana team offered its first press conference of the season last Friday, December 11, during its training camp in Pisa (Italy), which was attended by the team’s manager, Yvon Sanquer, together with Alberto Contador and Alexander Vinokourov.

Press conference at Pisa training camp Yvon Sanquer acknowledged the difficulties involved for the organization in starting up the team in such a small amount of time, but showed satisfaction because “the essential things are done. Astana is starting down a new path and we hope to be able to offer continuity in terms of our results, especially thanks to Alberto Contador.”

Sanquer explained that the entire team “is going to work together for the same objective, supporting our leader, Alberto Contador, in the Tour de France, while Vinokourov will also contribute his experience and his leadership of the group of riders from Kazakhstan.” In other matters, Astana’s manager also announced that the team has pinpointed the dates for the next training camp, which will be held in Calpe (Spain), January 14-21, 2010, a few days after the team’s Tour Down Under squad travels to Australia.

Alberto Contador’s program prior to the Tour de France will be very similar to that of 2009 and will begin, probably, with the Volta ao Algarve, followed by Paris-Nice, the Volta a Catalunya, País Vasco and the Dauphiné Libéré. Another option, depending on how the season developes, is a possible decision by Contador to participate in one of the classics. Alexander Vinokourov, on the other hand, will prepare with an eye for the Giro d’Italia, beginning at the Tour de Mediteranée.

Alberto Contador went on to respond to questions from journalists, the first of which revolved around his competition calendar.

When will it coincide with Alexander Vinokourov’s?

Before the Tour de France, we’ll do different calendars. We still don’t know who will be on the Tour team, but I’d like it if he were with me at the start line.

Is this the first time that you feel that you’ve got a team that’s fully at your disposal?

No, in other years I had a good team for me, like in 2007 or during part of 2008, in the Giro and the Vuelta a España. And, too, in the 2009 Tour my teammates helped me a lot, regardless of the tactics that the team had. In 2010 we won’t have such important names as in 2009, but even though we’re only spending a few days together, I’m already very happy with my teammates. I have a good impression, everybody is very motivated, they have a desire to contribute their effort to the team, and I think that we’ll have a powerful team for the Tour.

Did you request the new signings, or were they brought in by the team?

It was a little of everything. I requested riders like De la Fuente or Tiralongo, but not only thinking of myself, because everybody knew that we needed strong riders with a spirit for work. Everybody’s goal is working for the leader, and I think that their performance might still be very much better that what they’ve had up till now.

The 2009 calendar was not very full and you didn’t ride the classics, either. What do you think you’ll do in the future?

Even though all the fans would like it, it’s not possible for a rider to be in all the races. I’d rather choose my calendar well because I always hope to ride at a good level. I think that when you go to compete, you must be in the fight for the victory, and that’s what I’ve done during 2009. I didn’t compete much, but I was always fighting for the win. About the classics, I certainly want to go and ride them, but I’ve got to choose the best time, although this year it’s not ridiculous that I might ride some of them. Anyway, my best quality as a rider is recovery and I can take better advantage of it in stage races, that’s why the grand tours are where I perform better.

Are you worried about the delay in the launch of the team?

No, I’m not worried at all, because I know how events have developed. I would’ve liked to have known my future sooner, obviously, but I see that a good work is in progress. Now what I’m thinking about is working with my teammates to become a strong team.

What annoyed you most about Armstrong’s statements?

They’ published a lot of things, but I don’t want to enter into controversy. 2009 is over and now I only want to think about training and preparing my goals with my new team.

After everything that’s happened, can you talk to Armstrong again in the peloton or have a good relationship with him in the future?

I’ve got no problem. Things in the Tour were different, but a lot of things change over time and everything is possible in sport.

Is your team stronger or weaker without Armstrong?

We’re less well-endowed with names now, but we’ll have to check that on the road, because riding for a single leader is very different from having to consider another rider, too.

The Tour is growing in importance each year, do you think that this is the only important race?

The 2009 season can’t be used as a reference for next season, and next year can’t either, because sometimes you can’t take on the challenge of doing two grand tours. Now I can only think about the Tour, and trying to reserve the all the team’s strength for that race. Maybe if this team had two years of experience, I’d be able to consider riding two grand tours, although in 2010 it’s also possible that I’ll ride the Vuelta a España, even though the Tour takes priority.

Will you ride the Worlds in 2010?

No, I don’t think so, because the route doesn’t favor me, not even as a worker for the team. I think that there’ll be more capable riders than I am for being on the Spanish team in Australia.

2010 kit revealed What has the 2009 Tour taught you?

Everything went well in the end and for that I’m very happy. I went through a situation that was extremely stressful and hard to endure, but I think that this has made me mature a lot as a rider and I’ve learned to look at the race without emotion. I believe that that experience will be very useful for me in the future.

Do you think that Andy Schleck will be your most difficult rival in 2010?

There will be many rivals, choosing one particular one is very difficult, although in 2009, it’s obvious that the toughest rival was Andy Schleck. Nevertheless, there’s a good group of favorites: the Schleck brothers, Armstrong, Evans and, without doubt, also Andreas Klöden and Levi Leipheimer. I spent three years on the same team with Levi and he’s a great professional who’s perfectly able to win the Tour.

Can you predict the top five?

No, it’s very complicated to give five names, maybe 10 is simpler. The Schleck brothers, Wiggins, Evans, Lance, Leipheimer, Klöden and Basso might have a very good Tour…and many names that I’m leaving out now. The differences among the frontrunners are very small, so it’s very complicated to make a prediction.

Would you like to have Basso as a teammate?

Yes, Basso is a good friend and a great rider. It would be a honor for me to share a team with him next year.

All your teammates from the Tour have transferred, do you understand this attitude?

Well, each case is different, but I understand the situation. Most of my teammmates finished their contracts and were then offered a great project, while I neither knew my future nor was able to guarantee them anything at that time. You have to remember, too, that this is work, and I understand what they’ve done, although each one has his priorities.

Which rider on your current team is most faithful to you?

Fortunately there are many, but though the ones closest to me are Benjamin Noval, Jesús Hernández and Dani Navarro. I have complete faith in them.

How’s your relationship with Vinokourov?

Very good, we’re both acquainted with each other’s families and we know a lot about each other’s lives. We have very good communication.

Your contract is up in 2010, what will you do then?

Right now I don’t know where I’ll be in 2011, there are a lot of possibilities, but certainly a very important one is staying with Astana.

Do you think that it would be good to establish a system of clauses for freedom (to transfer) in cycling?

Yes, I’d be in favor of that, but always in proportion to cycling, because we can’t have a liberty clause of 50 million euros, like a football player. I’d like to have that system…although the teams wouldn’t agree.

Photos: (upper) Contador at press conference with Yvon Sanquer and Vinokourov; (lower) Alberto and Vino reveal Astana's 2010 kit (REUTERS)


December 10 - Contador, Pereiro and Vino a new trademark for team

The new triumvirate

Vinokourov, Alberto, and Oscar Pereiro will unite for Astana in 2010 (photo: AC press room)

The Astana team did its first group ride of the season this afternoon, according to albertocontador.es. Most of the team’s roster was on hand for the three-hour excursion of the area around Pisa.

Alberto Contador, Alexander Vinokourov and Oscar Pereiro (the most recent to arrive at camp) rode together for the first time, posing before training for a photograph that marks the launch of new Astana’s operations. Another training camp slated for January, after 2009 contracts expire, will feature the complete roster, as well as 2010 kit and bicylces by new sponsor Specialized.

A press conference is scheduled for tomorrow, Friday, at 16:00 in the hotel My One Galilei, in which Alberto Contador, Alexander Vinokourov and the team’s manager, Yvon Sanquer, will discuss Astana’s program and goals for next season.


December 9 - Sunny start to Astana camp in Tuscany


Jesús and Alberto happy to train (photo: AC press room)

Alberto Contador completed his first official outing of the new season this afternoon at Astana’s team training camp in Pisa. He was accompanied in today’s session by Jesús Hernández and new recruit Gorazd Stangeli, formerly of Liquigas. The trio pedaled through Tuscany under propitiously sunny skies with temperatures around 13° C (56° F).

Other early arrivals to Astana’s camp are Spaniard Josep Jufré, who has recently come to Astana from Fugi-Servetto, and the team’s sprinter Assan Bazayev of Kazakhstan, both of whom arrived yesterday.

Accorning to a press release from albertocontador.es, Contador arrived in Italy with his brother Fran and will stay at camp until next Sunday, December 13. He will then return to Spain to receive the championship trophy for the 2009 UCI ProTour World Ranking on Monday, December 14 in Madrid.

with new mate Stangeli

Alberto and new mate Stangelj (photo: AC press room)


December 9 - Alberto's blog

Official website Alberto has posted to his blog, about birthday greetings from fans and the start of team training camp today.

GO TO albertocontador.es


December 6 - Happy Birthday from all of us

Cumpleaños feliz, Te deseamos a ti,
Cumpleaños Alberto, Cumpleaños feliz.

Que los cumpla feliz, Que los vuelva a cumplir,
Que los siga cumpliendo, Hasta Cristo venir.


December 6 - Life sketch of Contador by Manuel Martinez

This beautiful bio piece from late July appeared in L'Equipe. Our translation is by Christine Kahane.

After a close encounter with death in 2004, Alberto Contador forged a indestructible morale to triumph on the Tour de France for the second time.

Alberto Contador's life could have come to a stop on a descent in the Asturian mountains May 12, 2004. The young Liberty Seguros rider lies on the ground without moving. He fell all of a sudden for no apparent reason. When Santiago Fernandez Zubizarreta arrives on the scene, Contador is still breathing.

The Tour of Asturias doctor attempts first aid without real conviction. However, these first survival efforts will have their importance. Nobody knows it yet, but Alberto Contador has just experienced the beginning of a brain aneurysm. Admitted as an emergency case to Oviedo hospital, his condition is serious but the first aid performed on the side of the road has clearly saved his life. He recovers consciousness and asks to return home.

At his home in Pinto, a dormitory town of 40,000 inhabitants, located in the southern suburbs of Madrid, the Contador family is worried. They have already experienced, several years earlier, their quota of drama. Raul, Alberto's younger brother, suffers from cerebral palsy. Their worries are justified, when less than a week later Alberto has to be admitted once again, this time to Madrid hospital. The diagnosis is ominous: the Madrid rider has a cavernoma, a lesion of the brain resulting from a congenital vascular malformation.

"This was a particularly hard time for the whole family," said Francisco Javier, Alberto's elder brother and now manager. "We were all a bit helpless. We all supported each other a lot. We tried to appear strong because Raul was there too and we could not show him how distressed we were. But in the end, it was Alberto who showed us the way ahead."

Continue reading this article: BACK TO LIFE


December 5 - Alberto at Planet Eurosport yesterday

Alberto Contador has answered the latest from Lance Armstrong on Planet Eurosport. The champion of the Tour, besides indicating that the Texan’s statements don’t worry him “in the least,” says that they serve as motivation. Looking ahead to next season, the Madrileño is focused on the Tour.

Eurosport The cyclist from Pinto found himself in front of the microphones at Planet Eurosport and has reviewed the challenges facing him next year. Staying at Astana and the loss of riders who have left the team, is something that worries Contador:

“Definitely this coming year is going to be a big change. The team that we had was impressive, with impressive riders and this year it’s going to be weaker and with differences that we’re not aware of.”

About his preparation, Alberto is going to put all of his energy into winning his third Tour de France: “This year the Tour de France is going to be an enormous challenge. It’s going to require a lot of work with the team, with the riders, in training camps…to prepare ourselves mentally for being able to win it.”

The Vuelta? Maybe.

The Vuelta is something that he doesn’t discount either, since he’ll be at the presentation of the race and might see nothing wrong with trying for a second victory in September: “I’m going to go to the presentation because you’ve got to help promote it. It’s there as an option. There’s some wiggle room because I’m not going to the Giro.”

Not trading jibes

The question begging to be asked was whether he had an answer to Lance Armstrong’s latest statements, in which the American said again that they are not friends. Contador said that he wasn’t aware of the statements, nor do they bother him, on the contrary: “They don’t bother me, I haven’t even seen the statements. I’m training now. Considering the expectations of the race, I understand him saying this. It does serve to motivate me, but it doesn’t bother me in the least.” (Eurosport)


December 4 - Alberto participates in oral presentation of Constitution

Today Alberto Contador will be one of a group of famous Spaniards who will meet in Congress to perform an uninterrupted reading of the country’s constitution.

Twenty-nine high-profile athletes, musicians, artists, actors and TV hosts will join a group of students on the rostrum in the hall of plenary sessions at 11:00 in the morning. Each person will read aloud a portion of the preamble, the 169 articles or the dispositions.

The event has been organized by Congress’s Lower Chamber in observance of the 31st anniversary of Spain’s Constitution, with the dual purpose of encouraging young people to adopt constitutional values and principles using examples set by their idols.

Appearing with Alberto will be Gemma Mengual and Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas and Raúl González, among others. About 300 students will come from 16 institutions around Spain.


November 29 - Alberto and Macarena were there

Yesterday Alberto Contador attended the wedding of friend and rival Luis León Sánchez Gil to Laura Martín-Consuegra Blaya, daughter of legendary goalie Ramón Martín-Consuegra.

The wedding in Mula (Murcia) was attended by around 500 guests, including many notables from the cycling world, such as Alberto, Alejandro Valverde and the president of the Spanish cycling federation.

According to an article in laverdad.es entitled "Luisle parks the bike for a day," the parish priest who performed the nuptials advised the couple that they were “beginning a stage that with love, understanding and mutual respect will arrive happily at the final finish line.”

The paper went on to say that Alberto “went almost unnoticed” since all the flattering remarks went to his “stunning” companion (Macarena).

Hundreds of townspeople stood in the streets near the church of Santo Domingo de Guzmán waiting to congratulate the newlyweds Luisle and Laura as they left the ceremony, soon to depart for a honeymoon in an “undisclosed corner of the world.”


November 26 - “I’m happy with this solution”

Alberto Contador was delighted with the UCI’s confirmation of Astana’s ProTour license, since he now knows for sure which team he’ll ride for next year and can begin planning the season with high hopes. “I’m happy with this solution because it was time to clarify my future. I had already reached a preliminary agreement with the team and everything depended on the license. Finally, just as we expected, I’ll stay with Astana.”

What’s your opinion of Astana’s team for 2010?

I’m very satisfied with the technical team because they’re doing very serious work and that’s essential for everything. About the riders, I think that we’re going to have a good team, maybe not as powerful, especially in terms of big names, as some others who’re looking forward to the Tour, but I have complete confidence in how we’ll work and in the high motivation that we’ll have in the Tour.

Is trust the fundamental value of this team?

Yes, absolutely. The key will be knowing how to motivate ourselves highly and that we all feel involved in the set goals. In order to have a good Tour, what matters most is the motivation to prepare ourselves in the best way possible.

Have you already decided on your calendar?

No, not yet, beyond knowing that the Tour de France will take precedence over everything else. I like to be doing well already at the beginning of the season, but this year I want to take it relatively calmly.

What do you expect for next season?

After everything that’s happened in the last few months, I think that, in the end, I’ve made the best decision possible and the only thing that I can be sure of is that I’m going to fight 100% for my chances to compete in the Tour. I’m aware that everybody prepares to the limit and that it’ll be very difficult again, but as far as I’m concerned, I’ll be fighting again for that victory. (AC press room)


November 26 - The UCI grants Astana a ProTour license, Contador will ride in Kazakh colors in 2010

The International Cycling Union (UCI) yesterday granted the Astana Cycling Team, the team of Alberto Contador, a ProTour license for 2010, registering the team as one of 17 with ProTour status.

Read the entire UCI communiqué at Alberto's OFFICIAL WEBSITE.

The development marks the end of months of drama and doubt—referred to in Spain as the “culebrón,” or soap opera—about Alberto Contador’s future. Contador will stay with Astana in 2010.

The team has amassed considerable power in new recruits, creating a team with enough strength and depth to support Contador in a winning bid for next year’s Tour de France. According to latest reports, Spaniards David Herrero and Xavier Tondo and Australian sprinter Allan Davis have joined the roster.

However, the real coup for Astana is the signing of Óscar Pereiro, the winner of the 2006 Tour de France. Pereiro and Contador together make Astana, once again, the only current team that can boast two Tour de France winners

The UCI has made mandatory the deposit of a bank guarantee in light of Astana’s failure to pay employees promptly in 2009. The union retains the right to withdraw Astana’s license if they fail to pay riders and other employees on time in 2010.

The team’s main sponsor, the state holding fund of the government of Kazakhstan, Samruk Kazyna, has not yet provided the entire amount required, but the UCI said in a statement yesterday that they are “confident it will be provided soon.”

Also according to current news, the Astana team will change its name to Samruk Kazyna next year.


November 20 - updated - Contador reveals that he had to buy his own wheels in Monaco


Monaco, Tour 2009 - Contador was refused top-of-the-line wheels (Patrick Herzog/AFP/Getty Images)

MARCA - EFE - Alberto Contador revealed in an interview published in Friday’s edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport that he had to buy wheels with his own money for a time trial stage at the Tour de France because Astana couldn’t guarantee him the best wheels.

“It happened before the time trial in Monte Carlo. The best wheels weren't available for me. So even though it seemed incredible, I had to buy them myself,” he explained.

The winner of the Tour de France, on the other hand, confirmed that he will stay with Astana “only if it’s a ProTour team.” Contador announced yesterday, Thursday, that he will remain with the Kazakh team if they keep their ProTour license and adhere to the code of ethics.

“The license is essential. I want to stay with Astana, but only if it’s a ProTour team. If not, I consider myself a free man,” he explained.

Contador revealed that he also made it a condition for renewal with Astana that there exist a “strict internal anti-doping program.” He explained, furthermore, that he signed for one year only with Astana “for prudence” and not because he wanted to abandon the team next season.

Concerning the new directeur sportif, Yvon Sanquer, he assured that “he’s a competent person, educated and capable,” and denied that in order to stay with Astana, he had demanded the explusion of Alexandre Vinokourov. About the ex-director of Astana, Johan Bruyneel, Contador admitted that he was bothered by what he had said about “money having changed my life.”

“Bruyneel knows perfectly well that I still live in Pinto, the same way I always have. Without luxuries.”

The winner of two Tours, a Vuelta a España and a Giro d’Italia explained that he will begin to train within a few days and that he might debut at the Volta ao Algarve, but he confirmed that his main goal for the season is the Tour de France. Likewise, he didn’t count out that if he has a good team he can ride the Giro and the Tour this season and win both.

VIDEO of Alberto's interview (in Spanish with Italian subtitles)


November 19 - Contador has agreed to stay at Astana for one year only, if his strict conditions are met

Alberto Contador and his current team, Astana, have reached a preliminary agreement to fulfill the remainder of the contract that binds them until the end of 2010.

The agreement reached by both sides includes a number of prerequisites in order for Contador to continue with Astana during the 2010 season, essentially, that the team retain its ProTour license and strictly comply with the code of ethics and internal doping-control system that will be implemented by the new leadership of the team.

Contador decided to fulfill this agreement with Astana once he found that both Yvon Sanquer, the new team manager, and Giuseppe Martinelli, primary directeur sportif, ensure the reliability and competitiveness of Astana’s new project, since they have managed to gather, despite the short time span, a group of high-quality riders who are sure to be capable of successfully facing next season’s goals.

The contract to be signed will be for one year only. Since it is a new project for Astana, Alberto Contador wants to reserve the option to decide about his future in the longer term, and be fully free to choose at the end of 2010. (AC press room)


November 18 - How Alberto's new tech sponsor stands to benefit

To fight against the “Armstrong effect,” which has given the Trek bicycle brand such an advantage, Specialized, its most direct competitor in the American market, has reached an agreement with Alberto Contador, No. 1 rider in the world. And so, wherever he rides—and Astana is still the most likely team—Contador will take Specialized bicycles in 2010.

MARCA/Josu Garai/Madrid/November 17 - Although it’s still not settled whether the UCI grants a ProTour license to the Astana team, neither Alberto Contador nor his brother Fran, who acts as his manager, are at a standstill. Quite the contrary. In fact, in the last few days they’ve been able to reach an agreement for using the American bicycles of Specialized in 2010, a brand which is also a technical sponsor to the Saxo Bank and Quick Step teams.

After the return of Armstrong to competition—something he did with Trek, the company with which he rode all the best years of his career—Specialized has had no better option than to fight back in order to keep from losing ground in the American and global market.

And nothing could be better suited to the purpose than to do it under the leadership of Alberto Contador, currently the best rider in the international peloton. Specialized, as everyone already knows, was ready to put forward a large sum of money in order for Quick Step to sign Contador, but after seeing that he might not be able to leave Astana, at least not before the end of 2010, the company has decided to go on the offensive and try to sponsor the Kazakh team.

Nevertheless, what it has done first of all is to reach an agreement with Contador, who’s key to the deal. With Contador on board, arriving at an agreement with Astana will be easier and, in the worst case, if Astana doesn’t continue, Specialized could tip the scales to Quick Step.

In recent years as in the past, bicycle brands are getting involved more and more in the professional peloton, to the extent that one of them, Cervelo, sponsors one of the strongest groups in international cycling: Carlos Sastre’s team. In 2010, BMC—Evans’ new team—will also be a strong player in the market, and for that reason its competitors are forced to stick to its wheel.

In this context, Specialized’s reaction is perfectly understandable as a company running the risk of falling behind in the battle with rival firms, especially Trek, the other American giant that has been linked from the beginning to Armstrong, Bruyneel and their teams: US Postal, Discovery Channel and especially, Astana.

And so, although Contador has loved the Trek bicycles that he’s used for the last three years, since signing with Discovery Channel, Armstrong’s comeback has changed everything. Knowing that Trek will go with Armstrong and his new RadioShack team, Contador has searched for a technically and economically effective manufacturer, one that can supply him with cutting-edge equipment, including doing as many tests in the wind tunnel or in the velodrome as needed to put him ahead.

And that’s the agreement that has been reached with Specialized, a company launched in 1974 by Mike Sinyard, a 24-year-old who had to sell his van in order to come to Europe, to buy components here and sell them afterwards in the USA.

Sinyard founded Specialized with $1,500, and in the first year, sales had already reached $64,000, which allowed him to take a new step and to create in that same year a new bike called the Allez, his first great success. In 1981 he created his first mountain bike, the Stumpjumper, which lent its name to a mountain biking team, a discipline in which Specialized enjoys great prestige.

Nevertheless, the biggest bicycle manufacturer in the world is neither Trek nor Specialized, but Giant, whose machines are used by Rabobank (and formerly by Telekom and Liberty). Giant, in fact, does not only make bicycles in Taiwan with its own name, but also for other companies and, sometimes, for its direct competitors.

According to 2008 figures, Giant did business worth $750,000,000 (on its brand of bicycles only), compared to $725,000,000 by Trek and $650,000,000 by Specialized, which accounts for the top three spots in the world ranking.

However, the signing of Contador could help Specialized, a dependent for several years of the multinational corporation Merida, expand its market and rise on the points scale.


November 15 - Alberto signs with Specialized, who will pay part of his salary at Astana

Carlos Arribas/El País/November 15, 2009 - “They’re very good bicycles, quite a bit better than Trek, hahaha.” Alberto Contador jokes when talking about the contract that he signed yesterday with Specialized, a California bicycle firm with whom he will ride next season. At the same, he time takes the opportunity to slip in a reference to Trek, also an American bicycle on which he pedaled in recent years, and a brand which will be forever associated with Lance Armstrong, who will ride on a different team next year.

The Specialized Angel The agreement—for one year with an option by mutual accord of more, depending on the future of Contador as of 2011—will be finalized in the next few days, when the last few details are settled, with another contract of co-sponsorship between Astana, the team with which Contador will fulfill his remaining year of commitment, and Specialized.

“The team looks great,” says the cyclist from Pinto, who in order to make the agreement official is only waiting for the UCI to give the Kazakh team its license for 2010. The deadline for the awarding of ProTour licenses is next Friday.

Associating its image with the figure of the winner of the last Tour, the only cyclist who can compete with Armstrong and Trek on their turf—the North American market for quality bicycles, the most mouthwatering and lucrative—has its price.

According to the Belgian press last week, Specialized was ready to pay a million euros as a contribution to the Spaniard’s salary of five million, to the sponsor Quick Step, one of the teams that wants to sign him. Astana, where it will also contribute to Contador’s pay, will be the third ProTour team supplied by the American company, together with Quick Step, with whom it partnered in the days that Paolo Bettini won two World Championships, and Saxo Bank, the team of Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck, dauphin to Contador in the last Tour.

During the last Tour, in fact, Contador had to pay out of his own pocket for the wheels of the bicycle on which he won the time trial at Annecy, since, say his friends, the team’s best pair of wheels were reserved for the leader, Armstrong.

By creating an agreement with the brand that invented the mountain bike, Contador will not only avoid those problems, but—and it’s a sign of his rank and his global impact—joins the lineage of only a few riders in history who have had the ability to dictate their choice of mount as general issue for the teams in which they ride.

The agreement also emphasizes the ferociously individual way in which Contador must forge his way in a sport that is going through great changes. While other historical figures in Spanish cycling, like Perico Delgado or Miguel Induráin, simply worked within existing frameworks that provided for all their needs, Contador, ever since Manolo Saiz’s goup dissolved, must invent his future every year.

Next, at the end of 2010, he will have to decide whether to sign with another team, like Caisse d’Epargne, or to create his own, with his sponsors and suppliers. Perhaps, in this sense, his commitment with Specialized is a sign of the trend of things to come.

Photo: The Specialized angel represents heavenly sponsorship for Contador and his team in 2010 (Ken Conley)


November 11 - “The likelihood of Alberto remaining at Astana is very high”

a special hello just for us

Fran Contador, Alberto's brother and manager, at the 2010 Tour route presentation (photo: Christine Kahane)

BICICICLISMO/November 11, 2009 - Nothing surprises him anymore and that’s why he stresses that nothing is certain, but Fran Contador, brother and agent of Alberto, says that the likelihood of the winner of the 2009 and 2007 Tours continuing at Astana is “very high.”

He confirms that the stance between the team and the rider has gotten quite a bit closer in the last few weeks, although he emphasizes that “there’s still a lot to do” at the Kazakh team.

One thing is sure: he will only sign for one year. His brother Alberto arrives in Madrid tomorrow and they will come to a final decision shortly thereafter.

Fran Contador has given an interview to BICICICLISMO and has shined light on a situation intoxicated by surprising information.

Is Alberto leaning more toward Astana than he has been in the last few weeks?

Yes, yes, seeing how difficult it is to break the contract, we’ve sat down with them and they’ve taken the opportunity to present their plan and their ideas to us.

And what impression has that left you with?

It’s a good impression and they’re working hard. Yvon Sanquer is very interested in doing things well and in moving the project forward, although there’s still a lot to do and the UCI’s decision about giving the team a ProTour license is still pending.

The chances that Alberto Contador stays at Astana have increased.

The chances that he’ll stay are very high considering the difficulty of breakng the contract, but as of this day we haven’t decided anything. We’re leaning more toward Astana, but it’s not certain. There’s no doubt that if Astana receives the ProTour license, the chances of Alberto staying are greater. If it’s not like that, Alberto and the rest of the riders will leave.

At any rate, the situation could change completely in a day. After the Tour de France, nothing scares me anymore.

Wouldn’t it be a surprise for you then if Alberto didn’t stay on at Astana?

No, it wouldn’t surprise me. Every day can mean a drastic change. It’s certain that today we’re leaning more toward Astana but tomorrow there could be news, a decision by the UCI or the race organizers, for instance, changing everything and making things tip more toward leaving Astana. I’ve seen a lot of things in the last few months and nothing would surprise me.

In any case, will he sign with Astana for one year, or for more, as has also been speculated?

It would only be for one year, as it has always been. Note that this is a new project and we don’t know how it’s going to work out. Signing for additional years would be like rushing into it blind.

When will you make a final decision?

Tomorrow Alberto gets back and in the afternoon or on Friday we’ll inform him of the situation and we’ll figure out what we’re going to do. In a few days, a decision will be reached and it will become public.

There’s the feeling that Quick Step is the team most persistent and interested getting Alberto.

Quick Step has shown a great deal of interest, but the rest of the teams (Garmin and Caisse d’Epargne) have shown just as much. They’ve all bent over backward and they’re still willing to. Until the Astana issue is secure, Contador remains an option for them and they’re paying close attention to the situation. They’re great teams with very good staffs and we’re very flattered.

At least, you can make use of it in choosing a team for 2011.

During 2010 we’ll see what’s best for Alberto. We’ll decide with great cool-headedness what’s best, like we have so far, what framework can be best adapted to his interests. It’s going to be a mutual decision made among our advisors, Alberto and me, we’ll evaluate the pros and cons, by all means always giving priority to the aspect of what works best on the level of competitive sport.

There are a lot of reports, like that Astana has offered Alberto eight million euros a year for a four-year contract…

It’s unbelievable. This weekend I was in Florence, enjoying a few days of relaxation with my wife. So it’s impossible that I’ve had a meeting with anybody as they’ve said, and it’s also a lie about the figure and the years. It has nothing to do with reality. I don’t understand what the point of leaking that news was.

I’ve been surprised at how things have echoed through the media—the press is very important. That news has no foundation. It has made powerful headlines. I don’t understand it, because it was a hoax. It’s as if they’re saying now that Alberto Contador is going to sign with Contentpolis-AMPO.


November 11 - David de la Fuente says that if Contador stays, it will be a luxury to ride with the best cyclist in the world

eldiariomontanes.es/October 31, 2009 - David de la Fuente is waiting expectantly, like almost all cycling fans, to see what decision Alberto Contador makes next week. Contador will decide whether or not he will stay with Astana in 2010, even though he has already hinted that it’s likely that the Kazakhs are counting on the best cyclist around for one more year.

David de la Fuente This decision will affect, no doubt, the future of David de la Fuente, who has committed to the squad from Kazakhstan for next season. Leaving his lifelong team, Fuji (formerly Saunier and Scott), in order to try his luck on the team led by the double champion of the Tour de France has not given David a case of vertigo.

What do you feel after signing with Astana for 2010?

At the moment, nothing, now I just want for them to renew Astana’s ProTour license and for Alberto to remain on the team. I think that everything will be decided next week.

How do you imagine it will be to ride with the best rider in the world?

The opportunity to ride with him doesn’t appear every day. It was stupid to waste this chance. If Alberto stays with Astana, it’s going to be a luxury for me to be with the best in the world. Plus I think that the style of riding will be different.

What personal challenges are you considering for next season?

My goal would be to win some small tour and take advantage of each opportunity that my team might give me. But before anything else, I intend to help Alberto in every way I can, and if winning the Tour another time is possible, well, that’s even better.

What’s your opinion of Matxin’s statements in which he said he was bothered by finding out about your signing through the press?

I don’t have anything bad to say about Matxin. On the contrary. I give him many thanks, because he gave me the opportunity to become a professonal. But, too, I know that there comes a moment in life when you have to make a change and you have to try other things. And that’s what I’m going to do.

I hope that even though you’re changing colors you’ll remain the combative De la Fuente that all the fans enjoy so much.

So do I, although ultimately I’m learning to control myself a little. I’ve realized that, yes, I’m very combative and that people like that, but I also want results and for that I’ll have to change the way I ride a little.

You just got back from Japan and riding your last race. Are you going to rest now?

Yes. Now I’m going to rest during the month of November, although I’ll keeping riding the mountain bike. In December I’ll already be starting to get more serious, although it all depends on what my team tells me about when we’re having the first team training camp and when they tell me that I’ve got to begin the season.

You to Astana and Juanjo Cobo to Caisse d’Epargne. What will it be like to be to rivals after so many years as roommates?

Well, it’s a shame, but this is a professional matter, our relationship as friends isn’t going to change. (Susana Echevarría/eldiariomontanes.es)

David de la Fuente (b. May 4, 1981) is a professional cyclist from the Spanish region of Cantabria. He started riding at the age of seven when the Three Kings brought him a bicycle.

He became a professional in 2003, moving up from the amateur ranks within the Saunier Duval organization. His entire professional career has been spent with various incarnations of that team: Saunier Duval, Scott, and Fugi. He signed with the Astana Cycling Team in October of 2009.

De la Fuente is a climbing specialist. He has already proven his talent: in 2006 he wore the polka-dot jersey for several stages at the Tour de France, where he finished 2nd overall in the KOM classification and was named Most Combative Rider. He wore the Tour's KOM jersey again in 2008. His victories include a stage at the 2008 Deutschland Tour and, most recently, the G.P. Induráin.


Photo: David de la Fuente wins at Deutschland Tour 2008 (De la Fuente official website)


November 6 - Contador won't consider a future at Astana without zero-tolerance doping policy

He has an agreement, but wants to sign a document that allows him to leave the team if there’s a positive

nortecastilla.es (updated 11/06/09, 7:50 CDT)- The dilemma of Alberto Contador’s future revolves around the epicenter of any cycling conversation of the last ten years. Doping, the scourge, the public image, the murky waters of a marvelous sport…

Pre-Tour '09 The doubts of the Tour winner don’t reside in the sport-related side of Astana that will protect him, in the fiscal solvency of a team that has fallen behind in payments this season, or in his annual salary.

Contador doesn’t want kerfuffles with the “police.” And he is trying to establish a contractual regulation that doesn’t have many precedents in cycling’s labor market and which is summarized in an epigraph: “If there’s a positive, I leave.”

Contador has demanded guarantees that Astana will be clean if he has to stay, almost forced for the remaining year of his contract, on the team that had two positives for blood transfusion in the 2007 Tour, Vinokourov and Kashechkin, and which cost him participation in 2008. The Kazakh Vinokourov, the driving force of Astana, wants to ride the Giro and not the Tour. And Contador, wary, wants that commitment in writing.

His lawyers, Bardaji and Honrado, are negotiating with an intermediary from Astana, Nikolai Proskurin, a person with whom Alberto Contador and his brother Fran have achieved some degree of understanding after months without knowing whom to call because the government of Kazakhstan had not appointed a director for the squad. The advisors are trying to achieve a type of contract according to which Astana "not create a stir over doping."

A complex matter
The matter is complex because Contador has made concrete demands. He doesn’t want his current squad to be involved in any commotion over doping.

The Spaniard aspires to having all relevant details on this topic endorsed in an official document. He has called for an internal medical control system in order to avoid surprises. It is his intention that all the riders follow the same line and row in the same direction.

He would like to reach, ultimately, the same level of effectiveness that was demonstrated during the Lance Armstrong years with US Postal, Discovery and most recently, Astana. The intricacies of medicine related to cycling that some are in control of and others not.

In the financial area, Contador doesn’t have any problem with the Kazakhs. He has reached an agreement in order to receive his market price. Astana will pay him four million, the same figure offered by Garmin or Quick Step and what he wants to arrive at with Caisse d’Epargne.

Nikolai Proskurin has guaranteed support from cyclists that Contador approves of to meet the challenge of his third Tour, the signings of Tiralongo, David de la Fuente, Grivko and the retention of Muravyev, Noval, Zubeldia and Dani Navarro.

Photo: Cesar Rangel (La Vanguardia)


November 4 - Alberto at posh beach party criterium

Alberto Contador is already on the Netherlands Antilles island of Curaçao, where he’ll spend the next ten days. During his stay, Alberto, along with Jesús Hernández, will ride the Amstel Curaçao Race (November 7), the annual criterium that attracts the biggest international stars of the season.

2009 Amstel Bright Alberto won the 2007 edition of this race three months after his first Tour de France win. Other big names joining him this year include 2008 winner Andy Schleck and his brother Frank, Mark Cavendish, Thor Hushovd and Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Customary features at Amstel Curaçao are the amateur riders who form a mixed peloton with the pros, and the much-photographed luxury beach party during the days surrounding the event.

For an informative fan preview in a fun format, go to the Podium Cafe.
Coverage of the race and the social scene at the DAILY PELOTON

Amstel Curaçao Race OFFICIAL WEBSITE


October 31 - The Kazakh team accepts the conditions of Contador, ready to fulfill his contract

2009 Ictus Prize

Contador at the 2009 Ictus Prize awards (Dani Cardona/Reuters)

“It looks very easy to people,” said Alberto Contador. “The news goes out saying that I’m free to leave Astana and everybody believes it, but then questions to the UCI and you’re hit with reality.”

Carlos Arribas/El País/October 30, 2009 - He was hit with reality by telephone, since his brother and manager, Fran Contador, cancelled a trip to Switzerland at the last moment, where, accompanied by his lawyers of the firm Bardají and Honrado, he had planned to meet directly with the leaders of the UCI in order to receive clarification on the actual possibilities of legally breaking, without cost or complications, the contract that binds him to Astana until December of 2010.

The reality is that Philippe Verbiest, legal advisor to the UCI, has told Contador’s lawyers by telephone that despite Astana not having received a license on October 20, the application of the article introduced last July to the rules of the UCI which frees riders to change teams in the event that they don’t have licenses is not automatically applicable, therefore there are doubts about whether it is retroactive. In summary, they informed them, the matter could take some months and could likely end up in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

“And so we could wind up in the middle of December without knowing what team I’ll ride for in 2010, and I don’t want that,” said Contador, who counts offers from three teams—Caisse d’Eparge, Garmin and Quick Step—ready to pay him up to four million euros per year in the event he breaks with Astana.

“I want to settle it all as soon as possible, I don’t want to get worked up any more, so I’ll probably take next year as a year of transition in Astana, and after that we’ll see.”

Contador still holds on to the idea of creating his own team, to his own specifications, as of 2011, as Lance Armstrong did at Discovery Channel in 2005, although he’s also happy to listen to the possibility of a Spanish team getting a big Spanish sponsor in order to rescue completely the best cyclist in the world for Spanish cycling.

If he stays at Astana, Contador will renegotiate the conditions of his contract with the Kazakh directors, led by the new strongman Nikolai Proskurin. In previous conversations, anyway, he has already given them his conditions and has obtained their commitment. All of them, apart from the obvious necessity of major sport-related reinforcements to comprise a team guaranteed capable of the Tour, refer to matters related to the fight against doping.

Contador does not want what happened in 2006 to happen again, when the Tour threw out his team, Liberty, due to Operacion Puerto, or in 2008, when Vinokourov’s positive from 2007 caused Contador’s team, Astana, to be banned from participating.

Indeed, 2010 brings with it the return of Vinokourov, who has finished his period of sanction, and brings the fear to Contador, who wants the team to organize an internal anti-doping system—promise received—and who wishes to add to his contract a series of clauses by which he will be freed in the event a positive is produced in his team or in case of a scandal or some other circumstance, like administrative problems, that would deprive them of an invitation to the Tour.

If there’s one thing Contador wants to have sewn up, it’s that he will be in Rotterdam, wearing bib number 1, on July 3, 2010. It might be on the team that he’s on.


October 30 - Contador speaks to press at Ictus Prize awards after Kazakhstan re-asserts its claim

The double winner of the Tour de France, Alberto Contador, repeated today during the awards ceremony for the Spanish Neurological Society’s Ictus Prize that the sporting plan will be his main priority when deciding which team he will ride for next season. Contador admitted that he is considering offers from Caisse d’Epargne, Garmin and Quick Step, although he has not discarded the option of fulfilling the remaining year on his contract with Astana in 2010.

His remarks came after being recognized as winner of the social category of the 2009 Ictus Prize, an award dedicated to brain illnesses. Contador, who suffered a near-fatal collapse due to cerebral cavernoma in May of 2004, said today that his future as a professional “is being decided,” and that “between now and next week many doubts will be resolved.”

“I’m studying all the possibilities now. In the media they say that it’s very simple to terminate my contract, but in reality it’s not like that. I’m evaluating the possiblity of the Astana team, with whom I have a year of contract, and others who have been making strong bids for me for a long time, like Garmin, Quick Step and Caisse d’Epargne. I’d like to give the answer, but I still don’t know,” he said.

However, he stressed that what he’s thinking about is “the sporting plan. Priority? I need a plan today that will work for the Tour de France—which is the race that I’m most concerned about—and in which the whole team throws itself behind me one hundred percent. It’s not easy to choose and even less so considering these dates. What I want is to clarify everything soon in order to start working with the team and to have a little peace of mind,” he said.

In this sense, the winner of the 2008 Vuelta a España and Giro said that his lawyers are still studying the contract with Astana to determine if there could be grounds to terminate it, since as of October 20 the Kazakh team was still not on the ProTour list for next season.

“My advisors are still looking at it. The procedure can really drag out, more than a month, and I can’t wind up in the middle of December without knowing my future. Astana is an option which is taking shape, with new directors who are serious,” said Contador, who considers that at this date it’s “not feasible” to put together a new team sponsored by F1 driver Fernando Alonso.

About recent statements made by his director Johan Bruyneel to the magazine Humo, such as that Contador happened to be the best-paid rider in the world “and that it’s difficult to keep his feet on the ground,” Contador sidestepped controversy: “They’re statements that I don’t take too seriously. The 2009 season is behind us. I’m thinking about 2010 and the Tour de France. That’s not something that I want to talk about.” he said. (Europa Press)


October 29 - Spanish Neurological Society honors Alberto

2009 Ictus Prize Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador was given the 2009 Ictus Prize by the Spanish Neurological Society on Thursday morning, October 29, in Madrid. Prizes in social and institutional categories were presented by the Society’s sub-group, the Group for the Study of Cerebrovascular Disease.

Cerebrovascular ictus refers to a suddenly-occuring stroke or seizure related to the blood vessels supplying the brain. Contador experienced ictus on May 12, 2004 when he collapsed due to a congenital brain condition at the Vuelta a Asturias.

Alberto received the social category prize in recognition of his “strength and eagerness to prevail,” said the Spanish Neurological Society in a press release.

Ictus is a leading cause of mortality in industrialized countries. According to the World Health Organization, winner of this year’s Prince of Asturias Prize, it is second only to heart disease in cause of death among citizens in Spain, France, the USA and many other nations.


October 25 - Tour champion received award today in Paris

Three in a row

Alberto in 2008, with his second Velo d'Or (VeloMagazine)

Alberto Contador capped off a weekend of criterium appearances in Spain by taking a jet to Paris to collect his third consecutive Velo D'Or prize this evening in a live-televised program.

The Velo d’Or is one of the sport’s most prestigious awards—cycling’s version of the Oscars—and is given annually by French publication Velo Magazine to the best rider of the year, as chosen by a large panel of international journalists. Contador flew to Paris at 2:00 this afternoon to attend the award ceremony at the studios of French Television.

Winning this coveted award, in addition to his top position in the final UCI ProTour World Ranking, has confirmed Alberto Contador as the best rider of the 2009 season.

After coming second overall in the I Criterium "City of Oviedo", Alberto rode Sunday morning in the Alcobendas Criterium before traveling to Paris.

Saturday's criterium in Oviedo was billed as The World's Best Peloton in Your City, a bold claim that was realized when the roster assembled in Uría street.

The overall prize in the Oviedo criterium went to Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez, with Contador (two Tours, Triple Crown, Spanish national time trial Championship) second, and competition provided by a group including Alejandro Valverde (Vuelta 2009, former Spanish champion), Carlos Sastre (Tour 2008), Ruben Plaza (Spanish champion) and other elite riders.

Of the three events of the day, Contador won the elimination contest, Valverde won the points contest. Sánchez earned first overall by placing second in each. A team time trial featured teams of three riders: Astana - with Contador, Jesús Hernández, and Chechu Rubiera - won by a hair over Caisse d'Epargne, followed by Euskaltel and a mixed team of riders that included Sastre.

The criterium was a tribute to Sánchez in his hometown, which is also home to F1 superstar Fernando Alonso. It rained all day.

Earlier today, Alejandro Valverde, reigning champion of the Vuelta a España, edged out Alberto Contador in the Alcobendas Criterium (Madrid). Valverde sealed the overall victory with his win in the points contest. Contador finished second overall with wins in the elimination contest and the team time trial.

Contador and Valverde were the two featured stars in the morning event, where a number of other big names also shone, including Paco Mancebo, Ezequiel Mosquera, Josep Jufré, Rubén Plaza and José Antonio Gómez Marchante.

After completing the trophy ceremony at the criterium, Contador promptly stepped down from the podium and into a car bound for Barajas airport, where he caught a plane to Paris and the 2009 Velo d’Or prize gala.


October 23 - Contador awaits lawyers' opinion before deciding future

“Our lawyers are studying all the details of the UCI regulations in order to make the right decision in the upcoming days,” says Fran Contador, the brother and manager of Alberto Contador, in reference to the apparent possibility of being able to break off the contract that ties the rider to the Astana team until 2011.

"The lawyers should clarify whether it’s possible to implement the new article introduced last July in the model contract proposed by the UCI for riders signing with a UCI ProTour team. According to experts, the interpretation of the law can be confusing and we want to be sure before making any decisions," Fran Contador confirmed.

Meanwhile, Alberto Contador is calmly continuing with his program and went out to train at mid-morning today, preparing for two criteriums this weekend, in Oviedo on Saturday, October 24 and in Alcobendas on Sunday, October 25.

“After all these months of waiting, I’m very calm about the latest news. My lawyers are the ones who have to dictate whether it’s possible to break my contract or not. I hope to know their opinion as soon as possible, as well as that of the experts at the UCI, in order to make a decision. Meanwhile, I’m continuing to work as I have so far, focusing exclusively on my preparation as an athlete. My brother’s the one who’s in charge of these other issues.”

Finally, Alberto Contador clarified that he does not want to advance an opinion. “Until I know the experts’ opinion, I’m not going to make any judgment about what I consider best for my future. For the moment I’ve got an existing contract with Team Astana,” he concluded. (AC press room)


October 23 - Astana's paperwork does not satisfy UCI by deadline

Alberto Contador now has the power to terminate his contract with the Astana Cycling Team.

Castilla y León 2008 The team has failed to meet all requirements set by the UCI by the October 20 deadline. Therefore, thanks to article in the UCI regulations, it is now possible for Contador to break contract unilaterally without paying compensation and without notice, should he choose to do so.

Alberto’s agent and brother, Fran Contador, stated that he will study the case with his lawyers. “If this clause exists, we must look at the options that it offers,” he told Spanish sports journal as.com.

Before learning of this vein of the issue, reports the Spanish paper, Fran Contador contemplated approaching Astana: “Soon we’re going to have a meeting with the Kazakh directors so that they can tell us what their project will be for next year. Then, we’ll decide what’s best for Alberto.”

Astana doesn’t appear on the first list of thirteen ProTour teams issued by the UCI yesterday. Owing to a bureaucratic problem, the team has currently not met “the necessary administrative and financial criteria.”

Caisse d’Epargne, Euskaltel, Saxo Bank and the new British team Sky are in the same position, and the UCI has given these five teams an extension until November 20 to complete documentation. Yvon Sanquer, the new manager of Astana, was at UCI headquarters yesterday and left happy: “The UCI has guaranteed me that we will be ProTour.”

The thirteen teams that have qualified to date for ProTour licenses for 2010 are Footon-Servetto (formerly Fuji), Ag2r, Garmin, Française des Jeux, Lampre, Liquigas, Quick Step, Rabobank, Omega Pharma-Lotto (formerly Silence-Lotto), Columbia-HTC, Katusha, Milram and RadioShack.

Read more about the UCI regulation in question.

Photo: Contador brought glory to the Astana banner at the Vuelta a Castilla y León 2008 (Eurosport)


October 21 - Tour champ rejoices over UCI World Ranking, awaits ruling on team's future


The UCI champion on holiday in Mexico (José Dominguez/AFP/Getty Images)

Alberto Contador is celebrating the official confirmation of his top position in the UCI World Ranking for the 2009 season today in Mexico. “For me, it was a great joy to win this trophy for the first time in my career,” said Contador, who is enjoying a few days’ holiday in Cancún after winning the inaugural edition of the criterium GP Cancún on Sunday.

Contador led the classification for individual riders, followed by two other Spaniards: Alejandro Valverde and Samuel Sánchez. This represents the first time in history that Spanish riders have swept the top three places in the UCI contest. In addition, Alberto becomes only the third Spaniard to have won first place in the UCI World Ranking, joining the likes of Valverde (2006, 2008) and Miguel Induráin (1992, 1993).

Contador assigned special value to this victory, which sets the standard for cyclists globally. “I’m very, very happy, because it’s an extremely important thing for a cyclist. I’ve been close in other years and finally I’ve succeeded. For me, it’s a sort of culmination of my career.”

Alberto returns to Madrid tomorrow, hoping to resolve remaining uncertainties about his future as soon as possible. “The first thing to know is what the UCI rules about Astana and, in the event that they keep the ProTour license, we’ll have to sit down and renegotiate my contract. But even in that case, not everything will be decided yet.”

After a week’s stay in the Caribbean, Contador says he’s spent a “wonderful holiday, that’s given me a chance to unwind and rest so I can go back to Spain fresh, because on Saturday and Sunday there are two criteriums waiting for me, in Oviedo and Alcobendas,” he concluded.


October 20 - Kazakh lawmakers pass timely budget to fund Astana

Victory lap

Contador won the Tour de France for Astana in 2009 (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Kazakhstan’s parliament approved yesterday a budget for continued financing of Astana, the team of Tour de France 2009 winner Alberto Contador, reports Spanish sports journal as.com.

The move has come just in time for the team to submit all the paperwork to the UCI by today's deadline in order that their ProTour license be renewed. Economic issues were the main problem and it already seems to be arranged.

It’s not the solution that Contador liked best. He had preferred to gain the liberty to move to another team (he has offers from Caisse d’Epargne, Garmin and Quick Step), but if Astana has a ProTour license, he will have to fulfill the remaining year on his contract.

In any case, Contador took advantage of the Tour presentation to have an aside with the director of the race, Christian Prudhomme, who guaranteed Contador that he would dispute the Tour whatever his team might be.

If he remains with Astana, as current conditions indicate, his problem will be to count on a solid team to defend him in the Tour.


October 19 - Contador and team top UCI for 2009

The Astana Cycling Team, as managed by Johan Bruyneel and recently vacated by both Bruyneel and Lance Armstrong in favor of another project, announces today that the team has achieved the UCI’s Best Team ranking for 2009.

The team’s distinction in this category is due to their principal rider Alberto Contador, who won the Tour de France this year. Alberto Contador has also won the UCI’s Best Rider.

Without points earned by Contador, Astana would have ranked 13th with 573 points, between Euskaltel (631) and Lampre (465).

Contador's nation, Spain, won over other nations by a landslide: Spain - 1,756, Italy - 984, Australia - 960. In fact, the top three riders in the individual category are Spaniards: Contador, Alejandro Valverde, and Samuel Sanchez.

Contador, 26, adds the honor to a palmarés that includes two triumphs in the Tour de France (2009, 2007), Spanish National Time Trial Championship 2009, Giro d’Italia 2008, Vuelta a España 2008, overall wins in seven other tours and 26 career stage wins since turning professional.

Ironically, in spite of the praise Contador has brought to his team today, he faces uncertainties about the future due to a shift in priorities within the Astana organization in 2009.


October 18 - Cancún "seems like paradise"

Cancún 09 Tour de France 2009 winner Alberto Contador won the inaugural edition of the Cycling Criterium Cancún Vive México yesterday in the luxury resort town of Cancún, where he prevailed over a peloton of European stars and ambitious Mexican riders.

Alberto won the road race after escaping on the last curve of a route made up of 14 laps of a 3-kilometer urban circuit.

That win plus another in the mixed time trial—a test for teams of one professional per several young Mexicans—was enough to get him the overall victory.

Alejandro Valverde, the reigning Vuelta champion, earned second overall after a top performance in the individual time trial.

Contador arrived in Cancún with his brother/manager Fran and chief gregario Benjamin Noval at midnight Thursday after a 13-hour journey. The trip came hot on the heels of Wednesday's appearance in Paris at the Tour de France 2010 route presentation.

The visit to the posh watering hole on the Caribbean coast has been a chance to mix business with pleasure. At a time when concerns over the future of his team weigh heavy, Contador, radiant and carrying two or three kilos above his weight at top form, told MARCA, "Do I look worried?"

"The headaches I leave to my brother, the one who takes care of things," he said.

In spite of a criterium made tough by Cancún's heat and humidity, as well as competition from riders like Valverde, Oscar Freire, Ruben Plaza, Roman Kreuziger and Ezekiel Mosquera, Alberto has taken the opportunity to enjoy his few days in Mexico. “This seems like paradise,” he said. “I’d like to go out for a day of fishing. They've told me that in this area you can fish for tuna.”

Three more weekend criteriums (Asturias, October 24; Alcobendas, October 25; Amstel Curaçao Race, November 7) separate Alberto from a month-long holiday off the bike, during which he will devote some time to hunting when his schedule of post-Tour commitments allows it.

Photo: Alberto in Cancún yesterday with Valverde and Freire (Diario de Yucatan - yucatan.com.mx)


October 15 - Contador happy with Tour 2010 route

“I like the route,” said Alberto Contador after today’s public presentation of the 2010 Tour de France parcours. Contador described the race, in which the Tourmalet marks the most difficult point, as “more for climbers than for time-trialists.”

Alberto said that the next edition “will be harder than the 2009 Tour and therefore it will be better for me, but of course, you never know. Just when you think something’s one way, it can turn out to be the opposite.”

For the double winner of the Tour, the 2010 edition “will be a very difficult race to control during the first week, where the pavé of Paris-Roubaix won’t be especially good for me, although I’m not too worried about it. The important things will be not to fall and to hope that it doesn’t rain.”

About the mountain stages, he commented that the Alps “will be easier, while the hardest part will be saved for the Pyrenees, especially considering the double pass of the Tourmalet, including one day when it will be the finish line. “We’ll have to go and see them in person in order to get to know them better.”

Finally, Alberto Contador said the only thing he could ask for in the route would be “about 10 kilometers less in the last time trial, and in exchange, it wouldn’t be bad to have a second crono of 20 or 30 kilometers,” he concluded. (AC press room)


October 15 - Alberto's latest interview with L'Equipe's Manuel Martinez

L'Equipe, October 14, 2009

Alberto Contador regrets not knowing anything about his future but is not afraid of Armstrong or the Schleck brothers

Invited by Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), Alberto Contador and his brother Fran arrived very early yesterday morning from Madrid, 24 hours before the Tour 2010 presentation, which is taking place this morning in the Paris Palais des Congrès. The Tour 2009 winner then went round to the Senate (Palais du Luxembourg) where he had a lunch date with the senators, before granting us a relaxed interview in the Concorde Lafayette hotel lounge.

Two-and-a-half months after your Tour victory, your future is still not settled. Does this situation exasperate you?

I’ve learned not to lose my temper anymore. In spite of a situation which seems to be stuck in a rut and never moving in the right direction, I’m trying to handle that calmly. Having to rush all over the place recently to meet several obligations has kept me from having to think about the problem all the time. But obviously, we’re now arriving at a point in the season where I’d really like my situation to be settled. It doesn’t matter if it’s with Astana or with another team, but that should be clarified as soon as possible.

For the winner of the three big tours and of the last Tour de France not to know what his future holds is rather unusual, isn’t it?

The whole season has been unusual. Armstrong’s comeback this year upset lot of things on the team. Everything became very difficult to manage, whereas it could’ve been handled in a much simpler way. Then, there’ve been the departures of Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel to another team for next season. There again, that created waves which are still rocking the boat inside Astana today. In spite of this huge commotion, I’ve always managed to stay focused.

You’ve clearly shown your wish to leave Astana, whereas there is still one year of your contract to ride. Is that still what you want?

The problem is that I’m waiting for a serious plan from the people behind Astana. But we still don’t know, or no longer know, who’ll run the team next season or even if its future in cycling is in question or not. If tomorrow everything is settled, and I’m presented with a serious plan with a team capable of supporting me for the Tour, I’ll have no problem in honoring my remaining year of contract. But I’ll also have to analyze all the possibilities.

Have you contacted the Kazakhs to tell them your needs for who you want as teammates, or suggested a manager capable of running the team?

No, quite simply because the whole future of the team is not clear. Under these conditions, how can I go forward and express my requirements? Today, if I believe what I hear, even Johan Bruyneel is not certain that he can leave the team. It’s up to the Kazakhs to appoint a manager, a real one, and on a permanent basis, so that we can quickly get down to business. But they should stop putting forward a name one day, and then another name the next day. In the end, it’s not serious.

It is supposed that you have had contacts with Caisse d’Epargne, Garmin, or even Quick Step. Were these different approaches really serious?

I think that in each case there was a real desire on the part of the teams which contacted me. All the angles have been carefully examined. But there’s this one year of contract which still ties me to Astana, and I realized that there was no point in trying to force the issue. I don’t think I’d have won if there had been a fight.

Other riders still under contract with Astana nevertheless seem to have been allowed to leave.

It’s true for some of them, but there are others for whom nothing is finalized yet, in spite of what’s been written. In my case, I’ve been told that my departure was not negotiable once Astana had decided to carry on next year. And after all, it has to be said that the ones who’re leaving are not really indispensable for the team.

One thing is sure today: Armstrong will no longer be at your side. Are you relieved?

It suits me fine. Not being on the same team as Lance next year removes a thorn from my side. Now he’ll have a team totally committed to his cause. In all honesty, I could not see myself re-living another season like the one I have just experienced again, and above, all ride another Tour de France under the same conditions.

But he already has a team today, even if some things still remain to be settled, whereas you are still in the dark. Aren’t you starting with a real handicap?

I’d be lying if I said that the current situation concerning a competitive team for the next Tour doesn’t bother me. You can’t win the Tour on your own. There are always moments when you need your teammates to support you. That’s precisely the plan that Astana is still unable to establish for 2010 and which remains my biggest worry today.

Nothing was easy for you in 2009...

The whole season was complicated. The Tour was a daily hassle, but not on the road. And right now nothing is clear concerning the future of Astana. So, you’re right, lots of things have bothered me and are still bothering me.

Do you think that Armstrong will be your main rival for the next Tour?

He’ll certainly be there with the aim of winning, just as he came this year with that objective. But Andy Schleck is much more on my mind than Armstrong. Lance will nevertheless be in the group of favourites. I respect everybody but I’m afraid of no one.

You’ve certainly heard some things about the Tour 2010 circuit. One hears of tough stages in the Pyrenees, cobblestone sections, or a long ITT on the penultimate day. What do you think of that?

I’ve also heard that the departure will be from Rotterdam (laughs). Yes, I’ve also heard of an arrival on top of the Tourmalet, then of another stage with the Tourmalet again, and other high summits. As long as there are mountains, I’m in my element. I’ve heard of a 50-kilometer ITT near Bordeaux. It’s maybe 10 kilometers too much for me, but we’ll adapt. As for the cobblestones, it’s true that it’s not my cup of tea. For sure, it will be spectacular, but the important thing will be to stay focused that day and not to fall.

Do you think you will get the Velo d’Or (Golden Bike award) from Velo Magazine this year?

I hope so. It’s an award that I really appreciate and I’m proud of having won it last year. But everything depends on the votes, and there are riders like Cavendish, Cancellara or Evans who also had a great year.

Translated by Christine Kahane


October 12 - Contador's comments at Cycle Show

Victory lap

Alberto Contador signs victory at Tour 2009 (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Alberto Contador took the mike for an interview at the London Cycle Show last Friday, filling in for ailing speaker David Brailsford, manager of Britain's new Team Sky.

He spoke to the crowd in English and in Spanish through an interpreter, saying, among other things, that of all his rivals at next year's Tour, Lance Armstrong won't be in the top tier of threats.

The following is an excerpt from Owen Slot's story for the TIMES ONLINE.

Alberto Contador saddled with much to think about

Lance Armstrong versus Alberto Contador has been one of the great dogfights of the year. It was a warfare that was fascinatingly psychological, a Tour de France epic that has every chance of delivering a sequel to match next summer.

And although they may now be continents apart, there is no sign of an outbreak of peloton peace; even over the course of an interview in London, Contador has not downed tools.

First of all, the Spaniard does speak English. Not good English but satisfactory. Half of what he says here is his own English, the other half is his interpreter’s, to whom he only sometimes deferred. But this is not the Contador who, en route to his second Tour de France victory in July, would meekly use the language barrier as another form of self-defence.

Throughout July, Contador presented himself as something of an innocent caught up unwillingly in a spat for which he had no verbal appetite. Armstrong, his American team-mate and arch rival, would play politics and, daily, spin a self-serving narrative through the media. And Contador would not engage, choosing to fight only in the saddle.

On the road, he had the heart of a warrior and you wondered: off it, surely, he cannot be as passive as he makes out. At last, when it was all done, he let fly a quote that probably said more about himself than it did about Armstrong: “I have never admired Armstrong and never will.”

Here in London last Friday, he topped that up by giving his views on Armstrong’s chances of taking the yellow jersey back from him next year. He was here for the Cycle Show, where he was making an appearance for his sponsor, Science in Sport, but in an interview with The Times, he said that the seven-times champion is no longer his main danger and in fact does not even come second.

Armstrong has said that he will come back better and stronger next year, when he will be 38, but Contador said that, “Though he has loads of experience, he is not now the No 1 challenger. No, I think the main threat will be Andy Schleck. I think Lance is on the same level as other riders of the same calibre: Bradley Wiggins, Frank Schleck and Levi Leipheimer.”

He made his point by explaining why, if anyone was going to be coming back stronger and faster next year, it will be himself. Given his dominance this year, that is a daunting prospect, albeit a logical one. “I think it is possible to improve because I am 26 years old and normally the peak years for a rider are 28 or 29,” he said. “I am sure I can be stronger.”

He was very specific about which areas of his race he can improve. One of his more awesome achievements on this year’s Tour was his imperious victory in the time-trial around Lake Annecy, yet he said that he expects that aspect to get better. “And I think I can go faster in the mountains for longer,” he said. “As I get older, I should be able to maintain attacks for longer.”

Again, although these observations may be rooted in common sense, it takes a certain self-assurance to voice them, just as it does to add that actually his main concern is not Andy Schleck, and it is certainly not Armstrong either. “No,” he said, “my biggest danger and my main worry is my own form.”

But while Contador is confident, he does not come over as arrogant; here he is explaining how and why he may be soon be beating the rest of the world by even more, and how his biggest threat is no one but himself, yet he seems somehow modest.

He manages the same feat when discussing this year’s win, when he explains that, although he put the rest of the field to the sword, he could have destroyed them by more. His first significant move was on the Andorran climb to Arcalis, yet he acknowledges that it could have been more emphatic. “That day, I was feeling really, really good,” he said. “I went from 2km but could so easily have gone earlier.” Likewise on Mont Ventoux. “I could have attacked more,” he said. “I don’t know how much quicker I could have gone, but if I had been working with Andy Schleck, I could have done some more damage.”

Contador was, naturally, working for his team, Astana, albeit that he did not feel the team were always working for him.

“I did feel lonely,” he said. “I had good people around me, but not the number of people that I should have had.” The problem, of course, was that Armstrong and he had vaulting ambitions and both needed an entire team on their side rather than a fragmented one. And that day in Annecy, particularly, it seemed that Contador had not even a fragment.

“Working with Lance was a difficult and strange situation because there wasn’t good communication between us,” he said. “And the difficulty wasn’t just with him but it was a delicate situation for all the other riders and staff.”

In Annecy, the situation was that Contador discovered that the rest of his team had departed for the time-trial and left him behind, requiring a lift from his brother. Were his team not supporting him that day? “Well, that is possible but that wasn’t different to other moments,” he said.

The key for Contador is to find a team for next year that does work in his favour. In this respect, Armstrong has taken the lead by starting his own team, Team RadioShack, ripping out the best from Astana and bringing it in under his command.

Contador, again, is left exposed, the most valuable rider on the road and yet the least settled and, again, outmanoeuvred by the man who is now officially his rival. That the route for next year’s Tour is to be announced on Wednesday illustrates how time for Contador is running out. Sorting out his team, he acknowledges is key because possibilities for him are vast.

Armstrong was 27 when he won his first Tour de France, Contador is 26 and he has won two. He believes he can stay competitive until he is 33. At best, that gives him nine Tour wins, yet Contador has no desire to be defined by his rivalry with the American, or to go past Armstrong’s seven.

“My objective is to go year by year,” he said. “If I win three Tours, I’ll be happy; if I win four, I’ll be more happy. I don’t have an end goal.” What he has proved is that he has the potential for many. And that modestly, confidently, he will continue to collect them.


October 9 - Alberto draws a crowd at London Cycle Show

British journal Cycling Weekly today:

London Cycle Show 2009 Alberto Contador pulled in an enormous crowd of fans at Cycle Show 2009 at Earls Court, London, on Friday.

As soon as the announcement went out over the show PA that the 2009 Tour de France champion would be appearing as a guest on the Science in Sport stand, a large crowd quickly gathered.

After a five minute wait, the crowd parted and the slight figure of Contador channelled through followed by a gaggle of TV cameras. The Astana rider then happily sat meeting fans, signing autographs and chatting.

Contador was scheduled to then host a question and answer session in the main arena in the afternoon, taking the place of Team Sky's David Brailsford who was unable to attend due to illness.

Alberto will appear next Wedesday in Paris at the presentation of the route for Tour de France 2010. (Photo: cyclingweekly.co.uk)


October 7 - Contador will appear at Cycle 2009

British fans might like to know that Alberto Contador will make an appearance at the London Cycle Show this week. Britain's bicycle trade show will take place at the Earls Court exhibition center.

Alberto will meet the public at the stand of nutrition company Science in Sport (SiS) starting at 11:30 Friday morning, October 9.

"It's a great pleasure to be able to meet so many UK fans who support me, and also to thank Science in Sport, who are an integral part of my race preparation and performance," Contador said.


October 4, 2009

Alberto Contador is the anti-celebrity. He likes to slip by unnoticed, although he willingly attended to fans who recognized him outside his own world. The cyclist from Pinto, a good friend of Fernando Alonso and Dani Sordo, was at Port Aventura yesterday getting better acquainted with a specialty other than cycling, and we took the opportunity of speaking with him about his taste for auto racing, the signing of the Asturian driver with Ferrari, as well as his future at Astana.

On vacation?

Once the competition season is finished, you’re more relaxed, and that’s why I have no problem saying yes to enjoying a day at the rallies.

How does Fernando Alonso’s signing with Ferrari seem to you?

I’m really happy for him. We maintain a good relationship and I know that he wanted to change, and to do it with a team like Ferrari is a tremendous success. I hope that he’ll get the stability here that he needs and that they’ll give him a competitive car so that he can show his talent.

What does Ferrari mean to a car fan like you?

It’s the benchmark of Formula 1. When you think of F1, you quickly associate it with the image of Ferrari.

Does he have to be the best one on the team?

At least he has to try. Having the best man on the best team is a perfect combination for getting results and it’s possible to extrapolate that into all sports.

What do you think about Fernando having already been world champion three times?

Now, probably, it’ll be a little easier for him, but the fact of having signed with Scuderia Ferrari is not synonymous with winning since the competition is considerable, in terms of cars and drivers. He’ll have to work hard, fight for the top, but we hope that he has what he needs to get the championship again.

Do you have some frame of reference for Formula 1?

I remember Ayrton Senna, but I started to follow F1 with De la Rosa and I’ve gotten hooked because of Alonso, who’s been the one that has awaked a great interest and following all over Spain.

And curiously, Fernando is crazy about cycling.

He’s a great fan, of course, and whenever he can, he gets on a bike and trains, and it’s a very good for maintaining his form and taking care of himself, because being a driver also requires excellent physical condition.

What advice do you exchange?

More than advice, when we ask each other questions, we’re curious about the practice of one sport versus the other, like for example, aerodynamics, or the lightness or pressure of the tires. In the end, what each of us does is be interested in the sport that he doesn’t participate in.

What would you extrapolate from F1 to cycling?

We could “copy” a lot of things. The first would be aerodynamics—where F1 is more experienced—and maybe we could also learn something about friction.

And vice versa?

The topic of aerodynamics is seen to very well in the car but not in the driver, maybe because he’s built into the cockpit and it’s not possible improve anything in that area.

Would you like to drive an F1 single-seater?

I’d love it, although I don’t know if I'd be capable. I really like cars, karts…it would be a truly unforgettable experience.

Aside from friendship, might there be a professional relationship between you and Alonso in the future?

It’s a possibility that exists. He’s a cycling fanatic, we’ve got a good relationship and we will see what happens in the future, but he showed enough interest and intentions to move forward with a joint a project. It would be interesting because getting together with F1 would give cycling another dimension.

Fernando commented that for 2010 he thinks it's complicated because of your contractual situation with Astana, but that in 2011 it could all happen, that you deserved a team that could measure up…

It can all happen, certainly. The question is either that, or having to fulfill the year that’s left on my contract with Astana, or if I have to sign a contract of longer duration with another team. So we’ll see if it’s viable, but it is a door that’s open.

Coming up on October 14 is the presentation of the Tour, a race for which you’ll have the highest level of incentive in your duel with Lance Armstrong…

It’s makes sense that it’ll be like that, since in addition we’ll be in two different teams and it’ll help that the race will spark more interest.

Is your duel with the American, who’s 38, an uneven match?

There are a lot of circumstances in races, even more with different teams and a range of tactics. If that’s true then under normal circumstances I would have to be even better next year and I’m going to get ready for it, but I’m sure that he’ll prepare, too, in the best way possible. What I must not do is forget about him or lose respect for him, and prepare mysef as well as I can.

Who will your principal opponents be, aside from Armstrong?

This year, the guy I saw at the Tour who was a little above the others is Andy Schleck, who, together with his equally great team, will be my most direct rival, and at his age he’ll progress even more, but you can’t forget Lance, Evans, or my teammate Leipheimer.

Are your vacations tense because of uncertainties about your future?

Nope. I’ve got people at my side who are well-prepared and I’m quite calm. Furthermore, if things change in a little while, I’ve got a lot of options for the future.

(Interview by Josep Viaplana and Augustí Bernaus of Sport)


October 1 - updated - New kids' book about Contador debuts in Pinto

Querer es Poder

Alberto signing copies of Querer es Poder (Photo: AC press room)

Alberto Contador introduced a new children’s book based on his life yesterday at Isabel la Católica middle school in Pinto. The book, entitled Querer es Poder (Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way), was written by Jordi Sierra i Fabra, one of Spain’s most celebrated authors and a specialist in children’s literature.

Querer es Poder is the newest installment in a series published by SM and dedicated to lives of famous athletes. Iker Casillas and Severiano Ballesteros, among others, are also featured in the series, which can be found on sale in bookstores in Spain.

“The book is not a biography—that will come later,” said Contador, calling it a “collection of anecdotes” from his childhood and early days on the bike.

Querer es Poder “It’s a curious tale with stories about the difficulties I went through in the hospital and experiences I had when I was a child,” he said. "I hope that the book can serve to instill in the kids a desire to dream, and that the values of sport keep them on the right path.”

Alberto used to be a pupil at Isabel la Católica, and appeared yesterday before many of his former teachers. The principal, Nieves Blanco, delivered a few emotional words, and confessed that she is an enthusiastic follower of the winner of the 2009 Tour de France.

After the presentation, Contador personally signed copies for about 150 students, later posing for photographs surrounded by the children holding their new books.

Querer es Poder

Where's Alberto? (Photo: AC press room)

Best-selling author Jordi Sierra i Fabra (b. 1947) is the author of dozens of works for young readers, in addition to the new book about Alberto Contador. A native of Barcelona, Sierra i Fabra was a music critic and publisher in the field of rock and roll before devoting himself entirely to children's literature.

author Jordi Sierra i Fabra His first book, History of Pop Music 1962-1972 (1972), was followed by many other successful works about music, including the Dictionary of the Beatles, The Beatles Diary, and the 24-volume anthology Music of Our Time.

In the 1980's, Sierra i Fabra turned his focus to literature for young people. His The Young Lennon (1988), a best-seller for nearly a year, won the Libro de Oro prize, and in so doing opened the floodgates of national and international recognition. Since that time, both the works and the prizes achieved by this prolific writer seem almost too many to count.

In addition to writing, Sierra i Fabra promotes literacy by lecturing in schools in Spain and abroad, by distributing books in hospitals and by encouraging young writers via the Jordi Sierra i Fabra International Prize for Young People.

He is one of the most widely-read authors in Spain, where more than nine million copies of his works have been sold.

(Photo: Jordi Sierra i Fabra official website)


September 22 - Spanish Federation honors Alberto at La Granja

Last Thursday, Alberto Contador visited the Royal Crystal Factory in La Granja (Real Fábrica de Cristales de La Granja), where he was paid homage by the Royal Spanish Cycling Federation.

La Granja The visit was timed to coincide with the last mountain stage of the Vuelta a España, which arrived at the finish line in La Granja later that afternoon.

Contador is the only active cyclist and the only Spaniard ever to have won all three grand tours. In thanks for the honor his achievements have brought to his country, Federation president Juan Carlos Castaño awarded him an exclusive crystal trophy designed and made in the Royal Factory.

“Spanish cycling and this Federation have a debt to Alberto, and when we considered how we might settle it, we thought that it must be something very special,” explained Castaño.

“Recently we signed a deal with the Royal Crystal Factory, who have made the medals for the Vuelta a España for us. This is why we considered uniting the beauty of the pieces and the prestige of the factory’s work with the prestige of Contador, with an important gesture and a one-of-a-kind piece like this, which I have the honor of giving to him as the president of the Spanish Federation.”

Remembering his victories in the 2008 Vuelta, Alberto expressed his appreciation by saying, “Luckily I’ve already got some trophies from the Royal Crystal Factory. For that reason, I know how much this one means, and it will have a special place of honor in my living room at home, which is where I have the most important ones.”

The trophy cup is a piece of mouth-blown crystal created especially for Contador by the Factory’s master craftsmen. Cut onto the upper portion is a record of his greatest victories.

The Royal Crystal Factory of La Granja was founded in the 18th century and is synonymous with the finest glass and crystal works.

(Photo by as.com)


Honorary first kick brings on big win for Madrid


Contador's a Real Madrid fan (Real Madrid)

Alberto obliged with the honorary kickoff at the game between Real Madrid and Jerez on Sunday, September 20. He was greeted enthusiastically by a crowd of 80,000 who kept cheering as Madrid skunked Jerez 5-0.

Alberto's a follower of Madrid, and probably did his share of the cheering.

See the KICK in a video


He will also do live TV commentary at stage end

Spain’s Alberto Contador, reigning champion of the Vuelta a España, will pay a visit to the race this Friday, September 18.

Contador is the only active rider and the only Spaniard to have won all three grand tours. In La Granja de San Ildefonso, he will be honored in an act of homage and presented with a trophy commemorating his four grand tour victories.

The trophy will be awarded by the president of the Royal Spanish Cycling Federation at 14:00. After the ceremony, Contador, who will also be commentating live on Spanish TV during the stage finale, will be available for a press conference in the Vuelta a España press room at around 14:30 in Spain, or 7:30 am CDT in the USA. (AC press room)

Watch Vuelta Stage 19 and hear Alberto's COMMENTARY


Contador searches for the key to freedom

Backing the flag

Alberto Contador won the his second Tour on July 26, 2009, at the age of 26
(Dani Pozo/AFP/Getty Images)

Contador a prisoner

by Manuel Martinez, for L’Equipe
September 2, 2009

Despite his wish to leave, the two-time winner of the Tour is tied to Astana. Where he will have to honor the last year of his contract.

Officially, Alberto Contador is resting. He is taking a break after accumulating several criteriums following his Tour de France victory last July. The campaign has gone well and he will start again in Belgium September 6, at Bavikhove.

Following his second triumph on the Champs Elysées, Contador has made sporadic statements about his uneasy relationship with Lance Armstrong during the Tour.

Today, his approach is different. Under contract with team Astana until the end of the 2010 season, the Spanish rider has already voiced his desire for a change of scenery.

Of course, it is out of the question that he join the Texan at Radio Shack, but he is looking for a more serene future with a team built around him and corresponding to his stature. However, more than a month after his triumph, his future remains cloudy.

Contador is very ill at ease in this situation. Alexander Vinokourov’s return to the Kazakh team could have opened some interesting perspectives for the years to come. Obviously, Contador has been disappointed and feels himself trapped in a system where others, like Johan Bruyneel, have managed to get out of the trap.

Contador does not want to say any more for the moment. This contract has one more year to run and he will have to honor it, since the Kazakh conglomerate will not allow him to leave.

A stubborness which leaves the Contador clan somewhat bitter. Fran, the champion’s brother and manager who has tried to sort things out, does not want to say anymore than Alberto, because Contador has no other option but to stay one more year with Astana.

“That’s how it is” says Jacinto Vidarte, Contador’s press man. “Alberto has one year of his contract to honor. We don’t know how to get out of it. It is not the year that remains which bothers Alberto, but the way it’s being imposed. Other staff and riders were in the same situation as Alberto, but everyone has been allowed to leave. It’s not normal.

"Since the end of the Tour, nobody on the Kazakh side has produced a project. They are not serious.

"When you have somebody like Contador on your team, who can win the Tour, you don’t carry on like that. We know that Vinokourov will be on the team next year, but nothing more than that.

"Alberto does not ask for much, but nothing has been done to make him feel that he is being taken care of. He will do the season that he has to with Astana, but he won’t go any further.”

Yesterday, at the start of the fourth Vuelta stage, Vinokourov simply indicated that the Kazakhs authorities were going to draw up the main plans for the Astana team next week. They are going to announce that the team would be in the peloton until 2014.

Pat McQuaid, the UCI president, was in Kazakhstan yesterday on an official visit to attempt to find out Astana’s intentions for the future. Contador was not aware of this.

“We cannot carry on like this” says Vidarte. “You must not take Alberto for a fool. We are going to see what they will tell him in the coming days.”

Despite the proposals of Caisse d’Epargne, Garmin, Rabobank, Quick Step, Sky or Katusha, the contract signed with Astana leaves no real opening for Alberto Contador.

“I think he received propositions from all the Pro Tour teams except Radio Shack.” Says Vidarte. “The season is not over and if we can take advantage of the slightest loophole, we will. But right now we don’t have the key which can set him free” (translated by Kahane)


News, September 2 - updated September 3

Alberto Contador has announced that he will not ride the World Championships at Mendrisio.

The decision was taken after a conversation with the Spanish selector, José Luis de Santos. “I’ve spoken with José Luis de Santos and, after analyzing the season a little, especially the fact that I haven’t competed since the Tour de France, we’ve decided that the best thing to do is to give my place to another rider who surely will be in better condition thanks to doing the Vuelta a España.”

Contador said today that the selector “understood my situation completely. I’ve been winning races since the beginning of the season, and getting ready for the Worlds would require a big effort, not to mention that the guys who are riding the Vuelta will probably arrive in better shape.”

“It was complicated, since his season has been so long and intense, and of course, starting to prepare for the Worlds now would have been a tough thing to do. We’ll have opportunities in the future to count him in,” said De Santos, who confirmed that the decision was taken by mutual consent.

Contador added, “I know that the circuit at Mendrisio was a good opportunity for me because it’s quite hard, but I’ve had a very challenging year, and I’d rather give my place to another rider."

The double champion of the Tour, the Triple Crown winner and Spain's reigning time trial champion will only race a few criteriums between now and the beginning of the 2010 season.

De Santos has chosen to fill the gap left by Contador in the pre-selection with Héctor Guerra (Liberty) and former Spanish time trial champion José Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne), both of whom will concentrate on the time trial only.

The selector also wanted to thank Contador for his willingness “to be on the team, even in the road race.”

Alberto Contador traveled with his brother Fran to Germany today for an appearance at Eurobike. Eurobike, a trade show for the bicycle industry, takes place this year in the city of Friedrichshafen from September 2 – 5.
(AC press room, Europa Press)


News, August 31 - The Tour champion will see out his contract

Contador: “Setting up a team with Alonso is something that has to be done well in advance"

The Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador is resigned to staying connected to his current team, Astana, with whom he has an “existing contract,” one which prevents him, for the time being, from moving to another team, although he has “quite a few” offers. He also states that a team with Fernando Alonso will not emerge at this time, because it is something that must be done “a long time in advance.”

“If I hadn’t had an existing contract, I would not have stayed with Astana. Quite a few teams are interested in me, but I’ve got one more year of contract and we’ll see how it works out,” said Contador on Telemadrid’s “The Early Circle.”

In this sense, the Pinteño referred to rumors about a team created by Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso. “We’ve talked a lot with Fernando Alonso about this possibility, but it’s something that must be done a long time in advance. Next year, God will say,” he said with caution.

Contador recounted, concerning his rivalry with Armstrong over victory in the Tour, that he focused on “not entering into comment and not losing my cool and concentration,” and that there were people who were on his side who behaved “very well.”

“Other people, not so well,” he emphasized.

Understanding Armstrong
At any rate, the winner of the three grand tours understands the behavior of the Texan “completely.”

“I knew that he wasn’t just going for a walk, and I saw that in December when were we at training camp, but I was clear about things and I knew that my goal was the same as his, independently of what went out in the press,” he said.

The Spanish cyclist declared that no one “explicitly” communicated that he was the leader of Astana, which he could see in his team’s “conduct and in the manner of working.”

“Armstrong didn’t talk to me. That was a big problem, because when there’s tension between the team’s two main riders, then everybody else is also in an uncomfortable position. I tried not to make tension, but it was difficult,” he said.

In spite of everything, Contador underscored that being on the podium “next to Armstrong, but on top, was a prize.”

“It was a historic photo and I was happy that it happened.”

Time to rest
Looking at the near future, Contador has chosen “to rest” after a “very challenging” Tour, and not to defend his crown in the Vuelta a España, which began on Saturday. “Riding two grand tours makes for a lot of whiplash,” he stressed, assuring that he thinks that the passage of the Spanish tour through Holland and Belgium will go well, because “the public will turn out in droves and they know how to appreciate it.”

Contador doesn’t picture himself at the World Championships, either. “Probably not, it requires a lot of training for only two days,” he said.

Finally, in reference to doping rumors, the Madrileño stressed that he had “heard worse.”

“In this Tour, I went through 17 antidoping controls—we had a lot of controls. Every day you have to report your whereabouts to the hour, because they can show up at any moment to do a control. I’m not against any of it, because it’s all for winning credibility for the sport,” he said. (Europa Press)


September 1 - Why Contador was out of reach for Garmin

In today's Boulder Report, Joe Lindsey and Garmin-Slipstream manager Jonathan Vaughters discuss the team's failed bid to sign Alberto Contador. In respectful terms, a realistic Vaughters reveals that Contador at Garmin was a dream that simply could not come true at this time.

BR: Was there anyone you DID have negotiations with who you didn’t get?

V: Not really. We don’t have megabucks to play around with.

BR: What about Contador specifically? You guys were said to be one of a handful of teams in the real running for him.

V: Contador – there was a lot of speculation there. On the whole thing with getting him for the Tour, a lot of things needed to happen. It’s not like we could just afford that out of our normal budget. Typically what we look for is a guy like Wiggo – a great rider, no one quite believes in him yet, and an incredible talent and you give him an opportunity to explore the depth of that talent. That’s what we’re about. I think Svein (Tuft) is another example of that.

BR: After the Tour, with how Wiggo rode and Christian and Tyler, did you seriously entertain going after Contador?

V: Alberto’s situation has always been so complicated. He’s a great rider, and an incredible talent. But he is under contract to Astana, and the late payment issues, and the complexity of that situation was, and is, difficult.

I like Alberto, I think he’s a nice guy and an unbelievable talent, but for all the pieces of puzzle to come together to sign him, I mean: why do I want to get into a legal battle with…

BR: The Kazakhs?

V: Yeah. I just think that he’s a great talent but it’s a lot of complexity involved and I don’t know – who knows what the future will hold. I’m not sure anyone has the money to get him, and I don’t know if the Kazakhs will let him go. Think about it from Astana’s perspective: if they lose him, they potentially lose their ProTour license, their Tour invitation. That’s not a simple calculus. It’s not like “Oh, well, we won’t win the Tour, but Vinokourov will win a stage and get eighth overall.”

You know that’s a situation where if they don’t have Alberto, the Tour says you can’t come, or the UCI says “The level of riders you have isn’t sufficient to really keep a ProTour license.” So why would they let him out of that contract? He’s got a good legal case for sure – the management has changed, a lot of things have changed in that situation, but a buyout? No.


August 27 - Red Bull to sponsor new cycling team?

While he ponders and prepares for his departure to Ferrari, Fernando Alonso is continuing to work on his passionate gamble: a cycling team. His plan hasn’t changed since the start, writes José Carabias of LaRioja.com .

It will be with Alberto Contador, or it won't be at all. Familiar with a variety of multinational companies, Alonso, the Formula 1 driver from Spain's northern principality of Asturias, has met with positive answers in an age when it’s an arduous task to find companies who are willing to invest in cycling.

One interested partner is Red Bull, whose F1 team has leapt forward in quality this year, with drivers Vettel and Webber both fighting for the championship. The leading name in energy drinks is considering becoming the principal investor in Alonso’s cycling team.

One of the main disadvantages the Asturian encountered when he hatched the idea of building a team was the return on advertising. The investment involved is €16,000,000 to €17,000,000, and on the cycling horizon there were no sponsors ready to pay such a sum.

Nevertheless, Alonso’s relationships with top-level multinational companies who seek the support of Formula 1, together with the fact that the Asturian driver himself is central to the project, have awakened interest in the market.

Red Bull is considering sponsoring the project, although Alonso, twice the world champion, has also contacted other companies who have shown some interest.

Skoda, one of the sponsors of the Tour de France, offered him the possibility of €4,000,000, plus all the cars that the team needs. The same happened with a bicycle brand (€3,000,000 plus the supplies needed to compete).

The initiative is hitting a barrier, however, that will surely postpone its birth until 2011. Alberto Contador, two-time winner of the Tour (2009 and 2007) and the best cyclist in the world, has a contract in force for one more year with Astana, through an entity called Olympus. Participating in it are both Johan Bruyneel (current director of the team) and the government of Kazakhstan.

Bruyneel and Armstrong

Bruyneel will leave Astana next season in order to form Lance Armstrong’s new team, RadioShack. And Contador is, these days, negotiating with the Kazakhs for an exit from the team. Armstrong is going to take the principal riders who have contributed to making Astana an impenetrable force in the Tour. Klöden, Leipheimer, Zubeldia and Popovych want to go with Armstrong, but they but they have contracts. Paulinho, faithful to Contador, was free and has signed with RadioShack.

The winner of the Tour is afraid to remain on the scene without qualified personnel for next summer, in the event that everyone finally abandons Astana. And furthermore, there’s the subject of Vinokourov. The Tour banned the Madrileño last year due to the Kazakh's positive drug test in 2007. And Vinokourov has returned to the peloton. He will ride the Vuelta, which starts on Saturday in Holland.

Contador’s support riders fear the consequences of breaking contracts unilaterally. They also doubt that Alonso can put together a cycling team in scarcely four months time, and start riding as early as next January. Offers are also being fielded from Garmin, who are offering him a salary of €4,000,000, and from Eusebio Unzué’s Caisse d’Epargne, who are looking for a secondary sponsor to finance the scheme.

“Alonso appeals to us”

“What we find most appealing is going with Fernando Alonso, because it’s a serious plan and cycling needs a breath of fresh air,” say Contador’s advisors. The cyclist is still thinking about a third option, which fits together all the pieces of the puzzle: staying for another year at Astana and giving Fernando Alonso time to form his team definitively for 2011.


August 27 - Valverde, on the idea of sharing a team with Contador

Alejandro Valverde has told the press that he'd be glad to share leadership of Caisse d'Epargne with Alberto Contador. Valverde spoke while on a training mission to the Sierra Nevada prior to the Vuelta.

“I’d be glad if Alberto Contador came to Caisse D’Epargne in the future. We might have to share the top brass position. As for me, I don’t see any problem, I say that from the heart, seriously.

"He would be the leader for the Tour and I would lend a hand wherever I could. Then there would be the classics, the Vuelta and many other races. There’s enough calendar for everybody,” said Valverde. (El Mundo Deportivo)


News, August 24 - New UCI points totals

Alberto Contador remains at the top of the UCI rankings, a place he has held since the Tour de France ended on July 26.

The rankings were re-calculated by the Union Ciscliste Internationale after yesterday's GP Ouest France Plouay. The top three remain:

1. Alberto Contador, 527 points
2. Andy Schleck, 334 points
3. Roman Kreuziger, 310 points


News - August 20

Alberto Contador is under the weather, and won't be riding the G.P. Plouay, where he was scheduled to participate next Sunday, August 23. Contador has been suffering from a cold, and has been unable to carry out his normal training routine for the last few days.

“I don’t want to come back after the Tour de France without any chance of putting in a decent performance because of this cold, so I’d rather not start, but get well,” explained the recent winner of the maillot jaune in Paris.

Contador plans to take a break from Monday, August 24 until the end of September. “I’m going to take a real vacation now,” he says, “then ride a criterium in Belgium on September 6. At that time, we’ll evaluate the possibility of preparing for the Worlds at Mendrisio,” he said. (AC press room)



Contador's Spectacular Tour de France Book

Valor y al toro!


June 30 - A namesake and a posh new crit


Italian cyclist Ricardo Riccò has told the French paper Le Figaro that he will name his soon-to-be-born son Alberto, in honor of his “great rival and friend, Contador.”

Riccò was Contador’s fiercest rival at last year’s Giro, where his incendiary personality failed to fuel a GC victory over Alberto. He is currently serving a 20-month suspension for doping during Tour de France 2008.


Alberto Contador has agreed to participate in the Gran Premio Internacional of Cancún. He was guest of honor today at the presentation festivities at Pinto’s Hotel Las Artes. Olympic gold medalist Samuel Sánchez has been invited to the Mexican ride as well, and appeared today with Contador.

The Mexican authorities decided to hold the ceremony in Pinto, where Contador could attend without disrupting his Tour preparation.

This is the inaugural year of the GP Cancún. The criterium is scheduled for October 14, following one of the nation’s most important bike races, the Vuelta a Chihuahua (October 4 – 10).

In a manner similar to the Amstel Curaçao Race, organizers will invite an all-star list of cyclists who will race and enjoy a few days vacation in the spectacular setting. An international campaign will promote the event. (biciclismo.com)


June 20 - Alberto fine-tunes at Spanish nationals

Another pre-Tour TT Alberto Contador will ride the Spanish Championship time trial in Cantabria next Friday, June 26th. The event will put the final spit shine on his preparation for the Tour de France, which starts in Monaco on the 4th of July.

Contador decided to take the start at the Spanish Championships because, in his opinion, “this championship isn’t valued as highly as it deserves,” and wants to give it his support.

“This factor,” he explained, “weighted my decision, along with the fact that I need to train on the new bike to adapt to it to my best capacity. It’s a time trial that’s similar in length to the one in the Tour de France, and it’ll serve to round off my preparation.”

Alberto’s object in taking part in the nationals is, above all, “to do a final training race on the time trial bike, because this year I’m spending a lot of time on this specialty. As for the result, I’m aware that I’ll encounter riders who are greater specialists than I am, and who already know what it’s like to win on this route.”

The distance of the timed test will be one of the decisive factors, and Contador knows it. “Maybe it’s way too long for me, but after all, what you’ve got to do is train for distances that aren’t yours. It’s the only way to improve.”

As for the Tour de France, Contador is happy with the shortlist of riders announced by Astana, which includes his name along with Armstrong, Leipheimer, Klöden, Popovych and Zubeldia.

“The six ‘definites’ are all riders who are very strong in the mountains,” he said. “With them, I trust that there will also be two of my right-hand men, Benjamin Noval and Sergio Paulinho, who are vital to guaranteeing that we manage to get through the flat and mid-level mountain stages in a way that gets me to the key stages in the high mountains as rested as possible. I believe that that’s the way we’ll make a very balanced and very powerful team,” he concluded. (AC press room)

(photo: Diego Torres/AFP)


June 18 - Federation/team accord opens door to Tour

Alberto Contador’s team Astana has resolved the financial difficulties that threatened to prevent Contador, winner of the 2007 Tour and cycling’s Triple Crown, from participating in this year’s Tour.

Tour de France Manager Johan Bruyneel traveled to Brussels yesterday to attend a meeting with a representative of the team’s license holder, the Kazakh Cycling Federation.

Bruyneel, the head of Astana’s managing company Olympus Sarl, hammered out a satisfactory deal with KCF that guarantees the team sufficient operating funds for the rest of the 2009 season. The Kazakh federation has also paid all debts incurred to the team so far this year.

In a statement issued today by the Astana press office, Bruyneel said, “I appreciate everyone’s patience and professionalism during this difficult time and support of the program. With only 16 days left to the Tour de France, the riders need rest in their minds. We are glad that we can continue with our strong team. It was hardly imaginable that our strong team would not have been able to participate in the world’s largest cycling event.

“Thanks to the guarantees made by the Kazakh government, we can continue with the same group that already proved in the past to be a real team. We look forward to the next races. For us it will be a new start, but it will look familiar.

"This is the best solution. The Kazakh government showed that – despite the economical crisis – they really want to invest in cycling. They succeeded to find funds. We will not disappoint them. We look forward to representing our sponsor family with pride.”


June 7, Nancy

Alberto Contador is returning to competition after a break of two months following his victory in the Vuelta al País Vasco. His appearance in the Dauphiné Libéré follows weeks of rigorous training, and will serve as a tune-up, setting a final course for the Tour de France, which begins on the 4th of July. “I’m arriving at this race with a lot of work under my belt, with a good base, after having done five-hour training sessions, and having done long climbs to summits like the ones I’ll find here,” said the leader of Astana.

How do you expect to do in the race?

I think that I’ll be in good condition thanks to the recent training, and that the race won’t punish me too much. I hope that the Dauphine will bring me to peak form, and not keep me from my peak because it’s so demanding, forcing me to absorb the effort before the Tour.

How’s your form?

I’m fine. I still have to lose a kilo, but with all the riding there’ll be in the race, I’ll drop it.

How does the route seem to you this year? Is it really as hard as it seems?

I rode the Dauphiné in 2005, when I cut a finger in the spokes of a wheel, and in 2007. This race is always hard, but the route this year is unbelievable. It’s only got two kilometers less time-trialing than the Tour, and a spectacular mountain with Mont Ventoux, another short and very taxing stage with the Izoard, and to end with, another stage that could be a queen stage in the Tour, with the Galibier, the Croix de Fer and the Madeleine. Horrible.

Will it be a good route for you?

The route is good for me. I’ve been doing summits like these before coming here, and I think that I’ll be able to climb them without putting myself through too much physical punishment. Anyway, I want to have a calm race, and not think about the general. Maybe I’ll try something, but I want to guard my strength, because I don’t want to come up short in July.

Tomorrow’s the time trial. What do you expect to do?

Here I do want to do a little test because I’m introducing a new bike, thinking ahead to the Tour, and I want to try it out. We’ll see how it goes, because it’s important to evaluate the new bike, and I’m curious to see how I do with it.

Who are the main favorites in this Dauphiné?

I don’t see myself as one, because I’m starting back after a lot of time without competing. There are other more likely favorites, especially one that stands out among the rest, Alejandro Valverde, who just won the Volta a Catalunya and will possibly be better than the others. But you can’t forget Evans, Gesink, Basso, or Igor Antón, either. There are many candidates.

Will the Dauphiné be enough preparation for the Tour?

Yes, I think so, but I always have the option of doing the Spanish Championships. I’ll make the final decision later, depending on how it’s going.

What do you think about the situation with Astana Team and its sponsors?

Right now I’m very calm and I want to stay focused one hundred percent on my preparation for the Tour. My goal is to be in perfect condition on the 4th of July at the departure in Monaco, and I prefer to keep a little distance from the problem for the time being. (AC press room)


May 15 - The Arcalís is tough. Just like he likes it.

Alberto Contador says that he's "pleasantly surprised" at the difficulty of the only summit finish in the Pyrenees in this year's Tour de France. Contador has completed a reconnaissance mission to the mountains in Andorra, particularly the Stage 7 climb to Ordino-Arcalís, which he had been told was not challenging.

“They told me that the summit was so easy that when I saw it I was pleasantly surprised,” he said happily.

TDF 09, stage 7

(profile by letour.fr)

Contador, accompanied by Benjamin Noval, one of his trusted gregarios, climbed to the summit twice last Tuesday, taking advantage of good weather in Andorra. Due to rain on the following day, he opted to postpone a study of the next stage, preferring instead a third and final climb of Arcalís in order to finish mapping all the details of the ascent.

“It’s a more suitable climb for my characteristics than La Rabassa or Pla de Beret. Nothing difficult happens earlier in the stage, but we’ll arrive at the bottom with 200 kilometers in our legs and it will take a toll on our strength; so will the fact that it’s the seventh stage of the race and the first rest day is yet to come,” commented Contador.

The Tour hasn’t been back to this scene since 1997, the year in which Jan Ullrich staged a solo exhibition which won him the day and heralded his triumph in the final general classification. In the Vuelta a España, Chava Jimenez won a cronoescalada (a climbing time trial) here in 2000, and victories by Mancebo (2005) and Menchov (2007) give some idea of the demands of this climb. Contador expects to arrive there “after a very fast stage.”

“Depending on who has designs, and how fast it gets, there’ll be many who’ll leave here with some paydirt in the form of seconds, although it won’t be a day to win the Tour,” explained Contador.

Contador has memorized all the details of this mountain: “After passing Andorra la Vella, the road goes up with a vengeance. Although there are some chances for relief that allow for recuperation, this first section will be really fast until El Serrat, about 9.5 km from the summit. That’s where the real climb begins.

"From here, the first kilometers maybe are the hardest, until the tunnel, which is situated at five kilometers from the line. From here on, the road is a succession of switchbacks which, while they don’t have much percentage, the altitude will make harder. The last four kilometers are over 2,000 meters, and many of the riders will pay. It’s a pretty good mountain for a climber,” he said.

Although this time the weather conditions prevented exploring the Col de Envalira and going as far as the Tourmalet, which occurs two days after Arcalís, Contador doesn’t count out making another trip to finish reviewing the 2009 Tour routes through the Pyrenees. Then he aspires to take the start in Monaco having done the best preparation possible. (AC press room)


May 11 - Alberto wishes the team good luck in Italy

Alberto Contador wrote a letter last week, published in MARCA, to satisfy fans who miss seeing him defend his 2008 Giro title.

The explanation is simple: This year, it’s all for the Tour

Tour de France “After being absent in 2008, the Tour de France is once again my main objective this year. Initially, when I found out that the organizers of the Tour banned my team last year, I was greatly disappointed. But as I’ve said on several occasions, in the end it was almost like they did me a favor, because thanks to that, I was able to ride—and win—the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España, in that way making them no longer pending subjects.

“Still today many people ask me if I wouldn’t have rather won the Tour for a second time. And the answer is clear: no, because I prefer having won the Giro and the Vuelta and, therefore, the Triple Crown, which previously had only been won by Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault. That my name apprears alongside these is a great honor.

“In 2009 the Tour will once again be my main objective. When the Giro gets going, which as of this year has been around for a century, I’ll remember the moments that were so nice in 2008, but I won’t be envious, because I’ve got things clear and I’m going to do everything possible, everything in my power, to win the Tour for a second time.

“In my path towards the Tour, which started in the Volta ao Algarve and continued with Paris-Nice, I began thinking about the month of July and, luckily, I won some victories that gave me confidence. Besides, as I’ve said before, what motivates me most to train is to have the competition in perspective.

“They often ask me, would it be a disappointment not to win the Tour? The answer is no, because I have my feet on the ground, and I know that it’s very hard to accomplish. It’s true that I won the three grand tours that I’ve disputed (Tour, Giro and Vuelta), but this doesn’t give me any advantage, quite the contrary. The only thing that I can promise is that I’m going to fight to try to win because, although my friends tell me that I win easily, it’s never easy to win a three-week race, and on the contrary there are many moments of suffering that sometimes don’t produce any gains.

“And finally, I want to talk about Lance Armstrong, whom I think of mainly as a teammate, because rivals are people on other teams. To me it’s a pleasure to share a team with a rider whom I’ve always admired. But everybody insists on talking about us and the Astana team as if we were guaranteed a triumph in the Tour, and that’s not realistic, because there are other riders and teams who also have options. The statistics are in our favor, for sure, but numbers don’t win races.

“At each new start line we all begin again from zero, like my teammates are doing now in the centenary edition of the Giro. Levi Leipheimer is very strong and has won all the races he’s disputed this year, but the Giro is different and there are Italians who want to win. I wish them and Lance luck. We represent a great team and I hope that they go back and conquer the maglia rosa for Astana.”

Alberto Contador

(AC press room)


May 6, 2009

Alberto Contador has been enjoying R&R since his triumph in the Vuelta al País Vasco in mid-April, but as of Monday, May 4, he’s back with nose to the grindstone. “In all this time I’ve only done six days of very quiet training, and in the last seven days I’ve haven’t touched the bike,” said Contador.

“I’m coming back refreshed but I notice that my level of form has dipped, although this was precisely what I looked for, because I’d done a significant amount of work,” said the rider in reference to the first part of the season.

Tour de France “Now I’m going to increase training days bit by bit, to get the feelings back and prepare for the training camps that we’ve set.”

After an initial week of work in Pinto, Alberto will head for the mountains to train with teammates. “I’m going to go scout out the Pyrenees stages, because I like to memorize them before the Tour. I like to see the terrain I’ll be passing through in the key moments of the race,” he explained. After this first phase, he’ll go back to Pinto, and “later on, go do reconnaissance of the Alps stages.”

Contador will alternate periods of training at home with these camps until he returns to the peloton in the Dauphiné Libéré on June 7. And while he concentrates his thoughts and efforts on the Tour, the team, headed by Leipheimer and Armstrong, will take the start in the Giro d’Italia.

“I’m going to be able to enjoy it from home, even though good memories from last year will make me feel a little nostalgic. This year my objective is the Tour…there’ll be a time for going back to Italy,” he said. “It’ll be a lovely Giro, with lots of very good riders fighting for victory. It’ll be quite interesting for the spectator.”

Credit for much of the interest surrounding this year’s Giro goes to the Astana Team, which Contador says is “a very strong group, very experienced, thanks to riders like Leipheimer, Chechu, Armstrong, Horner and Popovych. It’ll be one of the main players in the race.”

“Clearly there are many favorites and lots of complicated days where you could lose a great deal of time, but if I had to choose two riders, it would be Ivan Basso and Levi Leipheimer,” stated Contador. “There’s also Evans, Armstrong, Sastre, Cunego, DiLuca and many more who'll be in the fight, but if I had to bet, it would be on Basso and Leipheimer,” predicted Contador.

As for Lance Armstrong, Alberto thinks that he, too, will ride well in the Giro. “He’s arriving with confidence, after having done a good race in New Mexico, and with desire, after getting over the crash at Castilla y León. I think that he’ll be at a very high level, even though he might be a little short of battling for the overall. The Giro will be a very good tune-up for the Tour,” he concluded. (AC press room)


May 4, 2009

On training
“If I need to train in the mountains, I have to get in the car and drive for 60 kilometers. It’s too flat round where I live. But a least that way I get a change of scenery.”

On attacking
“If there’s a headwind and I can get five or six meters gap, then I know I’ve done it. The other guy’s rhythm will have been broken by what I’ve done. Then I’ve got to keep a high pace. That’s what I’m working on at the moment—attacking and then keeping my speed up for a long period of time.”

The Ventoux
“I don’t like it. That top bit when it’s windy can really do a lot of damage if three of four guys get away. But I don’t think it’s the toughest climb in Europe, either. The Mortirolo, the Tourmalet or the Pailheres are worse. And my favorite are the Peyresourde, and Tourmalet.”

Quotes are from the current print edition of Cycle Sport
Buy a copy


May 1, 2009 - updated

Nissan Titan Desert

Nissan Titan Desert, 500 km of rocks and scorpions (photo: race website)

Update - May 1 - The tough Contador Curaçao Team completed Nissan Titan Desert marathon today.

The team goal was to survive to the final finish line after enduring a week of torture, including a two-day marathon and two mountain stages earlier this week. All CCT members finished solidly in the middle of the 155-man GC. In fact, Jorge got a spot in the top forty.

Overall winner was Israel Núñez, with a total time of 19:10:30.

Contador Curaçao in the General classification:
35th - Jorge Ramos (4:39:32)
69th - Paco Salvatierra (8:09:41)
75th - Patricio García (8:23:15)
76th - Fran Contador (8:23:27)

About Nissan Titan Desert MTB marathon (April 27 - May 1, 2009)

Nissan Titan Desert is said to be the toughest MTB race in the world. The extreme event attracts top riders, gluttons for punishment both male and female, of “iron man” aspirations. Notables at past editions have been Laurent Jalabert, Claudio Chiappucci, and last year’s winner, Roberto Heras.

The race covers five brutal stages in six days. The course consists of nearly 500 stony kilometers in Morocco, with both flat and mountainous terrain, attempted in temperatures as high as 45 C (118 F).

The elite-level Contador Curaçao Team is made up of Fran Contador (30), and three friends of the Contador brothers, Francisco Salvatierra, Jorge Ramos and Patricio García. Among their competitors were 1996 Olympic silver-medalist Abraham Olano, and 1991 Vuelta a España champion Melcior Mauri.

The Contador Curaçao Team ride Trek bikes.


Fran defends the family name in Morocco

“The shoe’s on the other foot: he’s on vacation and we’re racing”

Titan Desert 09 Since his victory in the Vuelta al País Vasco, Alberto Contador has been on vacation. What’s more, he went without his cellphone, to avoid being required–like last year—to ride the Giro.

Nevertheless, while the winner of the Triple Crown enjoys a well-deserved rest, another Contador is defending the family’s good name in Nissan Titan Desert. That’s Fran, his older brother, who since last year has served as manager, secretary, and director of public relations for Alberto.

“The shoe’s on the other foot,” explains Fran in the haima, the traditional Moroccan tent that makes shift as a restaurant. “While he’s at the beach drinking ice-cold Coca-Cola, we’re racing.” He speaks in the plural because with him, forming the rest of the Contador Curaçao Team are Jorge Ramos, Francisco Salvatierra and Patricio García. They all form an intimate circle of friends and, above all, the “grupeta” that’s always available to train with him.

Read the rest of our translation of Josu Garai's article from MARCA.

Photo: Fran Contador in Titan Desert (Josu Garai/MARCA)


April 29, 2009

Alberto Contador is on Miguel Induráin's list of “hidden” favorites for Tour victory next July.

The five-time Tour winner spoke to the press today about the Tour, the Giro and the future of velodrome cycling in Spain in the post-Llaneras age.

A star in 2007 Induráin jokingly minimized the star quality of Spain’s line-up for the 2009 Tour de France. The main favorites “are all hidden,” he quipped, tongue in cheek. “They’ve got to save their strength, because there’s still a lot left.

“In Spain we have good representatives to do well. Sastre will be defending the maillot jaune and Oscar Pereiro has won it, too. Then there’ll be Alejandro Valverde, who has said this year that it’s all or nothing, and Alberto Contador, who also has the desire to do it well and didn’t participate last year,” he listed.

Specifically about Contador, the five-time Tour winner considered that Lance Armstrong’s fall in Palencia won’t change Astana’s plans this season, because “it will be the highway that decides who’s in command.”

“They’re two professionals, and their director (Johan Bruyneel) has been around for years. There was no Lance in other seasons, but they’ve had Leipheimer and they’ve known how to get along very well. The road will decide, and both must try to get there in top form, so that at some point when both are in front in the 50-kilometer time trial or on a climb, whoever is stronger will have to be boss,” he explained. (MARCA)


April 27, 2009 - Contador walks "el camino de Indurain"

Former cycling great Miquel Poblet says Alberto Contador is the best rider in the world at present. He registered his great admiration for Contador, winner of the Tour, the Giro and the Vuelta, today in Barcelona.

Alberto in 2007 Poblet, winner of 22 Giro stages, became the first Spaniard ever to wear the maillot jaune, taking sprint victories in the first and last stages of the 1955 Tour. He’s present in Barcelona today as the city officially presents the activities that will welcome the arrival of the Tour de France in July.

Calling Contador today’s “número uno,”he went on to say, “He’s winning everything, he’s taking the path of Miguel Indurain.”

Poblet, 81, also voiced his opinion about the other sensation in cycling, the return of Lance Armstrong to the professional circuit.

“I have confidence in him, but being out for so long will make it very difficult for him to recover his level. I don’t see him winning, but he does have options for the podium,” reports as.com.

Poblet punctures in the Dolomites in the 1959 Giro (photo: Poblet Photo Album)


April 26, 2009 - Alberto on the air during Fleche Wallone

Alberto in 2007 Has Alberto Contador dismissed the idea of ever riding seriously in the classics?

Contador shined some light on that subject last Wednesday when he gave an interveiw to Antonio Alix and Eduardo Chozas during Eurosport’s television broadcast of the Fleche Wallone.

He also talked about the Dauphiné Libéré and his preparation for the Tour de France.

Since the Vuelta al País Vasco, how have you been preparing?

I’m going out two or three days a week. I’d rather rest well since you need to arrive at the Tour rested. Then in the last week of April or at the beginning of May, I’ll take the bicycle and then plan all the training camps for the Tour.

How are you going to prepare for the Tour?

I’ll have to see and to study all the important stages and do specific training sessions. In May I’ll do all the long climbs to prepare for a good finish in the mountain stages.

What will your next race be?

It’ll be the Dauphiné Libéré. It’s the last race for getting ready for the Tour. It’ll be a good tune-up.

Will we see you in Liége-Bastogne-Liége someday, or in another of the classics?

Someday I’ll make an effort to do well in the classics. I realize that one-day races are not my long suit, and it’ll be much harder for me than a long stage race. Some year I’ll try to delay my peak of form so I can be in top condition for the classics. Both Paris-Roubaix and the Fleche Wallone have very tough finishes, and if I’m prepared, I think that I’ll be able to place well. One of these days I’ll plan it as a goal.

What do you regard as the difficulty? Tough finishes, narrow roads…

When I say classics, I’m talking about the Fleche Wallone and Liége-Bastogne-Liége. Personally, I don’t like Amstel and I don’t have much desire to go. I’ve ridden it twice, I crashed. It’s like some kind of gymkhana.

Lance Armstrong has recovered and will be at the start line of the Giro in Venice. How is it within the team?

You have more information than I do. I’m incommunicado lately, and I’m not taking time to keep up with the news constantly. I think that he’s training well and will arrive at the Giro in good shape to take days of competition and I’m sure that he’s going to be there.

And finally, there’s talk about financial problems for your team. Have you had problems getting paid?

The crisis is affecting all levels. In Kazakhstan it hasn’t hit as hard as in Europe, and it seems that things are somewhat better. The team is sponsored by six corporations, and if one runs late with payment it messes up everything else. Sometimes there’s been a delay of a few days, but no more than that.

(photo of Contador after his 2007 Tour win by abc)


April 20 - Astana's Horner sounds off on tug for Tour leadership

Tour de France 2009 Alberto Contador's teammate Chris Horner answers unequivocably: Leipheimer and Klöden will not fight Contador for the Tour de France title.

Neal Rogers of VeloNews interviewed Horner recently, taking the American rider's mind on who will be Astana's leader at the Tour.

Horner also described the shocking crash in Stage 4 of País Vasco, which left him with several broken bones just one day after riding spectacularly in defense of Contador.

You can read the entire interview at VeloNews.

Here's an excerpt:

VN: As far as the Tour goes, there’s been so much discussion about Astana being a “super team.” Beyond Lance, Leipheimer seems unbeatable in the time trials and can climb with the best, and Contador is arguably the best climber in the sport, with a dramatically improved TT. Given your view from inside the team, how do you see the dynamics for the Tour shaping up?

Horner: I honestly don’t see any problem at all. Everyone knows Alberto Contador is the leader on the team, and Lance is the wildcard. Certainly the only issue you could see is if Lance shows up with spectacular form, then there could be a battle somewhere in the team for supremacy.

I believe you can have two guys going good and they can figure it out on the road. You just can’t have four guys going good and trying to figure it out on the road. Those two guys would be Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador. The other guys, Levi and Klöden, are there for support. This team won’t have four riders battling for supremacy. At most there will be two incredibly impressive guys going at it to be the best.

VN: Don’t you think you could make an argument for Leipheimer to ride as a leader? He won Castilla y Leon with a strong time trial, as well as California, and took both the TT stages at the Vuelta last year, and he beat Contador in the Olympic time trial as well.

Horner: Nope, I wouldn’t make the argument for it. It’s not gonna happen. You could make the argument that, on paper, Levi could have won the Vuelta. But look how it played out; just how it should have. Levi looked after Alberto, and also put on a show himself. At the Tour, unless someone’s form has changed dramatically, we have two guys. Klöden is not going to fight for supremacy, and Levi is not going to either.


April 20, 2009

Madrid's hero Alberto Contador is not the captain of a Spanish team, but wherever he races, he's surrounded by a loyal guard of Spanish, Basque, and Portuguese lieutenants.

Amigos What do they think of their leader?

Benjamin Noval, on Alberto and the Tour: "I think it’s the most important race in the world, and now we have the best rider, Alberto, who is focusing on this race. I hope to be there with him to win another Tour."

"I am very happy to be riding for him. He is a young rider and a strong rider, and for me he is a good friend. Normally I always stay with him in the hotel rooms.

"With Lance of course I did my job for the team, but with Alberto for me personally it is different because he is my friend. And because he is my friend, I always feel good riding with him. I am happy to be riding with him. It feels more personal with Alberto. We hope to be good in the Tour."

"He is a good leader for the team, and when you spend a day out front all day working for the team, when he comes to the bus he always thanks every rider one by one. I think this is important for a leader to show that the team is one, that we work together."

Jesús Hernandez, on whether he enjoys training with his long-time friend: "One day yes, but another day no! Alberto can go very fast on some days, so then I don’t like it! But Alberto is good to train with, and he pushes me harder so I can be better too.

Read the complete interview at the team website.

(Photo by KreutzPhotography for The Paceline)


Vuelta al País Vasco 2009

Alberto Contador has won the final time trial and the final general classification at the Tour of the Basque Country. In so doing, he has renewed his 2008 title, and finished the first part of the 2009 season in style, having won the time trial and the overall in the Volta ao Algarve, two stages in Paris-Nice, second place in the Vuelta a Castilla y León, and now two stages and the general classification in the Vuelta al País Vasco.

“I’m very happy with the results from the beginning of the year. I didn’t expect it, because I started training very late, and I’m even surprised myself,” he said today in the post-race press conference.

You’ve won a clear and emphatic victory. Did you expect that?

No, I had plenty of doubts—I also felt good, but I always had many moments of doubt. Yesterday was a very difficult stage, but I ended up with an amazing time trial.

You gained a lot of time at the beginning, did that set your mind at ease?

Yes. Early on, I didn’t have any references, and I thought that they weren’t very good, but as soon as I started to climb I saw that things were going well. I couldn’t confirm it until I got the time splits, but fortunately I got a good margin on the climb of the Beci.

Did you have hopes for this route, since you did it in 2006?

Yes, because in 2006 I was fighting with Samuel Sanchez for the overall, and I did a pretty average time trial, where I lost all chances for the podium. This year was totally different, so I’m happy.

To whom do you dedicate the victory?

Above all, to the team, who’ve worked in an amazing way. Today it was up to me to finish it off, and I managed to do it, but the victory is for the team and for all the people who’ve supported me.

How was the response from the Basque fans? Like last year?

It was equal to, or even better than in 2008. The Basque passion is enviable. This is Samuel Sanchez’s turf, but they’ve turned themselves inside out for me, and I feel like I’m at home. I didn’t spend all that time riding here as an amateur in vain.

Have you been doing specific work to improve in the time trial?

Of course I’m working. We’ve tweaked my position on the bike, but above all, I’ve done hours and hours of training. That, together with the greater power that I generate this year in training sessions, is why things are going so well.

With these results, are you the main favorite for the Tour de France?

The more you win, the more you get noticed, but the Tour is in July and a lot of things could still happen. This result doesn’t change anything.

What do you think of the recent statements by Lance Armstrong about the Tour de France?

I haven’t seen the video, but I think it’s still too soon to talk about the Tour de France. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.

Are these bad times for your rivals? Do you feel indestructible?

I don’t like it when people say things like that, because it makes it seem like I win without effort, and that’s not true. The sacrifice that I make is unbelievable, and my rivals also put 100% into preparation, and it’s always difficult to win. There is always a great deal of work behind each victory.

What will your program be from now until the Tour de France?

First, I’m going to rest, go out on some days with the bike, and go on vacation for a while before drafting a plan for Tour training, with two or three training camps before the Dauphiné Libéré, which will be the preparation race. (AC press room)


April 17 - But attackers will win

TDF 2007 Does Alberto Contador's next Tour appearance hold a jackpot for crack attackers? Yes, possibly, according to ASO director Christian Prudhomme.

The Tour boss says the 2009 Tour de France parcours is too difficult for one team to dominate the race, but adds that there'll be a payoff for attack cyclists, reports guardian.co.uk.

Speaking to reporters in Monte Carlo, Prudhomme said, "I don't believe one team will be able to control the whole race. A team could seize power early in the race but given the route, they should not be able to keep it all the way," he said.

After the opening time trial in Monaco, the course heads along the Côte d'Azur through the region of Camargue. Prudhomme indicated that Astana may not be the favorite there.

"There are teams who know how to blast a peloton when riding against the wind, like Cervelo or Rabobank," he warned.

As for the mountain stages, he predicted that the boldest riders will profit, saying, "In two of the three Pyrenean stages, and also one stage in the Alps, there will be some room for attackers. For those who dare, there could be a big jackpot."

The 2009 Tour begins in Monaco on July 4 and will arrive in Paris on Sunday, July 26.

(Photo by KreutzPhotography for The Paceline, 2007)


Vuelta al País Vasco 2009

Alberto Contador has won the final time trial and the final general classification at the Tour of the Basque Country. In so doing, he has renewed his 2008 title, and finished the first part of the 2009 season in style, having won the time trial and the overall in the Volta ao Algarve, two stages in Paris-Nice, second place in the Vuelta a Castilla y León, and now two stages and the general classification in the Vuelta al País Vasco.

“I’m very happy with the results from the beginning of the year. I didn’t expect it, because I started training very late, and I’m even surprised myself,” he said today in the post-race press conference.

You’ve won a clear and emphatic victory. Did you expect that?

No, I had plenty of doubts—I also felt good, but I always had many moments of doubt. Yesterday was a very difficult stage, but I ended up with an amazing time trial.

You gained a lot of time at the beginning, did that set your mind at ease?

Yes. Early on, I didn’t have any references, and I thought that they weren’t very good, but as soon as I started to climb I saw that things were going well. I couldn’t confirm it until I got the time splits, but fortunately I got a good margin on the climb of the Beci.

Did you have hopes for this route, since you did it in 2006?

Yes, because in 2006 I was fighting with Samuel Sanchez for the overall, and I did a pretty average time trial, where I lost all chances for the podium. This year was totally different, so I’m happy.

To whom do you dedicate the victory?

Above all, to the team, who’ve worked in an amazing way. Today it was up to me to finish it off, and I managed to do it, but the victory is for the team and for all the people who’ve supported me.

How was the response from the Basque fans? Like last year?

It was equal to, or even better than in 2008. The Basque passion is enviable. This is Samuel Sanchez’s turf, but they’ve turned themselves inside out for me, and I feel like I’m at home. I didn’t spend all that time riding here as an amateur in vain.

Have you been doing specific work to improve in the time trial?

Of course I’m working. We’ve tweaked my position on the bike, but above all, I’ve done hours and hours of training. That, together with the greater power that I generate this year in training sessions, is why things are going so well.

With these results, are you the main favorite for the Tour de France?

The more you win, the more you get noticed, but the Tour is in July and a lot of things could still happen. This result doesn’t change anything.

What do you think of the recent statements by Lance Armstrong about the Tour de France?

I haven’t seen the video, but I think it’s still too soon to talk about the Tour de France. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.

Are these bad times for your rivals? Do you feel indestructible?

I don’t like it when people say things like that, because it makes it seem like I win without effort, and that’s not true. The sacrifice that I make is unbelievable, and my rivals also put 100% into preparation, and it’s always difficult to win. There is always a great deal of work behind each victory.

What will your program be from now until the Tour de France?

First, I’m going to rest, go out on some days with the bike, and go on vacation for a while before drafting a plan for Tour training, with two or three training camps before the Dauphiné Libéré, which will be the preparation race. (AC press room)


Diario Vasco: Notes from the VIP car

“In order to take some time, you have to make the race harder”

Vuelta al País Vasco April 8 - A legend of cycling visited the Vuelta al País Vasco yesterday, adding glamor to a stage in which the stars riders held back some of their brilliance.

Miguel Induráin has been through many situations similar to those of yesterday, and explained that “it’s normal for the the best riders to conserve strength, especially after seeing the quality in the first stage and considering all that is left to come. In Ataun, we saw that nine or ten riders, the highest level in the world, were here to compete for the overall. It’s really very special in that sense.”

In recounting the day’s work, Miguel analyzed the stage in a context beyond the difficulty of the climb to Arrate. “It’s a serious climb that’s going to decide things, but everything depends on what happens in the earlier kilometers of the stage.

"If some team wants to make the race harder early on, it will have enough territory to take some good time differences. If nobody moves and the peloton is very controlled, it will be harder to open gaps between people of that level. The weather will also have its effect. If it’s cold and rainy, some will blame it on the weather.”

Vuelta al País Vasco His predictions for the race are based on experience, that is, how he managed his own triumphs. “A time trial of 24 kilometers is always demanding. The distance alone is enough to make differences, and besides, if it’s hard, it will be more decisive.”

Something in the bag

To see nearly all the great figures in international cycling in full form so soon before the Tour indicates that “the cyclists want to show up at their most important objectives with something already in the bag. That gives you great peace of mind." (Gaitka Lasa for Diario Vasco)


Vuelta al País Vasco begins today

Vuelta al País Vasco RACE WEBSITE

Today Alberto Contador begins what will be his last race of the first cycle of competition in 2009.

After debuting in the Volta ao Algarve and continuing with Paris-Nice and Castilla y León, Astana’s lead rider is ready to take the start in the Vuelta al País Vasco (April 6-11).

His next step will be a period of rest and recuperation, after which he’ll resume preparations for the Tour de France.

Contador dominated last year's edition of the race, despite a debilitating dental abcess, the death of his grandmother, and the battle with allergies that April in Basque Country presents to many riders.

How do you feel at this point, your last spring race?

Very well. I’m training well, although I do notice some fatigue from so much hard work, and I don’t recover as quickly, so that I wonder how I’ll do in the time trial on the last day. It’s a bit of a question.

Are you motivated in any special way for Basque Country?

I love the race. I’ve ridden it several years and I’ve had really good experiences here, so that this year I’m looking forward to the race with the same feeling, because the Basque fans are incredible. It’s really nice to ride here.

How does this year’s route seem to you?

There are complicated stages. The first ends with a steep slope where you’ve got to be careful, but I think that the race will be decided at Arrate and in the crono on the last day.

What do you think of the race?

As far as the route is considered, it’s better for me than other races I’ve ridden, but the really important thing is that I finish calm in the knowledge that I’ve done a good first part of the season and with the certainty that my true goal is in the month of July. We’re going to see how the race develops day by day, now that I have more experience.

And how does the time trial route seem to you?

I’ve already ridden it, in 2006. I was contesting the overall with Samuel Sanchez. We were tied, and what do you know, I rode a very bad time trial and the race was won by Marchante. Even though it didn’t go too well then, I believe that the route is pretty good for me. We’ll see how it goes this year.

Your opponents will also make for complications this time.

Yes, the roster is the very best, like every year, Spaniards as well as foreigners. And most of them are strong because they’re preparing for the classics or for the Giro. Among the ones that stand out are Samuel Sánchez, Colom or Luis León, who did very well at Paris-Nice. And then there are the Schleck brothers, who want to be 100% in the classics, or Cadel Evans, who’s already gaining form, or Cunego, who’s very motivated, like Nibali and loads of others. The level is extremely high.

You’re already sure that you won’t be riding any of the classics this year?

Yes, País Vasco will be the last race of the first block, and when I’m finished, I’ll take a short holiday to disconnect. I’ll shut off the cell phone and then I’ll concentrate on preparing for the Tour de France. I’ve decided to skip the classics, because I’m already noticing the amount of effort I’ve made since the Algarve, and to go another 20 days at this level might be too much. I don’t want to risk so much strain. I think it’s smarter to leave it for another season. (AC press room)

(Photo credit: Vuelta al País Vasco official website)


March 31 - Samuel Sanchez: “In cycling, we share everything”

It takes a team to win a medal

Alberto Contador's amigo, Samuel Sanchez, gold-medalist in the men’s road race at the 2008 Olympics, was awarded one of Spain’s National Prizes for Sport last night at the Royal Palace in Madrid.

The Asturian cyclist accepted on behalf of Contador and the other three members of Spain’s team in Beijing: Sastre, Freire, and Valverde. He was selected due to his insistence that the Olympic prize be shared with his teammates.

Sanchez, who confessed that speaking to the Royals was a bit embarrassing, accepted the honor from the hands of Princess Elena, for whom it is named. Sanchez explained to the press that, while he had been first to cross the line at the Games, it had been a team effort. He stressed that it's customary in cycling for the winner to share the prize.

“We’re a team, all five of us worked to get the gold medal. It fell to me to win, but the medal is for all five of us, and for that reason I wrote a letter to the Olympic Committee so that they would distribute the prize money,” he added.

"In cycling, we share everything. It's customary to divide up the prize."

The Beijing gold medal was worth 24,000 Euros, or about $32,000 US.

He also commented that the media circus surrounding Lance Armstrong would relieve pressure on Contador, who has been constantly in the public eye since winning the 2007 Tour.

“Aside from being my friend, he’s a great guy, very motivated with respect to the Tour, and all the media circus surrounding Armstrong is good for him. It relieves the pressure and is going to give him some peace and quiet for preparing his races, especially the Tour.”

Contador won the Princess Cristina Prize for Revelation of the Year in 2007. (sources: Qué.es, LNE)

(Photo: MARCA)


March 25, 2009

El Norte Castillo reports today that fans went mad for Contador during the time trial yesterday, with thousands cheering at each of the intermediate checkpoints along the route, and creating pandemonium when he crossed the line in second place.

The paper can’t say enough good things about Miguel Induráin, the “amiable, good-natured, educated” winner of five Tours, and the man who presented Contador with his Best Spanish Rider trophy on the podium after Stage 2. Induráin commented in the TV studio and on the sidelines, also taking time to follow Contador’s time trial in the car.

“It’s going to be complicated for him to repeat his triumph in the race this year, because the roster is incredible,” he said.


“The race is riding on the time trial”

Castilla y León

March 22, 2009 - Tomorrow Alberto Contador will begin his third contest of the season, the Vuelta a Castilla y León. He's especially looking forward to his first race back in Spain, his home country. Contador, who has won the last two editions of Castilla y León, sees this race as relaxed and particularly appealing. “It’s a region that, you might say, is very familiar to me.”

Are you looking forward to racing in Spain again?

Yes, of course, especially at Castilla y León, which is a race I really like. I’ve ridden it several times and it’s gone very well.

What are your feelings on the eve of battle? Are you thinking about a third consecutive victory?

I’m motivated and ready to race, but I see this edition as very difficult, because everything depends on the 28-kilometer time trial, since the mountain finishes will be for arriving in the group. I’ll do a test on the day of the time trial and we’ll just see what happens then, but in principle this route is better for Leipheimer.

Castilla y León Are you familiar with the stages?

I’ve been finding out about the route, and it’s different from past years. The time trial is flat and longer than at other times, while the mountains are not as hard, with the big summits quite spread out. It’s a less-suitable route for me.

You’ll be together with Leipheimer and Armstrong for the first time. Is this a trial run for the Tour, or a coincidence?

It’s a coincidence, but it will help us see how things go in a race, although you can’t really consider it a test because it’s different here, and although we intend to win if we can, there’s not the same pressure. Whatever happens, it’ll be good to be sharing the team, plus the press will relax a little when they see us together.

At Paris-Nice and in Tirreno-Adriatico, the general classification slipped away. Will that influence tactics at Castilla y León?

If a situation occurs in this race like at Paris-Nice or Tirreno, I think that with the strength of this team it’ll be a little easier to hold on to the leadership. But this is no more than another race for preparation…If we win, that’s the best thing, but if we don’t, it’s nothing to worry about.

How do you feel at this point in the year—better than in 2008?

The truth is that I feel really well, very happy with how the season is going and about my results so far, in spite of not winning Paris-Nice, because you can’t always win. I’m very happy with my preparation and I feel rested, physically and mentally. My results leave me confident and calm about continuing prep for the Tour de France.

The roster for this race is spectacular. Who are the favorites?

There’s more than enough to talk about on this list of names: all of them are clearly favorites. Above all, the race is riding on the time trial, and the best of the specialists will be there, like Zabriskie, Vandevelde, Rubén Plaza, Menchov, Valverde, Gutiérrez, Armstrong, Leipheimer… There’s a ton of great riders who’re going, and they’ll make the fight for victory a tough one. The favorites in the time trial are also the favorites for the overall win. (AC press room)


March 7, 2009

Paris-Nice 09

Alberto on Saturday, in a rare quiet moment (Christine Kahane)

“I’m thrilled about riding in France again”

Alberto Contador will take the start at Paris-Nice tomorrow, in what will be his first race in France after an absence of one year. The Astana chief is returning to a very special scene, since his victory in 2007 in Discovery Channel colors was his first step on the road to victory in the Tour de France.

“I’m very motivated. This race was my launch pad to the Tour. I come with great desire, because I like to ride my bike, because this is an important tour, and besides, I love it,” says Contador, who arrived in Paris on Friday.

Does returning to the scene of your first great victory in 2007 have a special meaning for you?

Absolutely. That’s why I’ve got such a great desire to come back to this famous race and experience it again. And certainly I’m really excited about riding in France again after having spent a year away.

What do you expect from this year’s edition? What are your goals?

I especially want to be competitive and in the fray. I know that winning is very difficult—there are lots of rivals and they all want to be first. Paris-Nice, besides, is really hard because of the weather, the escapes, and certainly, because I’ll have to watch the others constantly. At the very least, I want to be among the top players and to evaluate my form.

Do you like the route this year?

I don’t know it in detail, but I do know that I’d like it better if the prologue were different, maybe more like the ones in past years which had a climb that was good for me. The length of the time trial is okay, but it doesn’t have any change of pace. And there’s no other time trial, so there’s no chance for a cronoescalada, either, for example. On the other hand, the last days are pretty good for me, but I’ll have to have a closer look before commenting.

Who’s your most dangerous opponent?

I still haven’t seen the final start list, but I already know that Evans, Frank Schleck, Luis León Sánchez, and Samuel Sánchez will be there. It’s obvious that the race is going to be really tough.

After winning in the Algarve, the fans expect another victory.

I’m not hung up about winning, because to do that, so many things have to fall into place. My idea is to do my best, and I think the fans understand that very well.

After Paris-Nice, all the team leaders will ride together at Castilla y León. What do you think about that?

Lance’s deciding to come to that race is a good idea, because it’ll be great for his preparation. It’s a pretty comfortable tour, especially if the weather is good. Beyond the level of benefit for the leaders, it’ll be good for the whole team. It’ll have a calming effect on everybody to see that there are no problems among us, not in sharing the team or in our personal relationships.

Will you carry on with your set calendar, or do you foresee changes, such as Armstrong has made to his?

In principle, I’m going to continue with the same plan. Whether or not I tweak the approach to each race depends on the results. (AC press room)


March 3, 2003 - updated

2007 Astana Cycling Team announced yesterday that Alberto Contador, winner of the last two editions of the Vuelta a Castilla y León, will be accompanied by teammate Lance Armstrong when the Spaniard returns to defend his title later this month.

Contador requested Armstrong’s presence at the race last month while contesting the Volta ao Algarve—which he won—while Armstrong was helping American teammate Levi Leipheimer win his third overall title at the Tour of California.

Contador indicated to Gazzetta dello Sport his desire to make a test flight with Armstrong in the Astana crew that will compete in the 2009 Tour de France, the sport’s most prestigious race. "I think that it would be good to share the team at least one time during a race. Because at the Tour we have to be a united front," he said.

(Photo: Contador wins at Navacerrada in 2007/Graham Watson for The Paceline)

The two riders had been given separate calendars leading up to the Tour, the main goal of both riders in 2009. Since both are former Tour winners, logical questions about leadership and team dynamics looked unlikely to be resolved before the start of the Tour next July.

Initial information from race organizers indicated that Armstrong was not among the names submitted by the team to form their roster for the Vuelta a Castilla y León. His inclusion yesterday, however, will give the American a rare opportunity: the chance to help his young teammate win a third consecutive title at Castilla y León just one month after working for Leipheimer’s trifecta in California.

Armstrong's presence in support of Contador and on behalf of his global cancer inititave will bring a mediatic sensation to the Spanish race. Ironically, lack of funds have caused organizers to forfeit live television broadcasts of this year's edition.


March 3, 2009 - Alberto comments at awards gala

Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador (Astana) said yesterday during an awards gala—held in Seville by the Spanish Association of sports press—that he’s conscious that “people expect a lot” this season.

“I know that they expect a lot of me, everybody has great confidence in my possibilties, but people must understand that I can’t always win everything or be the fastest,” commented the rider from Pinto.

As far as tuning up his form, the Pinteño thinks that “the pre-season is going pretty well. I’ve just finished in the Algarve and now the stretch from Paris-Nice to País Vasco has arrived, after which I’ll rest a little before tackling the next phase of the season.”

Finally, Contador spoke about his relationship with the American Lance Amstrong, his new teammate, describing the contact between the two as “quite good,” although he said that “the team is above everything else. It’s the truly important thing, more than either of us.”

“Each of us has a separate calendar. My place is to ride in the races and think about the good of the team,” he concluded. (as.com)



Volta ao Algarve 09 Volta victor

Contador celebrates his first overall title of the year (Photo: as.com)


Contador wins Volta ao Algarve 2009

“The year is off to a great start”

February 22, 2009 - Today Alberto Contador claimed the prize he earned in Saturday’s race against the clock by taking the overall victory in the Volta ao Algarve, his first race of 2009.

"The year is off to a great start,” he said, beaming with joy. “Coming here to ride has been a success, once and for all, because we’ve had great luck with the weather, a basic element in a race prepared with other goals.”

Asked if he had come to the Volta ao Algarve with winning in mind or only as a training ride, Contador said that the real goal “was to get into good form for Paris-Nice, but I also knew that I was going to come close to a victory if I felt good on the bike. So that’s just what happened, and I was able to win the race.”

Contador will now proceed with his race program, although he says, “There’re still a few things to see about, but the idea is that I’ll race Paris-Nice, Castilla y León, and País Vasco. We’ll then see if I’ll extend this first phase of the season to some classics, because I don’t want to get too used up at the beginning of the year.” And after resting, “I’ll ride the Dauphiné, which will be the last race to tighten up my form for the Tour de France,” he said.

Will he include the World Championships as one of his major goals this year? Contador’s answer is that the race “is usually not for pure climbers, so it’s a bit complicated to think about winning a World Championship.” The Tour, on the other hand, is at the top of his priority list. “Without a doubt, that’s my primary goal this year, keeping in mind that there are other races,” he said, alluding to the quest for other yellow jerseys at other times.

Contador denied that this victory contained a message for Lance Armstrong, as suggested by reporters. “Absolutely not. I just dedicate myself to going to the races. If I win, good, because that’s what I like to do—to ride my bike. Of course this has not been a message for Lance. He’s my teammate,” he concluded. (AC press room)


Contador on Stage 5: 96th, s.t. Heinrich Haussler (CERVELO TEST TEAM)
Final General classification: 1. Alberto Contador (ASTANA), 2. Sylvain Chavanel (QUICK STEP), 1.06; 5. Andreas Klöden (ASTANA), 1.09

GO TO RACE WATCH later for full report and Contador's comments



February 17, 2009 - Volta ao Algarve - Interview

Contador: “I’m hoping for a leap forward in quality in 2009"

Volta ao Algarve 09 Alberto Contador’s 2009 race debut will be this Wednesday, February 18, at the Volta ao Algarve (February 18-22), his first race of the season. Although he’s not yet ready to ride to win, the champion from Astana is eager to get to know the cycling scene in Portugal.

He’s also looking forward to confirming in competion the good sensations he’s experienced in training.

How was training camp in California? Did you reach your goals?

I’ve come back from camp feeling great. I think that we did good work, and I felt better on the bike than I expected. Yes, I think I’ve more than reached my goals, because considering the time of year and my training up till now, I’ve gotten a very good state of form. I’m happy with how things have gone.

Have you worked with the time trial bike?

Yes, one of the goals in California was to see what was needed, and to try to find the ideal position to improve the aerodynamics, according to the parameters determined by the wind tunnel. We wanted to leave with the exact measurements needed to enable us to use what we learned as soon as possible.

What have changes have you made from 2008?

Mainly, we’ve changed the angle of the arms, which will allow me to breathe normally. But once we have the new data, we’ll need to fiddle with it a little on the road in order to adjust everything. At the Algarve, I still won’t have the new input, but I hope everything will be ready for Paris-Nice, which is a very important race, both for me and for the team.

Have you started quality work yet?

Yes, although it’ll be a little too soon at the beginning. I do prefer to be fighting for victories in this first part of the season, because I like to be competitive in most races. I hope to have some possiblities in the first block of races in my program this year.

What are your goals for the Algarve?

It’s still too soon. The Volta ao Algarve will only be the first contact with competition, to get into race rhythm and to enjoy the people in Portugal—they’re great fans.

How are you, what’s your current weight?

I’m still 2.5 kg above my weight during the Vuelta a España. I have enough time to lose it if I need to, but it may not be necessary. I think I’m at a good weight for this time of year.

Will Sergio Paulinho be the team teader?

I don’t know. We still have to decide just what the team will target when we get to Portugal and talk to the director. What’s clear is that since he’s on his home turf, Sergio will have more opportunities than in other races. We’re also taking a very good team, with Paulinho, Klöden, Muravyev, Noval...

How do Leipheimer and Armstrong look to you for the Tour of California? Are they favorites?

At camp I think they were doing really well. They’re at a very high level, especially Levi, who was already thinking about that race. The biggest change that I noticed was that at training camp in Tenerife, where I arrived without having done much training, I thought—without meaning any disrespect—that I was doing better.

I think Leipheimer can win in California, although now the race has gotten a bit complicated. As for Lance, he looks mentally very strong and very motivated, but he’s maybe still a bit short of competitive form.

What do you think about the 33 km time trial at the Algarve?

I would have preferred a shorter one, because it’s too long an effort right now. We’ll soon see how it is when I get there, because whether or not I try a first test of my legs depends on how things go.

How do you feel this year? Do you think you’re going to improve your performance at the age of 26?

I sincerely do think so. I’ll think I’ll improve a lot this year. I’m using the data and comparisons we’ve made in training in past years. I’m a little surprised at how my body is responding, so I hope to make a leap forward in quality.

Who will your biggest rivals be in 2009?

Well, they’ll be the guys that everybody imagines: the Schleck brothers, Menchov, Evans, my teammates Levi and Lance, Gesink and other young guys like Nibali, Kreuziger…I can’t name them all. The unknown factor is whether the young guys will make the leap forward in quality this year. Obviously, there’s a lot you can’t know at this point.

How do you rate Astana in 2009? Is it stronger than it was last year?

To me, it’s a very good team, and it will be a lot like it was in 2008, with some super-motivated team players. I think our form will be especially impressive in the grand tours. (AC press room)


February 11, 2009

Alberto Contador's third race of the season, the Vuelta a Castilla y León, will not be broadcast live in 2009 due to decreased funding, according to an article published today in NorteCastilla.es .

The race organizers have explained that the race itself is not in jeopardy, and that the only area to suffer from the budget crunch is live broadcast. In fact, according to Jose Luis Lopez Cerrón, the head of the organization responsible for the race, some areas of funding have done rather better than in 2008.

Spanish television TVE will air a daily program offering an "ample summary" of each stage.

The Vuelta a Castilla y León is set for March 23-27. Contador will return with the hope of winning the overall title for the third year in a row.

Contador's season begins one week from today at the Volta ao Algarve, February 18-22. The next race on his calendar will be Paris-Nice, March 8-15.

More to come


February 2, 2009 - Training camp at Santa Rosa

Contador traveled to USA on Sunday for training camp at Santa Rosa

“I’m not going crazy over logging hours on the bike”

Alberto Contador traveled to the USA on Sunday for ten days work with his teammates at Astana’s training camp in Santa Rosa, California. At camp, Contador will prepare for his first race of the 2009 season, the Volta al Algarve, February 18-22.

He is eager to race, but notes that this year his preparation is somewhat behind the schedule of last year, and that it’s still too soon to be fully in shape for competition.

“I’m looking forward to camp, because this year I started training a little later, and at first, at Tenerife, I almost couldn’t take advantage of it because of surgery. Now I hope we have good weather in California and can get in a sizeable chunk of work.”

How do you rate your current form?

I’ve been doing very dedicated training for weeks and I’m starting to feel good, but up till now I’ve only done base work. I haven’t been doing climbs, I haven’t done intervals, and I’m not going crazy over logging hours on the bike. Maybe at training camp I’ll start to work on intensity, but I don’t want to overdo it, because this will be a very long year.

Are you eager to pin on that first bib number?

Absolutely, because I love to race and that’s what motivates me to train. I’m going to debut in the Algarve, but it’s not a race I’m familiar with and I won’t be riding to win. It will be the first contact with competition.

Have you made any changes to your bike, or will it be the same as in 2008?

We’re working with Trek to introduce some new features, and we also want to set up the time trial bike to coordinate with the data we got in the wind tunnel.

Will you train against the clock in California?

I think that the wind tunnel team are going to training camp in order to define the exact position I’ll adopt in the races, therefore I want to take that opportunity on some day, because that training is also very important.

Are you familiar with Santa Rosa?

I’ve talked to Levi Leipheimer, who lives there, and it’s his usual training ground. I think we’ll have spring-like temperatures, but I’m not familiar with the venue, because it’s different from the recent ones.

Do you know yet who’ll be on your team for the Algarve?

No, that’ll be decided at camp, depending on how each guy’s doing.

By the way, some fans wonder why there aren’t any classics on your calendar this year.

Well, there’s still a chance to fit in a one-day race, specifically La Flèche Wallonne or Liége-Bastogne-Liége, but I haven’t wanted to put them on my calendar because everything depends on how the Vuelta al País Vasco ends, since that stage of the season is usually a bit long to hold my first peak of form. I like those races, but I’m going to play it by ear. (AC press room)


January 28, 2009

Yann Le Moenner, the head of the Tour organizers, ASO, commented at the Europa Press Agency breakfast today in Madrid on the presence of Alberto Contador in the next Tour.

Le Moenner explained that “both he and his team met our requirements during the entire 2008 season, and for that reason, we will also uphold our end of the bargain in 2009.”

The ASO chief explained that Astana was prevented from participating in the 2008 Tour because of the well-known doping controversy involving the team (before its 2008 re-make), but that the situation, “has changed considerably during the season due to its attitude and the fact that a radical change in staff has taken place, and for that reason,” he assured, “we see no disadvantage in both the team and Alberto Contador being in the race this year.”

About Armstrong’s presence in the 2009 edition of the Tour, Moenner said that he is “a great champion and one of the cyclists who has made history in the Tour.

“If he also meets all the requirements and controls with ordinary or extraordinary scruples, as his team has guaranteed, it’s a great pleasure for us that he can compete.” (Sportec)

Radio Marca


January 18, 2009

Alberto visited Paris last Thursday to collect his second consecutive Velo D'Or prize, the prestigious award given by Velo magazine for the best cyclist of the year. While there he gave an extensive interview.

January 16, 2008 - Alberto Contador was in Paris yesterday, at the invitation of l’Equipe, with his brother and PR man Francisco, and his director sportif Alain Gallopin.

The winner of the Tour de France 2007, and the Giro and Vuelta 2008 was at the editorial meeting of the paper and received his second Velo d’Or prize from Velo magazine.

“I’ve already had the pleasure of riding past the front of your newspaper (headquarters) wearing yellow, and now I have the chance to see it from close up,” smiled the Madrid native, 26.

He talks about what the Tour brought him, and his hopes for the 2009 edition. He also discusses his new teammate, a certain Lance Armstrong, with whom he will likely not race till the departure at Monaco on July 4th.

After your victory in 2007 and the disappointment of not being invited last year, the Tour de France is still your main objective of the season….

The Tour de France gave me the greatest satisfaction of my career. I can’t wait to get back to it. But I’m well aware that I have to go step by step. I have three kilos to lose, and I’m slightly late in my preparation because of an operation on my nose. But it’s nothing to worry about.

Will there be changes in your approach to preparation?

My program will be similar to that of 2007. I’m not going to change something that’s already been lucky.

The difference this year is that Lance Armstrong is returning to competition with your team, and he’s talking about the Tour, too…

…the shock of surprise is over, the disappointment about not being told about it has been digested, it must be said that the return of Lance Armstrong is a good thing for cycling. He’s a great champion who knows how to sell this sport like no one else. His return has quite a few advantages.

Is that what you really think?

Yes, even if it’s only for the burden of media attention that he lifts off me. That may not seem important, but for me it means being less stressed throughout the season, and having less pressure when I do the Tour.

The return of Armstrong doesn’t put any more pressure on you than that?

At first I thought it would. Now it’s not pressure any more, but motivation. I’ll race at the side of someone I have admired since I was fifteen.

How will each one’s role be defined?

We have two distinct programs with the link being the preparation for the Tour. I’ll concentrate on my program of races to arrive in as perfect shape as possible for the start, but without obsessing about being the leader. It’s clear: only the road during the race will decide. We won’t come to any conclusions on the morning of July 4th about who to designate as leader.

With the arrival of Armstrong, did you make any demands in particular?

Perhaps just wanting guys like Benjamin Noval and Sergio Paulhino with me as often as possible. Nothing more.

A team also for the Tour?

Well, them already. But I know it’ll be a real puzzle how to get a list of nine names. It’s Johan Bruyneel who will decide.

How did your first meeting with Armstrong go?

Like with any other rider. We were at the table with the team in Tenerife. He shook hands with everyone, nothing more. Then we had the chance to chat a little more. Nothing special.

Armstrong has said that he wasn’t coming back as a boss. Is that the impression he gave you?

It’s obvious he has presence. You can feel that he has influence when he talks about marketing and sponsoring. Sportswise, I didn’t feel he had any wish to dominate on his part.

Athletically, how did you find him during training camp in Tenerife?

I saw someone very motivated in training. He gave a sense of tremendous will. It was like he wanted to be in shape immediately. I also saw that he is very muscular.

Armstrong said that he (didn’t) doubt that you might play the role of a domestique if necessary ….

I’ve always said that if a rider on the team had a better chance than me to win the Tour, then I would work for him.

You’ve already won the Tour, the Giro and the Vuelta. What motivates you still?

This year, the Tour. Perhaps next year the Tour and the Giro, and the following year the Tour and the Vuelta. What is important is to continue winning the biggest races.

Thanks to S.A. Maris for translation from the French.

Photo: Alberto spoke via Radio Marca (MARCA)

Portuguese Cycling Federation


January 13, 2009

More information has been released today about the main features of Contador’s first race of the season, the 35th edition of the Volta ao Algarve, February 18-22, 2009.

Most stages will favor sprinters. There will be a time trial of 25 – 28 kilometers with an uphill finish, ending either at Malhão (Loulé) or São Miguel (Olhão).

Joining Contador in the Astana roster will be Andreas Klöden, and their Portuguese teammate Sergio Paulinho, who will be riding his home race.

Plenty of other stars will stretch their legs at the Algarve: Robbie McEwen, Alessandro Ballan, Damiano Cunego, Philippe Gilbert, Egoi Martinez, and many others.

Last year’s edition was won by Stijn Devolder.


Volta ao Algarve

TDF 2007

Contador's 2009 season goes from the Algarve to the Arc de Triomphe, he hopes. (EFE)

Season opens for Contador at Volta ao Algarve

January 12, 2009 - Alberto Contador has made his 2009 race calendar for the early season through the Tour de France, his primary goal for the year.

Since team training camp in Tenerife and surgery for a deviated septum, the Astana leader is training well but limiting his work sessions to volume, preparing himself gradually for more intensive efforts.

”I’ve logged just short of a month of effective work,” says Contador from his house in Pinto (Madrid). “I’m doing volume, and I’ll be gradually increasing intensity in order to be better-prepared by February 1, when the second team training camp is scheduled in California.”

Astana team will meet in California February 1 – 10 for the first camp of 2009, at which Contador’s season will begin in earnest.

“After coming back, I’ll be at home for a week before going to Portugal to ride the Volta ao Algarve (February 18 – 22). I’ve heard good things about that race and I really want to ride well there, because I’ve never competed in Portugal. The weather there is very good at that time of year and I think that it’ll be a good place to start 2009, since there’s no Vuelta a Valencia.”

After the debut in Portugal, Contador will proceed with what is, for him, a familiar program. “The next race will be Paris-Nice, which I’ve always really liked and has been a great memory since the last time I rode it (He won, in 2007).”

Next, Contador will find himself in scenarios he’s very well-acquainted with: the Vuelta a Castilla y León and the Vuelta al País Vasco. “The first one is a good date for a first test, and the second marks the end of the first cycle of competition.”

After País Vasco, Contador will rest before starting Tour prep. “I’ll do some training camps to study the Tour stages, will do specific training to improve in both climbing and cronos, and I'll ride the Dauphiné Libéré before taking the start at the Tour.”

At present Contador thinks that “it’s too soon to draw any conclusions about form. I’m done with winter commitments and now I’m focused 100% on training. It’s clear that this year I’m a little behind compared to other seasons, but it doesn’t bother me. The time to be competitive is Castilla y León, so I’m not worried. It’s a long way off.”

Alberto has gone to Venice today (Monday) to shoot an ad spot for his shoe suppliers, SIDI. On Thursday he’ll be in Paris for the official reception of his second consecutive Velo D’Or, an award granted to the best cyclist of the year by a international jury of experts. (AC press room)

Astana team training camp


January 8, 2009

Our English edition of Josu Garai's article for MARCA, 12-24-08

Not many people can say, “I beat Lance Armstrong.”

Madrid’s Jesús Hernandez can be proud of exactly that, although it was in training, not in official competition. New to Astana, the rider from Parla sported the best form of anyone at the Tenerife training camp conducted by the Kazakh-sponsored team in the first week of December.

“I was just obeying team orders,” he apologizes modestly when reminded of what happened.

“Bruyneel told me to hammer down, so I hammered down,” until the only ones left were Armstrong and Leipheimer, who after literally busting their guts couldn’t stay with him on the tough roads that encircle Tenerife.

After a year out of work due to the demise of his team, Relax, Jesús Hernandez has re-entered cycling through the front door.

“I’ve been training since October, and it’s natural that you’d notice a difference,” he insists, determined not to offend anyone, certainly not Armstrong. Therefore when he’s reminded that the American, too, has been hammering away since his comeback in September, he changes the subject.

“Johan warned me, take advantage of the opportunity now, because later you won’t be able to. So I grabbed the chance, even though I realize that it’s an insignificant anecdote.”

His opinion of the seven-time Tour winner couldn’t be better. “I have a lot of respect and admiration for him because he didn’t just win everything by chance.”

What’s more, in Tenerife, Hernandez saw the American as super-focused. “I saw that his legs were extremely well-defined, although he was still a little heavy on top, above the engine,” something his teammates can vouch for.

‘What I observed was that he trains very hard, and whenever he saw the road go uphill, there he was and there he pushed us all. He obviously means business, and has what it takes to withstand the pace.”

Liberty Seguros 2004

Liberty Seguros - Würth team in 2004. Jesús, second row, third from left; Alberto, second row, far right

“Contador is the best”

But according to Jesús Hernandez, “Contador is the best in the world. He’s the most brilliant cyclist I’ve ever ridden with.” Also the person who has given him an entrée to Astana.

“We’ve known each other since we were teenagers and I’m here thanks to him, and Pepe Martí, who encouraged me to keep riding throughout 2008 when I was without a team. I owe it to Alberto, and not only as a cyclist but also as a friend, because while this profession last for years, when it’s over, the friendships remain.”

Few are as well-acquainted with Alberto Contador, the winner of the Triple Crown, with whom he trains on an almost daily basis. “He’s a crackerjack rider, he makes the impossible easy,” something demonstrated when it seemed impossible to win the Giro this year with almost no training.

“I’ve been training for over two months, and he can beat me after training for only two weeks. There’s an enormous difference between us, he rides much harder than I do.”

It’s not hard to catch a glimpse of them pedalling together. “Most days, we stay around Pinto. To me, it’s great because after leaving Parla, normally we go to train at La Vega, the area around Aranjuez and Chinchón,” an area where big climbs are noticeable by their absence.

“When we need to do mountains, we drive the car over to Collada Villaba and climb Navacerrada.”

They’re climbers by nature, not because climbing and cycling go hand in hand in their home territory, although Contador is also one of the best riders on the flats. “It’s incredible, he’s built like a goldfinch yet he’s able to win time trials,” his best friend comments.

Although separated by one year—Hernandez is a year older than Contador—both were hotshots as young riders. “Yes, we both sort of dominated among the young guys around greater Madrid.” And they both ended up defending the same colors, first with Iberdrola (where Hernandez suffered a serious fall and skull fracture in 2000, followed by a brain hemorrhage caused by a blood clot), and later with Würth.

“I remember that, when we were amateurs, the day before Subida a Gorla, Alberto said that he was going to win. It was his first year in that category (2001) and the veterans just laughed, but he won and broke the record.”

It didn’t take him long to find his place and win the respect of everyone. “We lived in a flat in Azpeitia,” Jesús continues. Shortly after came the Subida a Urraki. “We got first and second, we finished mano a mano,” although the victory, a gift from Alberto, was for Hernandez this time.

Subida a Gorla

Jesús and Alberto (left), Subida a Gorla 2001 (Photo: Carlos Abellan)

Tough times

Destiny dictated that they both made their professional debuts in Saiz’s Liberty-Würth. “I have to be very grateful to Manolo because he gave me the chance to make it. To him and to Juan González,” the director of the second team.

Destiny also ordered that he, like Contador, was splattered by Operación Puerto. “Yes, I got smeared by it, but fortunately it didn’t damage me too much. For no other reason than to show them that there was no reason to involve me, I went to the Guardia Civil to explain that it was impossible that I was implicated.

"I clarified it and was able to go on riding, although I have to say that my director at Relax (Jesus Suárez Cueva) believed in me and backed me all the way, something that other teammates didn’t have. At least I felt protected.”

But after two years at Relax, in 2008 he lost his job when his team went defunct. “In February I went through some tough times, because when you train you don’t think so much about your situation, but then maybe later the others go off to compete, but not you.

“If it hadn’t been for Alberto and Pepe (Martí), I would have quit, but they encouraged me to keep going, and I had a period until December to find a team.”

Contador saw to it that he didn’t have to look far. “One day, August 5 to be exact, he asked me to come over to his house because he wanted to speak with me. I showed up not knowing anything and he laid on the table a two-year contract with Astana that was already authorized by Bruyneel. I was so nervous and excited I almost couldn’t sign it.”

It was the reward for many years of friendship and, especially during the last two, for his work as a sparring partner. The man who hones the champion from Pinto to razor-sharp form is Jesús Hernandez. “I’m his pacemaker.”

Now at Astana with Contador and Lance, he’s the happiest man in the world. But the dream would become more beautiful still if he got a spot on the Tour roster, although “with the quality that this team has, that would be like aspiring to play in the championship final with Madrid. Nothing is impossible, and in this sport you’ve got to be ambitious, but at the moment the only grand tour in my calendar is the Vuelta a España.”

So far, he will ride the Tour Down Under with Armstrong in January, and later the tours of Castilla y León and Basque Country with Contador. (MARCA)

Photo, upper right: Jesús Hernandez riding with Astana champions at Tenerife (MARCA)


January 7, 2009

Giro, one of the most prominent names in cycling gear and a sponsor of Alberto Contador, has opened a new line of protective eyeglasses in honor of the Triple Champion.

The California-based firm now offers Havik Grand Tour Editions, designed to commemorate Contador's wins in the Tour, the Giro, and the Vuelta.

Available in yellow, pink, and metallic gold, the specs are priced at about $200. LOOK


January 3, 2009 - updated

Contador y los tres ninos

Alberto greets young fans at the Fiesta de la Bicicleta in November (EFE)

Alberto delivers gifts to sick children at Valdemoro hospital

“To tell the truth, we have a very busy schedule, but they mentioned the possibility of me coming here, and for me it’s a genuine pleasure to see the smiles of the children, some of whom are sick and others who have just been born.

"I’m so happy to be here,” the champion cyclist said after visiting the pediatric and maternity wards of the Infanta Elena hospital.

Accompanied by the Three Kings and by the mayor of Valdemoro, on Friday Alberto Contador visited ten children who are currently patients in the pediatric ward, most of them with minor illnesses, although there were some more serious cases such as a boy who has suffered a diabetic coma.

“It’s well worth the effort to fit this type of community commitment into the agenda, because they really appreciate it. When I’m scheduling different activities that I enjoy personally, this is always a priority,” added Contador, the winner of the 2008 Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España.

The cyclist, who also visited adult patients, was given numerous signs of support. “Most of the children I visited were very small, but their parents really wished me well in the Tour de France this year.”

Finally, Contador, who comes from neighboring Pinto, when asked about Valdemoro’s new hospital, commented that “health care is fundamental, and the more hospitals the better. This one has easy access to the highway, and even better access to the trail, since before I came on the mountain bike and got here easily.”

“It’s very important to have good health care. By visiting today, I can verify that the facilities in this hospital are excellent, and rooms are quite large, which is always beneficial, because they have to spend so much time here,” he said.

The mayor of Valdemoro, who has said that the best news of 2008 has been the birth of children in the town’s new hospital, was also especially happy with today’s visit.

“It has been a fantastic feeling since this is the first year that we’ve come to this hospital in Valdemoro to bring gifts to the children, and there’s nothing better than to start the year seeing the faces of the children as they receive a visit from Alberto Contador.” (AC press room)

Triple, triple, triple champ

Endorsed by the Three Kings: King Tour, King Giro, and King Vuelta (Photo: jasonsram)


January 2, 2009

Tenerife press conference

Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador will work together at the Tour de France (Jaime Reine/AFP/Getty Images)

Contador “Armstrong’s return will be an incentive”

Alberto Contador, winner of the Tour, the Giro, and the Vuelta, states in an interview published by Gazzetta dello Sport that having the American Lance Armstrong as a teammate (Astana) and rival will act as an incentive to him next season.

The occasion for the interview is the announcement of Contador as recipient of La Gazzetta’s Fausto Coppi Award, given to the best rider of the year as chosen by a jury of 40 cycling experts. Contador, who was the top choice of 33 of the 40 jurists, says that competition with Armstrong will be a good thing.

“It could be good, because for me, he’ll act as an incentive. Also, Lance’s contribution in the Tour could be the deciding factor (for an overall win),” he explains.

Contador confirms that his main goal for the season is to win the Tour de France. “Astana has asked me to do it, and I’ll make all possible sacrifices to see it through,” he says.

“The team’s the important thing”

When asked if the American’s charismatic personality will be an issue, having won the Tour seven times, Contador adds that he (Armstrong) also “has character” and that “he will make this plain in the way he does his work.”

Asked how Astana will manage both champions participating in the Tour de France, Contador emphatically says only that “the most important thing will be to ride for the team.”

According to Contador, the Texan’s choice to ride the Giro and Tour could be “a perfect combination, seeing that he’s coming off three years of inactivity.” As for the the prize granted by La Gazzetta dello Sport, Contador’s pleasure at being chosen best rider of the year by so many experts is apparent, in spite of not having been able to ride the Tour.

“These have been the most important 14 months of my life as a rider. 2007 was my breakthrough year, and the triumph in the Tour introduced me to the world, but 2008 has been the season every cyclist dreams about, with the Giro/Vuelta duo,” he explains.

Contador won the prize with 103 points. Thirty-two points and second place went to another Spaniard, Carlos Sastre, winner of the last Tour de France. Third was world champion Alessandro Ballan of Italy, with 30 points. (MARCA)


December 31, 2008

Alberto Contador and Samuel Sánchez talk it over

El Pais, November 10, 2008 - For cyclists, winter begins in the middle of October, at the Giro di Lombardia, the Race of the Falling Leaves. For cyclists on a winning season, these days of apparent inactivity are anything but restful.

This is a time for devouring almost as many miles of pavement as they do during the summer, with two differences: they cover the miles on four wheels, not two, and at the end of the journey there’s no winner’s jersey. Instead there’s a gala, a dinner, a tribute, a cicloturista ride, an article in the paper, an announcement, a reception, or an alubiada--the Basque equivalent of a chili feed.

Two weeks ago, Alberto Contador (Pinto, Madrid; 1982), winner of the Giro, Tour, and Vuelta, drove his Audi Q7 to Barajas airport and collected Samuel Sanchez (Oviedo, 1978), the Olympic champion. Together they headed to Bilbao where they participated in the VI Fiesta de la Bicicleta, organized by the Euskadi Foundation. Shortly before, they took time to chat with Unai Larrea of El País.

Samuel Sanchez.
The prizes are great, but they last most of the winter. Sometimes you wish that the season would begin so you could rest and train, because now it’s complicated even to find a date to go on vacation.

Alberto Contador.
I organize my schedule via my press man and my brother. Thanks to them, my ear is no longer growing to the phone. It’s a killer! In winter you only have a little time for yourself. You can’t enjoy your friends or family.

S.S. But we’re not complaining. This has been an extraordinary year for Spanish cycling. Giro, Tour, Vuelta, Olympics, Liége, País Vasco, San Sebastian, Paris-Nice…Nothing is impossible in this sport, but for a country to come back and win everything, that looks complicated to me.

A.C. A number of things have come together just right. If the Tour hadn’t banned the team (Astana), I wouldn’t have ridden either the Vuelta or the Giro. Spanish cycling is at a high point, and not just because more effort is being put into developing the younger generation. It’s simply that we have many quality riders in many areas.

S.S. We won the big classics.

A.C. Yes, but Spanish cycling is not at its peak in terms of sponsorship. In the Pro Tour, only one team is 100% Spanish, Euskaltel Euskadi. Caisse d’Epargne has a French sponsor and the sponsors of Scott-American Beef (old Saunier Duval) are American. Recently there were four teams. But I trust that, if things keep going like this, there'll be more Spanish sponsors.

S.S. Cycling has entered a new phase. They continue to encounter doping cases, like those of Riccó, Piepoli, Kohl, and Sella, but cyclists on the whole can be proud to belong to a clean sport. We go through more controls than any other athletes. We follow a special program, the biological passport. We pass controls at home and in competition. Plus, positives also occur in other sports, but when a cyclist is caught it causes a scandal. Cycling is healthy, the treatment we receive from the media isn’t fair.

A.C. There are things that I don’t understand. I don’t know to what extent it’s more profitable for a deep-pockets sponsor, or a city like Madrid, to devote five days to a sensational-looking tennis match or an entire year to a cycling team. I think it might be due to big business’ fear of positives. It happens in other countries. In Spain people have hope, but in Germany it’s been fatal.

S.S. And in Italy, things are not great.

A.C. Bettini told me that Riccò’s positive has done a lot of damage. He was the great hope of Italian cycling. He was my toughest rival in the Giro. He rode very strong. Too strong? A cyclist can’t be suspicious of his rivals. I’ve never done that, because I don’t like it when others question me. When you lose, you can’t make excuses for yourself by saying “The others doped.” Also, every time, more people become aware and understand the new mentality, that the antidoping controls are increasingly effective.

People always say that, with doping, the thieves stay ahead of the law, but that hasn’t been borne out in reality. They’re coming up with new methods of detection, and that’s what happened in the Tour [positive tests by Riccò, Piepoli, and Kohl for CERA, a third generation EPO, undetectable prior to Tour 2008]. Things are going well.

S.S.Cycling is a thrilling show, and the Tour, the best race, is the one that makes it all worthwhile, that makes you vote to acquit. There’s so much press coverage that the whole world notices everything that happens. And it has history, tradition, legend.

A.C. I’ve always dreamt about the Tour. When I was an amateur, I was already thinking about winning it, but I didn’t say so because people would have said, “That kid’s got his head stuck in the clouds.” It changes your life. Things were one way before winning the Tour, but since winning it they're different. When I won Paris-Nice, here’s how my town found out: a report in a local magazine. But when I won the Tour and went home to Pinto, the reception gave me goosebumps.

S.S. And, as if you needed something else, now Armstrong is coming back. The announcement about his return left me perplexed. Why is the Patron of seven Tour victories coming back? Is he bored? He was retired for three years…Alberto, he’s creating a tricky situation for you. The road will put each of you in his place.

A.C. The situation won’t really be too tricky. The press has exaggerated the polemics.

S.S. The press will try to provoke fights between you and Armstrong.

A.C. I don’t want fights. At first I thought, with Armstrong on the team, that it was not a positive situation for me, but now I see it differently. I haven’t spoken with Armstrong yet, but I want to. Our relationship will be as comfortable as possible.

Shit, he’s the rider I’ve always admired most! When I was sick, he was my inspiration because of the way he confronted and defeated cancer.

S.S. My mother died of cancer. I lost her when I was 21. I lived with just her. My parents were separated. The loss of someone so dear changes your focus on things.

Life pins you to the wall with a sword, forces you to grow up. Morning, noon, and night, all I could think of was “I’ve lost her.” I was a professional cyclist, yes, but I didn’t know how to do anything else.

You have to cope without losing your head even though it’s not easy at 21 years old. You learn to value the things that really matter. Problems don’t exist on their own, we create them. This situation made me stronger.

A.C. My illness marked a turning point in my life. I’ve always been very ambitious when it comes to sport, but now I pay close attention to things I took for granted before, like having coffee with a friend.

When you spend that much time in the hospital, knowing if you’ll ever ride again becomes a secondary priority when you don’t even know if you’ll be able to live a normal life. You remind yourself that you could crash and become paralyzed or lose your eyesight any day. Then you really value what you’ve got.

When they told me that I could start cycling again, on November 27, it was 3 degrees and raining buckets, but I went out to train because it felt like a privilege, when before I might have been lazy because of the bad weather. When things are not easy, that’s when we give our best.

S.S. People think that we’re young, rich and famous, but I’m telling you, all that, without health, is worthless. Look at Ballesteros.*

The person who is truly rich is not the one who has more, but the one who has less and knows how to enjoy it. You have to enjoy the good times, to savor them, to express them. I’ll never forget what it felt like to win the gold medal in Beijing. The first person I hugged at the finish line was you.

A.C. It was a special hug, very emotional. The tears--and for me that’s something, I’m not touched easily. I felt like the victory was mine, too.

S.S. I really enjoyed watching you win the Giro. On the first day, when you only lost a few seconds, I saw it all, plain as day: “If he stays in the race, he’ll win the Giro.” And the month before you were relaxing on the beach. At least...that’s what you said.

A.C. It's true, I was on vacation in Cadiz! I had taken the bike even though nobody ordered me to, so I wouldn’t lose too many days of training. Luckily, a few days training are enough to put me in form.

S.S. Yeah, I used to be like that, too, but the years will catch up with you. You’ll see. (laughter)

*Spanish golf legend Severiano Ballesteros (www.seveballesteros.com ) collapsed at Barajas airport on October 5, and has subsequently undergone surgery to remove a brain tumor.

2008 MEDIA

Alberto in the Press 2008

Press coverage from The Year of the Triple Crown


All text © 2007-2008 Rebecca Bell, contadorfans@hotmail.com.
Web design by Nicky Orr and Modem Operandi. Masthead photo credits: (1) bbc.co.uk (2) Liz Kreutz, kreutzphotography.com.