See VUELTA RACE WATCH for everything about Alberto Contador in the Vuelta a España
Bruno Pires of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, a veteran of ten years in the peloton, will put aside any hopes for personal glory in the upcoming Vuelta a España. His goal is to help Contador and his team win the race. Full stop.
The following interview is from yesterday´s edition of SPRINT ESPECIAL
Your tenth season in the professional ranks...What's it like this year on the Saxo Bank team?
Honestly, it seems like it was just last year that I became a professional and it's already been ten years. This year, I notice that I've evolved at little more and the results confirm that. During the months of March and April, I didn't feel well due to allergies, and then I took a break to prepare well for the next part of the season. Getting some good results is has been important for building confidence, what with the work I've been doing. I feel good at Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank. It's a team that is giving me opportunities in the races to play an important role for the team.
You exchanged Leopard for Saxo Bank, so what's it like to be sharing a team with the people who were your direct rivals in the races last year?
I'm a professional, end of story. I've always had to represent the team that contracted me the best I possibly could, and in consequence, I defend the interests of my team.
They say that good wine gets even better with the passage of time. How is the Bruno Pires of today different from the one of ten years ago?
Nowadays I've lost a little speed and explosiveness, but gained resistance on the longest climbs. I'm also more relaxed in the races, I'm believe in myself more. Now, in competition, it's more difficult for me to get really outstanding results.
And where do you think you have space to improve?
This year I've improved in the individual time trials, and I think I still have time to evolve in the mountains. Everything's working, but time is needed to get the results that we want.
It's confirmed that you'll ride the Vuelta a España, protecting Alberto Contador. It must be a source of pride for you to be able to help Alberto in this Vuelta, isn't it?
Without doubt, I'm really eager for the first day of the Vuelta to arrive. I've prepared for this race very carefully, in order be mentally focused and to be able to give my best level, because I feel that it's going to be a very special race for Alberto and we´re really going to have to work hard for him.
Not to mention in a Vuelta that's going to be as hard and grueling as this one, both due to the route and due to the level of the participants, right?
To tell the truth, this year's Vuelta has a very tough route, but I think that, as for spectacle, it's going to be very exciting and the level of participation is going to be very high, so the team has to be very strong so that it can rise to the challenge.
Working for Alberto will be the principal goal in the Vuelta, you'd probably like being able to take a chance for yourself at some point in the race, wouldn't you?
As you say, the paramount objective will be to help Alberto reach his objective, and there's no way I´m thinking about results for myself. For me, the best opportunity is to be able to help him to the best of my ability, and if in the end we don't fulfill our objective, a good result is what will matter to us.
Photo of Bruno Pires from Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank
EFE | Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador has pointed to the individual time trial that ends in Pontevedra and the three mountain stages in Asturias as the decisive days in the upcoming edition of the Vuelta a España.
The Saxo Bank rider commented in an interview released by his team, in which he says that the Vuelta a España, which begins on August 18, "will be especially difficult" because his rivals will "put all the responsibility on me and on my team."
Contador highlighted the Stage 11 time trial, 39.4 kilometers from Cambados to Pontevedra, and the three stages that pass through Asturias, with summit finishes in Puerto de Ancares (Stage 14), Lagos de Covadonga (Stage 15) and Valgrande-Pajares (Stage 16), as the days that will decide the race.
The cyclist from Pinto emphasized the importance that he places on the Spanish grand tour, because "it's with your own people and takes place in the places where you've always ridden, since you were a kid."
"I see an open Vuelta," said Contador, who pointed to "seven or eight riders with options" on a victory that would be highly prized by the cyclist from the Danish team.
"I'd like to win the Vuelta for all the people who have been supporting me during this time, for the team and for the sponsors," said Contador, who is currently preparing for the Spanish race by participating in the Eneco Tour.
Alberto Contador pointedly mentioned the support of his fans during these last six months of exclusion from competition due to a doping-related sanction.
"The support and the caring that the public has given me has been incredible and I don't know how I can thank them," said the Spanish cyclist, who also mentioned his team, because "having a team like that behind me is an enormous comfort."
The multi-Tour de France winner explained that one of his plans for the future is to participate in this year's World Championships, which he'll ride in the Netherlands in September, "eagerly and with motivation," as well as going to "other races that I haven't done in the past because I ended my season after the Tour."
Alberto Contador, the day before his return to competition (Kahane)
Alberto Contador held a press conference today prior to his return to competition, which will take place tomorrow, August 6, at the Eneco Tour.
Contador thanked the reporters present at the hotel where the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff team is staying, and said that today "is an important day and I'm glad to be getting back into competition tomorrow, especially in a race as lovely as the Eneco Tour. Tomorrow I will officially be a part of the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff team, so I'm happy, in addition to debuting before fans like these. There was no better place to start than here."
After your last Tour, you said that you liked to do anti-doping controls because they could help to change cycling's mentality. Do you still agree with that?
Yes, I still think the same thing. I believe in the controls, and I've continued believing in them all this time. I've been through several controls during these last few months and I've never complained, but it's also true that we have to change certain things that are capable of being improved, and in order to do that, we have to look for solutions.
Do you feel relieved that tomorrow is coming?
I don't know if relieved is the correct word, but I'm looking forward to competing, because that's what I like to do.
Did you watch the Tour on television?
When I wasn't training, yes, but in a much different way than in past years.
How have these last six months been, and what are your goals now?
They've been six difficult months and I will remember them forever. I haven't wanted to be idle, I've gone to different training places, I've had some days when I felt more like doing it than others, but I'm just as tired as in other years by this date, because I've trained a lot in order to get here in good shape. And I want to thank each and every person who has supported me, on the road, in the social networks and everywhere, because they have helped me to get up and go out training every day.
In what way, and how much, has this experience changed you as a person?
It's difficult to evaluate, but it's true that in certain ways it takes away the idealistic feelings I had eight years ago. It also forces you to mature, and to see cycling as a part of my life, but not as my entire life. I think that it will make me better at handling difficult situations. It will be good for tackling high-pressure situations.
Do you feel like getting revenge, or like proving something?
No, not at all. I only want to enjoy. I really enjoy training, making sacrifices to be at my absolute best, and I hope to continue enjoying it and getting results.
What sort of reception to do you expect from the peloton tomorrow?
The same that I received at the Volta ao Algarve in 2011 and at the races after that: respect and friendship, plain and simple.
What has been your hardest moment? Have you asked anyone in particular for help?
The hardest moment has been the last two years, because everything possible has been said about me. Luckily, I have my family and my friends. Thanks to them, I haven't needed to ask for professional help. They've been the ones that have kept my spirits up.
You've signed a contract for three and a half years, but the team has sponsorship only until 2013. Has Riis promised you something special? and what are your future goals?
For me, it's been very easy to continue with this team. I'm also very grateful to all the others who have called me, because they respected my decision, because what Saxo Bank and the other sponsors have done for me, with Riis leading the way, is beyond price. I'm indebted to them, and I never felt that I was off the team. As for goals, we'll have to see, year by year.
What are your goals for the Eneco Tour?
Mainly to enjoy the competition and get into race rhythm after so many months out, because just training, no matter how much, is not the same. I'm eager to do well.
Have you had contact with Frank Schleck in these last few weeks?
No, I haven't, but I wish him all the best, as the friend that he is, for both for his own sake and for the sake of cycling.
Do you feel like a victim after your case? Do you feel powerless?
What's clear is that the regulations are obsolete and all of the people in charge know it, but they're not doing anything to change it.
Official press release, Alberto Contador press room
Alberto Contador, prior to the Eneco Tour (Kahane)
Alberto Contador's period of ineligibility has ended. Tomorrow he races again, in the seven-stage Eneco Tour.
His next race will be the Vuelta a España, starting on Saturday, August 18. With a sensational route and the presence of Contador, the Vuelta will be the jewel in the crown of the 2012 grand tours.
After the Vuelta, look for Contador at the Worlds and the Giro di Lombardia.
CICLISMO EN ASTURIAS | Work has begun to surface the road to Cuitu Negru. Machines have been busy for several days at the Valgrande-Pajares ski station, where asphalt is being applied to the 2.8 kilometers from Branillín to the top of Cuitu Negru, the site where the queen stage of the upcoming Vuelta a España will be contested on September 3.
At the end of last year, the Puerta de Asturias Cycling Club proposed that the job of surfacing the track to Cuitu Negru would be tackled as a part of a general project to refurbish and improve the Valgrande-Pajares Station. The scope of the project included preparing the mountain for a debut in the Vuelta a España by extending the climb from Fierros to Cuitu Negru by almost three kilometers, the final kilometers being an average of 13%.
Photo: Contador with the Lena Destino Ciclista t-shirt (Ciclismo en Asturias)
Furthermore, the tarmac will be an asset in the task of maintaining the ski station all year long, which fully justifies the investment.
The government of the Principality of Asturias accepted said proposal and Unipublic designed a stage with a summit finish on the previously unknown climb. In addition, the organizers of the Vuelta have scheduled a gran fondo for August 25 which will cover the climb and serve to introduce it.
Alberto Contador visited the climb, located in the regional council of Lena, a few days ago. His aim was to climb to the top by bicycle after doing a training session that took in the climbs of San Lorenzo, Cobertoria and Pajares which will precede the Cuitu Negru in the Vuelta stage, but owing to the bad road conditions, he opted to go up in an all-terrain vehicle made available by the Valgrande Station staff. Roberto Menéndez of the Puerta de Asturias Cycling Club accompanied Contador to the top and explained the details of the ascent, which culminates at an altitude of 1,850 meters.
After finishing the recon, Contador donned a "Lena Destino Ciclista" t-shirt, designed for a promotional campaign of climbs in the council that has been in action throughout the year, thanks to the Puerta de Asturias Cycling Club and the Lena regional council.
Go to CICLISMO EN ASTURIAS to see photos of the road work in progress
Profile of Vuetla a España queen stage, Stage 16: Gijón-Cuitu Negru
Alberto Contador will hold a press conference on Sunday, August 5, in advance of the Eneco Tour, which begins Monday with 204-kilometer road stage to be followed by a 19-kilometer team trial on Tuesday.
The press conference will take place at 3:00 on Sunday afternoon. Later that evening, Contador will attend the official presentation with his teammates at 8:00 PM in Waalwijk.
The Eneco Tour will serve as Alberto Contador's first point of contact with competition before taking the start in the Vuelta a España on August 18 in Pamplona. After completing his final training sessions in Madrid, the Triple Crown winner travels to Holland with hopes of confirming in competition the good feelings that he has had throughout recent weeks of intense preparation.
Official press release, Alberto Contador press room
ENECO TOUR OFFICIAL WEBSITE
BICICICLISMO hoy ha anunciado los preinscritos para la próxima edición de la Vuelta a España, una noticia que incluye las escuadras para cada equipo, más varios otros corredores alternativos.
La lista provisional para el equipo de Alberto Contador, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff, incluye al líder Contador, los españoles Jesús Hernández, Dani Navarro y Benjamín Noval, los portugueses Sergio Paulinho y Bruno Pires, el joven polaco Rafal Majka, el ex campeón de Dinamarca Nicki Sorensen y el veterano Matteo Tosatto de Italia. Es un equipo de mucha fuerza, con cinco gregarios que ya han corrido victorias con Contador en otras grandes vueltas.
Los corredores alternativos son Chris Anker Sorensen, Michael Morkov, Vladymyr Gustov y Mads Christiansen.
Es claro que, con seis ibéricos tan capaces, y el poder de los extranjeros, el equipo de Contador tendrá fuerza suficiente, energía y sabiduría para hacer una campaña digna de su líder, que les permita alzarse con la victoria en la ronda española.
La Vuelta a España 2012 comenzará el sábado, 18 de agosto con una contrarreloj por equipos en Pamplona.
Alberto Contador confirmed on Wednesday that he will return to racing next month in the Eneco Tour, August 6-12. The seven-stage event, which crisscrosses the border between the Netherlands and Belgium, will be Contador's first real contest since the Tour de San Luis in Argentina, where he won two mountain stages and finished 2nd overall.
This will be Contador's first participation in the Eneco Tour. He commented in a radio broadcast on Wednesday, "The Eneco Tour will be a very special race for me for several reasons. In the first place, it will be my return to competition, which I'm very eager for, because every rider likes to compete, and in the second place, I'm very excited about coming back here because these are two countries where cycling culture is very well-established, and ones in which people are passionate about cycling like nowhere else. I've always felt at home here."
This year's route will cover 1033.8 kilometers and feature an 18.9-km team time trial and a 17.4-km individual time trial. The terrain is not ideally suited to Contador, but the final day, which passes through the Ardennes, will be something for him to look forward to, since it takes in two climbs of the Muur de Geraardsbergen, ending on the old city walls.
Alberto's main goal will be to get back into the swing of competition. "The route is not the most favorable for me, but my fundamental objective will be to get into the rhythm of competition in order to tackle my end-of-season goals," he said.
Among those goals, of course, a very demanding one is fast approaching, as the start of the three-week Vuelta a España on August 18 in Pamplona looms.
Eneco Tour 2012: The route
Stage 1, August 6: Waalwijk (NL) - Middelburg (NL), 203.9 km
Stage 2, Tuesday, August 7: Sittard (NL) - Sittard (NL), 18.9 km (TTT)
Stage 3, Wednesday, August 8: Riemst (B) - Genk (B), 188 km
Stage 4, Thursday, August 9: Heers (B) - Bergen op Zoom (NL), 213.3 km
Stage 5, Friday, August 10: Hoogerheide (NL) - Aalter (B) , 184.6 km
Stage 6, Saturday, August 11: Ardooie (B) - Ardooie (B) , 17.4 km (ITT)
Stage 7, Sunday, August 12: Maldegem (B) - Geraardsbergen (B), 207.7 km
See the ENECO TOUR OFFICIAL WEBSITE for more information
Saxo Bank to stay with Riis Cycling in 2013, Tinkoff Bank new Co-Title Sponsor
TEAM SAXO BANK | Saxo Bank, the trading and investment specialist, will stay with Riis Cycling in 2013. In 2012 Saxo Bank has been the sole title sponsor of the professional cycling team. But from this year's Tour de France throughout 2012 and 2013, Tinkoff Bank (also known as Tinkoff Credit Systems), the only Russian online bank, has decided to partner with Riis Cycling, and the three partners have agreed for Tinkoff Bank to become Co-Title sponsor.
Team owner Bjarne Riis says:
"This is indeed a great day and a proud moment for our cycling team, and I believe we now have a very strong setup for the future development of Riis Cycling and our team."
"To continue with Saxo Bank as a main sponsor shows in words and action that together we have been able to build an extremely strong partnership based on the obvious benefits for both of us over the past five years. Today, to also be able to announce and warmly welcome Tinkoff Bank on board makes me even more proud. I'm honored to partner with two such highly professional and dedicated companies, who share a great passion for cycling, but also see commercial benefits in sponsoring our team."
In a joint statement, Kim Fournais and Lars Seier Christensen, co-CEO and co-founders of Saxo Bank, say: “It's been important for Saxo Bank to share the sponsorship with a dedicated partner in 2013 and we are very happy that Tinkoff Bank is now our new Co-Title sponsor. This has made the decision to - once again - extend our sponsorship for another year simple. Saxo Bank has always believed it was a sound commercial decision to support this team and Oleg Tinkov has shared this view based on both his long term experience in cycling and as a great entrepreneur and successful business man. Bjarne Riis and his riders remain a huge inspiration and motivation for many young talents, and while Saxo Bank would like to support that, this sponsorship also gives its sponsors exposure all year long in markets that are vitally important to our business. For five years this sponsorship has proven a good investment and together with Tinkoff Bank, Saxo Bank is looking forward to celebrating great triumphs with Bjarne Riis and his team in 2012 and 2013.”
Owner of Tinkoff Bank, Oleg Tinkov, says:
"We are proud to return to cycling and to be sponsoring this team and Bjarne Riis who is without a doubt the best manager in the cycling world. And we are delighted to be joining our co-sponsor Saxo Bank, one of the most highly regarded businesses in the world of online banking, and an excellent strategic fit for us - as a cutting edge, online bank ourselves that is leading the field in Russia. There are lots of synergies between Tinkoff Bank and Saxo Bank. We think that we have a similar DNA and are excited about working together and with the team."
Going forward the name of the cycling team will be "Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank."
About Tinkoff Bank (Tinkoff Credit Systems):
Tinkoff Bank is Russia's first online bank specializing in issuing and servicing credit cards. It is one of Russia's fastest-growing businesses in the Internet space, having issued more than 2 million credit cards to clients throughout Russia since launching commercial operations in 2007. Tinkoff Bank has a strong focus on credit quality and has brought innovation to Russia in how it verifies the creditworthiness of its borrowers. The bank was founded by Oleg Tinkov, a renowned Russian entrepreneur who has previously launched successful businesses in sectors from frozen food to beer. Oleg Tinkov retains a majority stake. Other shareholders are Goldman Sachs, Vostok Nafta Investment Limited and Baring Vostok Private Equity Fund IV.
Official press release, Team Saxo Bank
The new team kit retains the royal blue of Saxo's original 2012 design, pairing it with a victory yellow - also the trademark color of Tinkoff. The Eagle of Herning design elements are preserved in the wing-shape (or flame) image on the back of the bib shorts (see Photo Daybook), with a hint remaining above the yellow field on the jersey.
Above the cyclist's umbilicus lies the Tinkov family crest, a hallmark of the family's days as brewers and suppliers of lager to the court of Peter the Great (* or perhaps not). The crest features an armoured warrior behind a shield bearing an arm with a sword extending from a cloud, above, and a unicorn, below. Sponsors' names are plastered on the back of the jersey in keeping with the orginial 2012 design.
EL MUNDO | Ex-professional cyclist Abraham Olano, now a technical director with the Vuelta a España, has said that it's "a shame" that the Luxembourgish cyclist Andy Schleck cannot participate in the upcoming edition of the Tour de France due to a possible fracture of the sacrum during the time trial of the Critérium du Dauphiné Liberé.
"It's a shame that, due to bad luck, Andy's not going to the Tour," the former rider from Gipuzcoa told Yahoo Eurosport after the presentation of the queen stage, Gijón to Cuitu Negru, of this year's Vuelta. He also extending a welcoming hand to both the Luxembourger and Spain's Alberto Contador, in hopes that they would participate in the Spanish grand tour. "Whenever they want to come to the Vuelta, they'll be well received, and if they're riding it to win, that will be even more true," he said.
Olano admits that a possible Contador-Schleck duel would make for a more exciting Vuelta. "It would be carried out over more of the Vuelta route this year. In the Tour or in any other race that they're in, Andy and Contador are rivals. They've always fought for the Tour de France, they're two of the best riders that exist, and a face-off between them here at the Vuelta would work out very well, media-wise, for the Vuelta. If they come, the media will be motivated. It will be argy-bargy for La Vuelta. People like a sparring match," he said.
Finally, the technical director of the Spanish tour was convinced that if Andy Schleck were to come to the Vuelta, he would be very motivated. "He's a combative rider, as was seen last year in the Tour. When things don't go well or when he receives criticism, he wants to show his professional pride. I hope that this year, after the misfortunes that he's had, the beginning of the season a little calm thinking about the Tour, that he could come hungry to La Vuelta," he concluded.
MARCA | The coach of the Spanish national cycling team, José Luis de Santos, indicated in statements made at a press conference last week that Alberto Contador will be a member of Spain's team at the World Championships next September 21 in Limburg.
De Santos, speaking in Béjar at a presentation event for the 2012 Spanish Nationals (Salamanca, June 21-24), has assured that Spain's team for the Worlds will consist of the Olympic team plus Contador and Catalan rider Joaquim "Purito" Rodríguez.
Riding for Spain in the London Olympic road race events, then combining forces with Contador and Rodríguez later at the Worlds, will be reigning Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez, current Spanish time trial champion Luis León Sánchez, current Spanish road race champion José Joaquín Rojas, and 2009 Vuelta a España winner, Alejandro Valverde.
TEAM SAXO BANK | Alberto Contador returns to Team Saxo Bank. The 29-year-old Spaniard will rejoin the Danish based World Tour team on August 5th, when his suspension has been served.
Alberto Contador and the team have agreed on a deal that will tie him to the team for the remainder of the 2012 season and the coming three years.
"A lot of speculations and rumors have surrounded Alberto Contador and his future in the past months, but both our sponsors, the team and Alberto have shared the same wish to continue and built on our relationship.
"All along throughout these last two tough years we have stood by Alberto, so to be able to announce his return to the team is something I have been really looking forward to. Now we can put an end to these speculations and start focusing on building the team for the coming years," team owner Bjarne Riis says.
Alberto Contador is equally happy that his future lies within the setup of Team Saxo Bank.
"The decision to return to Team Saxo Bank has actually been pretty easy, and my first priority was always to rejoin the team and to continue working with Bjarne Riis, and the rest of the team. The support I have experienced from them in a very difficult situation is extraordinaire. I'm really looking forward to getting back on the bike, and my aim is to repay that support, hopefully with some great results," Alberto Contador adds.
Team Saxo Bank promotional photo by tdwsport.com
Madrid's biggest star cyclist is preparing for the Vuelta a España
LEVANTE | Alberto Contador, who is sanctioned until August 5 due to a clenbuterol positive, explained today that he is “eager” and “very motivated,” thanks to ongoing shows of support from the public.
“I’m eager, I’m very motivated. The affectionate support that the people are giving me is impressive. Every day. Every time I go out on the road to train,” he said at the “Penguin Madrid” event presented by ONG FEAPS Madrid and Faunia.
“I’m training now on plenty of climbs and I’m very motivated, thinking about the month of August,” added the Pinteño.
Alberto Contador, who was not able to ride the Giro, said that “more than feeling envy” while watching the race, he recalled “many good times from last year, both in the race and with all the fans who treated me so well.” “It’s a very special race for me, and in the not-too-distant future, I’ll be there again,” he added.
“I’m following the races, it’s always good to watch the riders that you’re going to confront, and to see situations that can help you in future competitions,” he said.
Madrid’s star cyclist said that his next goal is the Vuelta: “I want to do the end of the season really well. The main goal will be the Vuelta a España, which starts on August 18 in Pamplona, where I want to be at 100%. I hope that the whole program is really good so that it’s a nice Vuelta for the fans.”
“I’m in full preparation for the Vuelta a España and for the end of the season. I’m still taking it easy, going one step at a time, because there’s still a long way to go until the Vuelta a España in August. I hope to arrive in good condition,” he said.
PHOTO GALLERY at Demotix
Photo: Contador goes for a ride with participants from the Penguin Madrid campaign (Levante)
Contador is backed by a team of amateur friends in his personal kit design, plus a horde of cyclists and fans (AC press room)
The second edition of the Marcha Cicloturista Alberto Contador took place today in Pinto. A massive crowd of cyclists took advantage of a lovely spring day in Alberto Contador's hometown to ride a demanding route that included a section of sterrato, a new feature this year that made a final selection in the group.
Alberto Contador was the star of the day. After giving the start signal, he followed the entire route on his own motorcycle so as not to miss a single detail of the activities of his friends and fans, both the ones who were at the head of the pack and those who decided to take it easy. At the finish, Alberto was busy signing autographs and posing for photos with the throng in attendance.
The day of cycling concluded with an enormous paella and a drawing for numerous prizes donated by event sponsors, most notably Pincasa and Specialized.
Next Monday, Alberto Contador will inaugurate one of a number of penguin statues decorated by artists and presented by Faunia as part of a campaign in support of people with mental disabilities. The event will take place at Madrid's Cuesta de Moyano at six o'clock in the evening. On the bike, Alberto will climb the Cuesta de Moyano accompanied by a group of youngsters.
II MARCHA CICLOTURISTA ALBERTO CONTADOR OFFICIAL WEBSITE
(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)
Jesús Hernández, along with Saxo Bank teammate Sergio Paulinho, has received word that the UCI will not allow them to lead the peloton of more than 700 cyclists tomorrow at the II Marcha Alberto Contador in Pinto.
Contador's longtime friend, training partner and teammate, Hernández, tweeted early today that he was looking forward to a "great day of cycling," but a few hours later wrote: "The UCI won't let us participate in Alberto Contador's gran fondo nor enjoy all the fans. We'll be at the finish line and award the prizes."
Alberto Contador will host the second edition of his gran fondo on Saturday, May 26 (II Marcha Cicloturista Alberto Contador)
This Saturday, May 26, in Pinto, Alberto Contador will host the second annual edition of his gran fondo, the Marcha Cicloturista Alberto Contador. More than 700 cyclists will take part in the event, which will be led by professional riders Jesús Hernández and Sergio Paulinho. These two stars are teammates as well as friends of Contador, and had a particular desire to be with the Madrileño on this day.
Contador himself will give the start signal, scheduled for eight o'clock in the morning, at the Prince of Asturias Multisport Complex (Polideportivo Príncipe de Asturias). The route – a tough one this year – will loop through Pinto twice. The first portion offers 102 kilometers for those who choose a medium-length ride, followed by an additional 180 kilometers for cyclists who opt for the full gran fondo.
The 2012 edition features something new: an approximately 4-km section of sterrato which will be covered twice. This strip of dirt and gravel road has been included in honor of the unforgettable sterrato sections of Alberto Contador´s magnificent 2011 Giro d'Italia. The surface of this rougher section is in perfect condition for road bikes. Nevertheless, it will be spectacular because much of it is uphill and will be very selective.
After the gran fondo, everyone is invited to partake of a giant paella and stay for the drawing, during which many gifts will be handed out. The event's main sponsors are PINCASA and Specialized.
(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)
II MARCHA CICLOTURISTA ALBERTO CONTADOR OFFICIAL WEBSITE
Alberto Contador scales the Tourmalet in a solo ride sponsored by FLEX (AC press room)
Today Alberto Contador re-encountered the 2010 Tour de France stage from Pau to the summit of the Tourmalet, where, in addition to the Tourmalet, he also climbed the Marie Blanque and the Soulor. Alberto rode the stage alone as part of a publicity campaign for the Spanish company FLEX.
After topping the Tourmalet, Alberto – who arrived to the applause of a large group of fans – said that it had been "a very long, hard day, because we ended up leaving a little late (at noon), and doing a stage like this gets pretty long when you do it solo."
Alberto emphasized that, during the 6+ hours of pedaling, he had "very good memories when I passed each place. I really liked the experience, plus we had good luck with the weather."
Alberto said that he particularly remembered "the attacks that Andy Schleck and I did on the Tourmalet. FLEX´s idea has left me with a great feeling."
Contador said that he felt very well throughout the day, "very comfortable," he said, "even though I knew I had to pace myself, because these are very demanding climbs," and especially because "I only started preparing for the Vuelta a España two weeks ago. But I'm the kind of rider that doesn't lose much form, and even though there were 4,600 vertical meters, I've been able to do pretty well."
About the three mountains that he climbed today, Alberto indicated that, of course, "the Tourmalet is hardest, because it's the final one and because of the number of kilometers, but it's also the most enjoyable, even though the Marie Blanque is also noteworthy."
Official press release, Alberto Contador press room
Watch video of the ride on Friday, May 18 at noon (Spanish time) at TOUR DE FLEX
The mattress company FLEX will sponsor Alberto Contador in a ride of the Tourmalet stage of the 2010 Tour on Wednesday, May 16.
On Friday, May 18, you'll be able to follow video of the ride at TOUR DE FLEX.
(Photo from the El Mundo print magazine by @TourFlex)
EL PEDAL DE FRODO | April 23, 2012 | When Dani Navarro (Gijón, 1983) took the development categories by storm, the expectations placed on him were enormous.
When he turned professional years later, Dani found himself not only one of the best European neo-pros, but also a member of the best generation of the past 10 years. And it was then that he managed to find his role, his place in the peloton.
Today he's a faithful gregario of Alberto Contador, who owes part of his triumphs to the labor of this Asturian. And as Mikel Pradera – an excellent gregario of the last generation – has said, “a team is a boat that can go far when each person is in his own place.” Even though Saxo Bank's presence in the WorldTour has been confirmed, the bad thing about this particular boat is that, for the moment, it lacks its best sailor and is being piloted by the other crewmates, which means that they ride differently, as Dani told us during the recent Vuelta al País Vasco.
Photo, above right: Dani Navarro (Team Saxo Bank)
You're one of the riders that makes up Alberto Contador's "Pretorian Guard," but Alberto is not there. How is it working out now in the team without him?
Yes, it's true that it's not great because we've got a good level but...for example, here today (Arrate), six of us arrived in the top fifty, but we lack a leader that can be like Alberto, and it's a little difficult to adapt.
You don't see yourself assuming that role and taking more prizes?
Well, we'll see. I've already done some good races like the Deutschland Tour, where I was fourth, and the Volta a Catalunya, where I was fifth. Sure, I do pretty well in stage races, but it's not like being able to win, then the role that ...
Maybe it's not that you're unable to win, but that you haven´t been in the position of squad leader...
Yes, yes. I think it's a bit of a change in mentality, but well, for the time being... Look, in Paris-Nice I was able to make the top ten, but I crashed. We'll see how it goes in Romandie.
Let's get back to Alberto. We all say that he's going to come back to wreak havoc in the Vuelta. I'm guessing that you think so, too, right?
Yes, I do think so. He's training very well and feels super, as always, and certainly, in his comeback, we'll see the best Alberto ever.
When they sanctioned him, you quickly made a statement in the Mediterranée, going on the attack...
Yes, and I wanted to win and to dedicate it to him. I got 2nd in the stage and 3rd in the general, but that was a much as I could do. And later, as I already said, being at a great moment of form, I had bad luck in Paris-Nice with the crash, and then with the flu... we'll see if our luck is changing a little, and everything goes better.
But for all the bad luck, not all your luck has been bad, and you´ve been confirmed as a ProTour team.
Yes, the truth is that the team´s spirits now are very good due to the license because there was a huge question mark over everything for us. Now at least we can sleep a little better, calmer.
You spoke before about Romandie... What's your schedule for the rest of the season?
I still don't know because what with the big question of the license and not knowing if we were going to ride the Tour... In principal, I've got Romandie and then the Tour and the Vuelta, but I really don't know what to tell you. I think that that’s going to be the schedule, but they still haven´t told me anything because we're just starting to figure things out, and it's still a bit up in the air. Me, I'd rather ride only the Vuelta in order to help Alberto and to be fresher, and because doing the Tour without a leader is a little difficult.
And now, about you yourself, Dani. At the moment, you have have one notch in your palmares. Do you obsess about getting a second?
Nah. What I try to do is to work well, and if I get there, I get there. In the Mediterranée, I was on the verge of winning and, in fact, it hurt a little because I almost managed, but the thing to do is to work well, and if you´re doing that, surely another victory will come.
What was it like in the 2010 Dauphiné?
As it happened, I was at a good place in form in the Dauphiné, then later in the Tour, and that day Alberto gave me a little freedom. The truth is that for one day I knew how to take advantage of it, and I finished happy. It was pretty spectacular because I went out in front of several escapes, I caught them and then I got a solo win, which is very emotional, because you have time to enjoy it.
Dani Navarro was brilliant in his first professional stage win (Photo by AC press room)
Alberto is the one that knows a lot about victories. What´s it been like to be involved in his?
To me, the results are satisfying, because in addition when you work for him, 90% or 95% of the time you’re going to win, so you´re always very glad to work, and it’s very satisfying. I´m telling you, it's going to be different working for somebody else, not knowing if he can win. But with Alberto, he almost never fails.
Well, you’ve already been a professional for eight seasons. Are you happy with how your career has developed?
Yes, I really am. I think that what’s important is to make progress year by year. Maybe last year I wasn’t so good, I don’ know why. There are good years and bad years, but I think that I’ve made progress little by little, and I hope to reach maturity this year or next, and still have some good seasons.
What memories do you have of your debut with Liberty?
Well, when you’re starting out, everything is always lovely, the races are totally different from the amateur ones, and you always have good memories, of the first race, of when you trained at camps with Manolo… The truth is, those were two great years and I’d like to go back and repeat them.
Who’s the person you’ve learned most from? Was it a rider, a director…?
I’ve always ridden with very good riders and directors, and I learn something from each one of them. Johan Bruyneel was a great director and, in fact, I admit that he was very good strategically. Then, as for riders, I remember that I learned quite a lot from Igor González de Galdeano, from Roberto Heras, from Klöden, from Vinokourov…I got to be around very good riders, and you pick up things from them little by little, and learn.
How have you changed as a rider in all this time?
In experience, more than anything. Each year that goes by, you realize that you improve your vision of the race, and that you´re learning a lot.
And as a person? Do you recognize yourself?
(laughs) The truth is, I used to be totally different. I remember at Liberty when my goal was to get into the escape. I got into some good ones, and honestly, it went pretty well. I think that the change is impressive going from when you´re young until now. You notice a lot.
What is your goal? What do you dream about in cycling?
Sincerely – for example – about going back to the Tour with Alberto, because it was a really beautiful thing. What's happened has happened, it's a shame, but the truth is that having just won the Tour and hammering down the Champs Elyseés to the end was a feeling that could blow your mind.
Then, are you looking out more for Alberto Contador's goals than for your own?
Yes, because I know that I'm never going to win it… But well, you can sure bet that it'd be really good to win a stage in the Tour myself.
What made you think of being a cyclist?
The usual thing. When you're a kid, they say to you, “Would you like to do a sport?” I said cycling, that I wanted a bike and look….here I am, a cyclist! I started when I was a little kid, and later, when I rode in cadets, I was already pretty good, in cadets, and also in amateurs I was with Juan, in Manolo's feeder team. In the end, I got good results one step at a time, thanks to hard work.
It's hard to break into the professionals. Luck matters, but above all, you have to be able to persevere and to demonstrate that you can be professional.
What have you liked best about cycling, about being a cyclist?
Knowing so many people – like I told you before, I´ve ridden with really good riders – and enjoying the places you go, because it´s clear that if you weren´t in cycling, you wouldn´t travel like I do now. For example, last year I went to Colorado, to the United States, and I really enjoyed it.
Which is the strangest or most exotic race that you´ve ridden?
There aren’t many, because I´m almost always riding the same races (laughs), but I really liked the one in Colorado. It was worth the trouble to go there, and I now I can say that I´ve been there.
Photo: Navarro, Contador and Noval in 2011 (El Comercio)
Who could´ve told us that cycling was going to turn out to be so globalized, eh?
Really. Now there´s a race in China, too, and they want to do more over there. I´d be delighted to go.
The other side of the argument is that there are fewer races and constantly fewer licenses in the core of what has always been the birthplace of cycling…
Yes, the truth is, that´s a little sad. In Asturias, for example, in the lower categories, I don´t know if there are twenty juvenile licenses, and that´s going to have an affect on the level in the races, and in everything. It´s influenced a bit by the crisis and a bit by everything, and that’s why it´s a bitch, because there are fewer young kids and clearly, there’s not the level that there was a few years ago. It takes quantity to produce quality. I remember riding when there were still a little over 100 of us, and now if we’ve got 30 or 40, it seems like a lot.
I´ve asked you before what you liked most about cycling, so what do you like least, Dani?
What I like least is spending so much time away from home and then not being able to enjoy your friends, your wife or girlfriend or whatever... but well, eventually you get used to it. In the end, I spend four or five months away from home every year.
Dani, how are you doing in the Vuelta al País Vasco?
Well, the truth is that today was the key day of almost the whole race, and it went pretty well. I was about a kilometer behind the winner, and I finished 50 seconds back, but everything I felt was positive, mainly because I´d had two weeks in bed with a case of flu and I was on anitbiotics for nine days, which you really notice. I´m starting again now and little by little getting into the swing of competition.
You say that today was the decisive stage, more than Ibardin or the Oñati time trial?
Well, the decisive stage for the general is going to be Saturday (Oñati), but today was an important test to weed out the favorites.
Place your bet: Who's your favorite to win the race?
Horner, because he time trials very well and he might be able to do well, but more than anyone, Tony Martin, who finished only 12 seconds back today. And I really hope that Samu will be there too, because he´s a great friend of mine, we´ll see if he can take more time tomorrow in order to secure the general.
That´s a nice romance that Samu has with Arrate, three out of three.
Yes (laughs), you got that right. He´s good at it.
I´d like to ask you, since it was so cold yesterday, how did going from heat to cold in just a few hours affect you?
You notice it mainly in the muscles. It´s hard on normal days, and makes it seem like you don´t feel well physically, but it´s simply due to the cold and you´ve got no choice but to adapt to it. Honestly, for me, I´m okay in the cold and rain because I´m from Asturias. These days there´s also going to be rain, so we´ll see how it goes… I´d rather have nice weather, but I know I can do fine.
You riders always say that you really enjoy riding here in Basque Country. Does it have something special?
Uff!... it´s spectacular! I like it because we always rode here as amateurs, so I know it pretty well, and that´s a plus. And then, the people know you. In other races, people don´t know who you are and they only know the true leaders, that´s why it´s brilliant when they´re saying “Dani, Dani, Dani"…it´s cool. (laughs) The fans here are impressive. There´s nothing else like it in this country.
Haha, and in the world?
Honestly, I think there are lots of good ones in Belgium, too, but I haven´t ridden there.
Last question, Dani. I´d like to ask you about Chechu Rubiera. Now that he´s retired, has much changed in the group?
Yes. (laughs) We really miss him, especially when it´s time to train. I trained with him every day, and we really miss all the smiles because he´s a very open and funny guy. I still maintain a good relationship with him. In fact, yesterday, he sent me a quick hello to see how I was doing, and the other day I went to his house, but it´s not the same. He doesn´t go out on the bike, and he´s enjoying his sons.
Interview by Frodo with Javi Santín
Read EL PEDAL DE FRODO regularly for the best in candid rider interviews. (In Spanish)
Alberto Contador: "If they thought I was going to stay in bed, they don't know me."
Alberto Contador and the FLEX company held a press conference yesterday to introduce an advertising campaign starring the rider. The ads will be aired on television starting today and will culminate on May 18, when Alberto will again ride the 2010 Tour de France stage that ended atop the legendary Tourmalet.
Contador said today that he had decided to work with FLEX because “it seemed like a nice idea and a good way to thank people for the support that they’ve given me.” As for FLEX, the company has chosen Alberto Contador as “an example of an ordinary person who tackles extraordinary challenges.”
In addition to the television spots, Alberto Contador’s ride of the Tourmalet stage will be covered live online at the FLEX website, FLEX.es, where people can also leave messages of support for the champion.
The motto of the advertising campaign is “arriba”, an allusion to Alberto Contador’s ability to get up every day in spite of the difficulties that he has encountered in his daily life as a professional cyclist.
Official press release, Alberto Contador press room
MORE PHOTOS - FLEX TOUR WEBSITE
Alberto poses with workers from FLEX (AC press room)
Alberto tries out a FLEX mattress (AC press room)
(left) Alberto Contadoris made honorary prof, and (right) poses with teachers and pupils (Rufino Vivas)
EL PERIÓDICO (EXTREMADURA) | Cyclist Alberto Contador was at the Colegio Internacional San Jorge in Malpartida de Cáceres (Extremadura) on Tuesday, April 23, where he was granted the title of honorary professor.
The champion cyclist also participated in the awarding of scholarships to students, as well grants and badges to teachers. Contador has Extremaduran roots, since Barcarrota was the birthplace of his parents.
Alberto, at his old high school, enjoys a bulletin board celebrating his victories (Cadena SER)
EFE | Cyclist Alberto Contador was given a warm tribute by his high school alma mater, the Pablo Picasso Institute, today in Pinto (Madrid), where he admitted that he had realized at one point in his youth that he'd never be another "football player like Cristiano Ronaldo," and that's why he decided to become a cyclist.
The school has decided to name one of its new classrooms after its illustrious alumnus Contador, who attended the Pablo Picasso Institute from 1995 to 2000.
The winner of all three of cycling's grand tours received words of support and recognition from several current students, former teachers and the mayor of the city, Miriam Rabaneda.
Contador acknowledged to the gathering that, as a student, he was passionate about all sports, "football, basketball, cycling …” but when he realized that, as a football player, he would never be "like Cristiano," he switched to the bike.
In answer to a question from students, the rider said that if he had become a cyclist, he would have been best suited to "track and field events, which are also endurance sports."
Alberto told the students that the most important moment of his career has not been winning the Vuelta a España or the Giro d'Italia, nor even the Tour de France. "It was the day I knew that I was going to become at professional in 2003. It was something that that I had fought for for many years, and it's definitely my best memory," he said.
Asked if he would recommend that kids become professional athletes, Contador replied that he would do it "without doubt," and ensured that it is "very healthy."
He did acknowledge, however, that "sometimes cycling demands such extreme effort that it almost keeps you from enjoying the sport." Therefore he emphasized that, more than physical fitness, "in cycling, 70 or 80 percent is mentality. You have to be strong and to fight to finish in first place."
About his projected retirement age, Alberto said with a laugh, "I'm already starting to get older, it's true. I was in was here in high school not so long ago, but my career and the years I have left are going to be marked by my performance. Right now, I'm performing at the maximum level, but when that performance starts to decline, it will be time to do something else. I estimate that I've got four or five years left now, minimum," said the 29-year-old cyclist.
Surrounded by the hundreds of students that packed the auditorium in Juan Carlos I Park (behind the Pablo Picasso Institute), Contador said that he tries to let fame affect his life "as little as possible," and although he admitted that he doesn't always have the peace and privacy that he would like, "there are many more good and rewarding times than there are times that I have to give something up."
Read the article in Spanish and see more photos at Alberto Contador's OFFICIAL WEBSITE
When Alberto Contador rolls out at the start of the Vuelta a España next August, he'll pedal to the beat of the official Vuelta theme song, "Día Cero", by the Grammy-nominated band La Oreja de Van Gogh (Van Gogh's Ear).
"Día Cero" was presented by the race organization today in an official event held at Sala Honky Tonk in Madrid, where it was performed live. Lead singer Leira Martínez described the piece as "representing to perfection the drama and energy" inherent in cycling.
La Oreja de Van Gogh is a four-man, one-woman pop band from Donostia-San Sebastián. Together since 1996 (although Martínez is a relative newcomer), they've recorded seven albums, including the November 2011 release "Cometas por el cielo", from which the Vuelta signature tune is taken. They've also made a feature-length film, Un viaje por el Mar Muerto (A Voyage Through the Dead Sea), shot in Israel in 2010.
The five musicians are cycling fans who consider being the voice of the Vuelta "a privilege and genuine source of pride."
La Oreja de Van Gogh will tour Spain this month before embarking on an extensive South American tour in May. They'll reach an even wider audience in July, when "Día Cero" will be promoted on banners at the Tour de France. In August and September, the track will accompany Vuelta television broadcasts.
This year's edition of the Vuelta will begin with a team time trial in Pamplona on August 18th and finish in Madrid on September 9th. Alberto Contador will do his best to win it.
LA OREJA DE VAN GOGH OFFICIAL WEBSITE
Alberto Contador appeared on the COPE radio program "El Partido de Las 12" Monday night, where he revealed the first items in his race calendar for his return to competition in August.
More about the interview soon, but for now, here's his race calendar for August and early September:
ENECO Tour, Monday, August 6 through Sunday, August 12, 2012
Clásica de San Sebastián, Tuesday, August 14
Vuelta a España, Saturday, August 18 through Sunday, September 9
MARCA | Taking advantage of bad weather for a rest day, Alberto Contador was on the scene in Ávila to watch the end of Stage 2 of the Vuelta a Castilla y León last Saturday.
He declined the job of awarding prizes on the podium to avoid calling attention to himself at the expense of the competitors, but before the arrival of the cyclists, he did respond to some questions by race emcee Juan Marí Guajardo.
“I’m preparing the best I possibly can to come back in August,” he acknowledged.
Without elaborating, Contador said that he’s been doing distance training on the “cabra”, the time trial bike. “Even though I’ve been on vacation for a few days,” enjoying a break during Holy Week, “I’ve maintained form.”
Contador also devoted a few words in remembrance of Xavi Tondo, the winner of Castilla y León 2011: “Last year a great rider won, who is unfortunately no longer with us,” he said about the ill-fated Catalán cyclist.
See Contador's appearance on video at MARCA
Contador dons the txapela in Basque Country 2009 (as.com)
(Article by Alberto Contador published March 2, 2012, in support of the Tour of the Basque Country)
BICICICLISMO | If there's one race that I never would have believed would fall into jeopardy, it's the Tour of the Basque Country. These days, many, many incredible memories are coming to mind of the tour in which I started to make a name for myself as a cyclist.
It's true that winning Paris-Nice in 2007 was supposed to be my explosion as a rider. But before that victory, the 2005 Tour of the Basque Country was my first great showing in a big race, when I finished third overall and won the final time trial. Since then, I've always had an exceptional relationship with this tour, and I've always wanted for it to form a part of my schedule, even though sometimes I've had doubts because of the level of demand it puts on the team.
If this race gets left out of the calendar, it would be a true catastrophe for cycling and for sport in general, not just for us, the riders, but because it would be giving the cold shoulder to fans who are like none other in the world. For me, it's impossible to think of a race calendar without the Tour of the Basque Country, and I sincerely hope that this threat of cancellation disappears. It would be an irreparable loss.
Fran Contador: "With support like this, Alberto will return with greater desire than ever"
AS.com | Alberto Contador's brother and representative, Fran Contador, has commented that with the many gestures of caring and support that his brother is receiving from his fellow citizens, "he will return with greater desire than ever to give more afternoons of spectacle and excitement."
Fran Contador's comment appeared in an article that he wrote for Friday's edition of the magazine PintoGol, the official publication of the local professional football team, the Club Atlético de Pinto.
The triple crown champion will be a special guest today for the opening ceremony as the Atléticos get set to face Navalcarnero on the pitch in Pinto at 11:30. He is attending in order to return the support of his hometown team, who have orchestrated several official acts of support for him during the last year and a half. In addition to events in 2010 and 2011, the team recently swapped their usual red and black jerseys for yellow t-shirts as a sign of protest for Contador's loss of the 2010 Tour de France, which was stripped from him as a result of the CAS sanction. Today they will wear pink in protest of the revocation of the Giro d'Italia title that Contador won with dominance in 2011.
Alberto will do the honorary opening kick and pose with the players in the official game photo.
In PintoGol, Fran recaps some of Alberto's words from the press conference in Pinto that followed publication of the CAS ban. He goes on to say that the sanction is "unbelievable" and "unjust" because his brother has been punished with the maximum penalty "without the slightest conviction that he has committed an act of doping."
Read Fran Contador's article in PintoGol.
For more about the the Club Atlético de Pinto, and to see their wholehearted support for Alberto Contador, go to their official website
Photo: The Atléticos recently competed in yellow t-shirts in protest of the CAS ban
On February 19, Alberto tweeted that he was training so hard that his bike was trying to run away from him (@albertocontador)
LA RAZÓN | They've asked me for an article explaining my point of view about Alberto's case and what happened during the extremely long process that we've endured since August 24, 2010. It's difficult to decide where to begin and what to tell. Now that the ruling has been published, we can't say we're satisfied. From the beginning, we've worked with everything we had to obtain justice. We've invested time, resources, money... and after everything, we haven't achieved an acquittal. It was the only thing that we valued and defended, since Alberto is innocent. One day of sanction is too many for a person whose only mistake was not analyzing the damned meat that he ate during the 2012 Tour.
The great work that's been done has made it so that in the resolution it says clearly that Alberto didn't dope. This fact is of utmost importance and is what has brought about so very many gestures of support and caring. People can't understand that without being guilty you have to fulfill a two-year sanction, pay a fine worth 70% of your salary and be stripped of titles obtained with so much work, effort and sacrifice.
I couldn't care less what they say the existing norm is. There were legal reasons for acquitting Alberto, or even for imposing a one-year sanction (that's logical, if, as they say, the supplements were the most likely option). Nevertheless, they sanction us with the maximum penalty. Ever since it started, I've asked myself many times what we've done to deserve this. I still haven't come up with an answer.
Francisco Javier Contador
Brother and representative of Alberto Contador
We support and believe in Alberto Contador completely. Let him know that you do, too.
GO TO MESSAGES OF SUPPORT
RTVE | The city council of Pinto, the hometown of Alberto Contador, is hosting a mass ride in support of the cyclist today at noon. In keeping with the event’s motto, “Alberto somos todos” (We’re all Alberto), masks with the image of Contador will be available to all participants.
Masks can be downloaded from the City of Pinto website.
The council have invited citizens of all ages to take part in the ride to show their support for Pinto’s native son, who received a two-year ban from the Court of Arbitration for Sport last Monday. The ride will begin at Egido Park, where Contador trained when he was young, and end about an hour and a half later at the Plaza de la Constitución.
At the end of the ride, a microphone will be available in the plaza so that anyone who wishes to express best wishes to the rider can be heard above the hubbub of the city.
The group ride is not the only organized show of support on deck for the rider. The local football team will take the field in special jerseys during two upcoming games, first a yellow jersey in honor of Contador’s win in the 2010 Tour de France, then a pink one for the 2011 Giro d’Italia.
In addition, mayor Miriam Rabaneda has announced that all political parties that form the municipal corporation are going to draft a declaration of support for Contador on behalf of the entire town before the next plenary session.
A message book has also been installed in the entrance to City Hall, where citizens can record messages of support for Alberto Contador. People who are unable to make it to Pinto in person can send Contador a message of support via a digital message book at the City of Pinto website
CITY OF PINTO WEBSITE - DIGITAL MESSAGE BOOK
EL PAÍS | by Amaya Iríbar | Saxo Bank has decided to maintain sponsorship of Alberto Contador’s team in spite of the sanction. In a telephone interview, the bank's C.E.O., Lars Seier Christensen, explains the reasons from China.
Question: Why are you maintaining the sponsorship?
Answer: We’ve sponsored the team over many years, we see it as a long-term investment and, although Contador is very important, we’ve never planned to terminate our relationship with the team over this case. I’ve discussed the matter with Contador on more than one occasion, and I’m convinced that he has not done anything bad. He has simply had bad luck. The CAS resolution, in fact, confirms that his positive was not deliberate. They’ve been very severe in their handling of it, from our point of view. At any rate, we’ve never considered terminating the sponsorship.
Q. Then, do you think that Contador is innocent?
A. I’m convinced that he’s innocent.
Q. Contador is a key player on the team. Aren’t you afraid of a negative impact on Saxo Bank's image?
A. Of course that would be a loss, of course, but in the end, even with missing the Tour de France – which would be sad because, it's the most serious competition of the year – he'll be back in time for the Vuelta, and he'll be even more committed than normal to doing a good race. What's happened has happened, and it's sad, but that's the way things are. It's not the end of the world, we've got other good riders. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, and you have to live with it.
Q. And what's going to happen if the team loses its ProTour license?
A. We have a very clear contract with the owner of the team (Bjarne Riis) which keeps us from revealing the financial details, but we'll continue as sponsors and it's very unlikely that the license will be lost. In a worst-case scenario, we have to find a way to keeping moving forward.
Q. Why did you choose cycling, a sport with image problems in recent years due to doping, in order to promote your brand?
A. I don't think that doping is the big problem in cycling. It's a calamity that impacts our rider, that has been very unfortunate given the circumstances. In spite of it, the doping problems are very small today compared to what they were, for example, in the 90´s. We're a bank with clients all over the world and it's difficult to reach into every part. There aren't many things that reach as far as an international sport, and cycling is one of the most international sports, with the most competitions in many countries. It's not perfect, because there are countries where cycling isn't followed much, but compared to others, it’s a good investment. Contador opens a way for us to Spain and Latin America. We've just opened an large office in Madrid. It's a good way to promote the bank and it's less expensive that other sports, like Formula 1.
Q. If Contador finally has to pay the fine of around 2.5 million euros included in the sanction, will you help him do it?
A. I don't handle the contracts, I'm only the sponsor. The relationships between Contador and the team are Riis' and his team's. I pay the bills and Bjarne decides.
Photo: El País
On the day after receiving a two-year ban from the Court of Arbitration for Sport for accidentally consuming a product contaminated with a minute trace of clenbuterol, Alberto Contador entered a room to the applause of a crowd of international journalists, and addressed the public.
"At the moment I have feelings of enormous disappointment. Emotionally, it is a very complicated time. All this started eighteen months ago, and there has not been a single morning but what I asked myself the reason for this situation, a situation that I would never wish on anybody, because it's been very hard, an ordeal. And it's been even harder seeing my wife and my family suffer for this accusation that also goes against all my values, my sense of justice, discipline and honesty.
"I totally disagree with the ruling, and even though I try, I cannot understand or comprehend this sanction. For all these months, I've done everything to prove my innocence. I've even submitted to a polygraph test. Two days before the Giro d'Italia, and for 5 hours straight, I answered questions like a criminal. And in Switzerland, at CAS, I asked that the panel tell me what else was needed to prove my innocence, because I would do it, but I myself couldn't think of anything else.
"I also have some satisfaction in knowing that it will be clear to anyone reading the sentence that I have not doped. People can see that it's an amount of substance that has not affected my performance at all, and that it's due to accidental ingestion of a contaminated nutritional supplement that does not imply negligence or intention on my part. But I've been condemned anyway, to a two-year ban, a financial penalty and the loss of many victories.
"Maybe they can impose the first two sanctions on me, but they can't take away the victories. I've never sought to add numbers to my palmarés. What sticks with me is the enjoyment of the competition, leaving people something good to remember, and the satisfaction of a job well done. Not a single one of those wins belongs to me, but rather to the people who enjoyed them, and they are the only ones who can decide who won these races.
"I also want to say that I'm going to continue in cycling, and that I will continue to practice it in a clean way, as I have done all my life. Even now, when my spirits are not the best, I know that this will make me stronger in the future.
"My gratitude for the incredible support given to me by so many people is enormous. It has been so very important, because there've been many days of training when I just wanted to go home, but thanks to them I could go on and keep fighting.
"I want to thank my team for the great support they've given me and continue to give me, always based on truth, and the sponsors as well, for trusting me and remaining confident. I will keep giving 100% for them in every race, always."
DIARIO VASCO | by Benito Urraburu | The blow has been too hard. Not only for Alberto Contador himself, the hardest hit, but also for the cycling world, as it is seen how this sport continues to discriminate against its athletes in terms of the sanctions that they suffer. CAS has imposed the harshest sanction that they could give him: two years. It has stripped him of a Tour, a Giro, more corresponding stage wins, and the Volta a Catalunya, among other achievements.
But above all else, it tears his credibility up by the roots. It strong-arms his future, causes many things to be seen in a suspicious light, and puts on ice a career that has been on the road to legend, leaving who knows what. At least, that's what can be deduced from the severity used, and from the treatment that cycling receives in doping matters, where the rider is condemned even before the machinery of justice is put into motion.
A case that has lasted for a year and a half has ended with the theory that Contador consumed some contaminated product. Or, in other words, they have pardoned him for doping but given him the maximum possible sanction, using the WADA rule that says “every athlete is responsible for what's in his system and must prove how it got there.” In the case of Contador, the proof, the steak, doesn't exist, because it was eaten.
If it falls short of being the hardest blow he has ever received in his career – the cavernoma that nearly cost him his life – it is indeed one of the hardest that he has ever been hit with, because, among other reasons, he didn't expect to be sanctioned at all, and of course, neither he nor his team thought at any moment that a two-year ban would be levied.
In this whole story, there's one thing that seems certain: Contador will return to ride and to win again. Although he didn't want to imagine it, he has been prepared for a sanction. What he wouldn't have been able to imagine is that they would, in a manner totally devoid of feeling, fatten him for slaughter and inflict him with the maximum sentence and the most damage to find that he didn't dope.
In a shattering blow to the most brilliant cyclist of his generation, CAS today banned Alberto Contador for two years for testing positive for a minute trace of clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour de France.
At the same time, the court rejected the thesis of the World Anti-doping Agency, who zealously sought, but failed, to convict Contador on the grounds that he had allegedly acquired clenbuterol through blood transfusion, a prohibited practice. The three-judge panel accepted neither Contador's argument of contamination via tainted beef nor WADA's theory of blood-doping.
The panel maintained that it was more likely that Contador's positive was produced by unknowlingly taking contaminated supplements.
Alberto was banned according to the concept of strict liability, which holds an athlete responsible for all substances that enter his system, even traces acquired involuntarily through environmental or industrial contamination.
Contador is thereby stripped of the 2010 Tour de France title, as well as the 2011 Vuelta a Murcia, 2011 Volta a Catalunya and the 2011 Giro d'Italia, plus various stage wins.
The beginning of the ban dates from January 25, 2011, but due to an initial period of suspension (five months and 19 days) before being cleared by the Spanish federation, Alberto Contador will be eligible to race again starting August 5, 2012.
Alberto will hold a press conference at 19:30 tomorrow in Pinto to address the CAS ruling and his next steps. Saxo Bank general manager Bjarne Riis will attend with him.
CAS PRESS RELEASE
Alberto Contador finished the Trofeo Palma in 98th place on Sunday, arriving in a large group containing many overall competitors 0:15 behind Scottish sprint winner Andrew Fenn of Omega Pharma-Quick Step.
He then returned home to Pinto to await the announcement by CAS that is expected around noon today.
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATIONS - BETTINI PHOTOS
Alberto Contador will ride the first leg of the Mallorca Challenge today in Palma de Mallorca. The 116-km race for the Trofeo Palma is 10 laps of a 11.6-km seaside urban circuit with two Category 4 climbs.
Real racing starts at 11:00 and is expected to last around three and a half hours. The race will be televised.
Riding for Saxo Bank on various days throughout the Mallorca Challenge: 1 Alberto Contador, 2 Anders Lund, 3 Karsten Kroon, 4 Christopher Juul Jensen, 5 Jaroslaw Marycz, 6 Takashi Miyazawa, 7 Jonas Aaen Jorgensen, 8 Kasper Klostergaard, 9 Manuele Boaro, 10 Nick Nuyens, 11 Jonathan Cantwell, 12 Troels Vinther, 13 Bruno Pires, 14 Ran Margaliot, 15 Sergio Paulinho
MALLORCA CHALLENGE WEBSITE
Contador trains with Navarro to prepare for races in 2012 (AC press room)
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has delayed again – until February 6th – the verdict in the clenbuterol case. Contador copes mentally by staying busy every day.
ABC.es | by Benito Urraburu in San Luis, Argentina | Second overall in the Tour de San Luis and winner of the two summit finishes, Alberto Contador will know in a few days the result of another race, one in which all he can do is wait, namely, the decision by CAS concerning his positive for clenbuterol, a subject that his lawyers have recommended he not talk about.
You're not sending any signals that reveal uneasiness, nervousness or fear about the situation that you’re going through. How do you stay focused?
I try to have the whole day occupied, although sometimes that turns out to be difficult. I enjoy the bicycle and I compete; that helps, but sometimes you can't help but think of things, you ask yourself how you could be in this situation and it proves difficult to understand. My life as an athlete has not had much peace since I had the accident in 2004. It made me see life from another point of view. That helps me cope mentally.
How do you fill your time?
You see teammates, friends, every day you’re alongside one or the other. If you’re at home with nothing to do, you can’t keep from thinking about it. Likewise, I keep my days fuller than I would like. At first I got up at 6:30 in the morning, went to bed at 1:30 at night and couldn’t sleep.
First race of the season and first podium. Does Alberto Contador know how to go to a race and not ride to win?
I went to Argentina, to the Tour de San Luis, with the idea of doing the race without pressure, but I always seem to end up in the scrum. I’ve finished it very happy. I’ve left things better than I could’ve imagined. I wasn't very well-trained when I went over and I’ve been on hiatus since the Tour de France ended.
Have you ever been off the bike for so long?
My brother told me that maybe it was too long, but no. In the month that I’ve been working seriously, I’ve lost four kilos. Day by day I’ve noticed that I’m going better, but I didn’t know what it was going to be like in competition. I won the two summit finishes in a race that's deserves the attention it's getting. I’m leaving with a good feeling. In seven days I’ve hit a rhythm that can’t be achieved training at home. Even though you do a lot of work at home, it’s competition that gives you that rhythm. There’s a lot of base work to do. I’m going to focus on the plan that I have.
Does beating rivals like Leipheimer and Nibali tell you anything?
It's good for morale. You know that you’re in form in spite of carrying a few extra pounds, of having trained less that they have, especially Leipheimer, and that you haven’t done the ideal preparation. I think that the first peak of form should come at Tirreno-Adriatico, Volta a Catalunya and the Tour of the Basque Country; and later in the Tour.
At San Luis you’ve ridden with cyclists from countries that you normally don’t get to ride with. What did they say to you?
I rode with Cubans in the Tour of Missouri, in 2007. They talked to me about everything. I did photos with many of them, before and after the stages, and in the race they commented to me: “I’m going to say at home that I’ve ridden with you.” You see the difference that there is in organization, in equipment, in everything… and it makes you think. In Europe, everything is more professionalized.
Were you surprised at your performance in the time trial?
No. I expected to do what I did. I’m not in a state of form that lets me force the maximum in 20 kilometers. In four or five kilometers I wouldn’t have had problems, but over that distance, without specific work, you notice it. I’m going to change some things on the Specialized at the Valencia training camp.
Don’t you run the risk of coming into form too soon?
I’ve spoken with Bjarne (Riis). Going to Australia or coming here means that you’re able to come into form quickly, but since I hadn’t trained much, it's not a problem. There are two months left until the first peak in form.
Did it prove to be strange that Leipheimer won?
No, not at all. He has great facility with the time trial. There are few riders as professional. The bicycle is absolutely perfect for him. You can see that he hasn’t slacked off much during the winter. He’s at an extraordinary level. One look at his legs says it all.
Should he be taken into account for the Tour?
He’s already been on the Tour podium. The time trials are going to be important, but what marks the difference is the mountains. The time trials are important to winning or losing, but if the cronos were to be the deciding factor, the winner would be Tony Martin.
You say that you’ve gained weight, but you don’t give that impression.
In a month and a half I’ve lost four kilos. I’ve got three left. Leipheimer tells me in the race that I’ve only got one left, I tell him three and he doesn’t believe it. In my natural constitution, I have an advantage. No matter how much I eat, I reach a top weight and don’t go over it. By eating less and training, it’s no problem losing it. On Gran Canaria, I trained five hours a day and ate fruit, and I was losing. If you’re smart about doing things, you don’t have problems.
Bulletin from CAS website today:
CAS | "The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) intends to publish its decision in the arbitration procedure involving the International Cycling Union (UCI), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Alberto Contador and the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) on Monday 6 February 2012. A confirmation as to the date and time of the publication of the decision will be given by the CAS at the end of this week."
Contador wins the queen stage of the Tour de San Luis (AC press room)
Stage 5, January 27: La Toma – Merlo (Mirador del Sol), 160.6 km
Alberto Contador got win number two today at the Tour de San Luis by prevailing atop the Mirador del Sol in Stage 5. Contador proved to be the strongest on the extremely tough ascent to the queen stage summit finish, and wound up leader of the King of the Mountains classification as well.
"I'm very happy. If they'd told me at the beginning of the race that I was going to win two stages, I wouldn't have believed it," he said.
"The Mirador del Sol," said Alberto, "felt like a very hard climb to me. I used a 36x28 gear, and that allowed me to climb well. Leipheimer is very strong and he's a worthy winner of the race, he deserves it. I wanted to try because you can always aspire to more – that's what I like to do – but when I started and I saw that I wouldn't be able to take back the minute that Levi had on me in the general, I preferred to save my strength and think about the stage. I won the mountain jersey, but that wasn't the goal: it was a consequence of the victory," Contador concluded.
(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)
PLAYBOOK AND COMMENTS
A battle in the final kilometers played out as follows: Contador attacked out of a small group of rivals – including Vincenzo Nibali, José Serpa, Leipheimer and local boy Daniel Diaz – at around the 4 km mark, but was unable to dislodge race leader Leipheimer. Contador maintained over the next two brutal kilometers, sticking with the North American and the Argentinean as the others came unhitched on ramps of as much as 15.5%.
"We started the final climb very strong, the team went full gas because I wanted to try for the stage win. We controlled the escape's gaps," said Alberto at the post-stage press conference. "The final climb was very nice even though maybe a bit demanding for this time of year. I attacked in the final four kilometers to see if I could open a gap and do some damage, but I couldn't get the better of Levi. I decided to save my strength and wait until the arrival, since his form is impressive for this altitude, and to make a play for the stage win."
Diaz launched a scorching attack in last kilometer that promised to be a death blow to his star opponents, but Contador shut it down with authority. He accelerated with his trademark dancing-on-the-pedals style and outstripped Diaz on a slight curve just meters before the line.
"When Dani Diaz attacked, I calculated the distance and luckily I got past him before he got to the line. I'm happy with the result because I took a shot at it," he said.
Crossing the line, Diaz saluted modestly at having been able to arrive only two seconds behind the best climber in the world. Leipheimer lost only five seconds, and was content to keep the leader jersey.
Contador continued, "We carried out the strategy: to hammer so that the escape wouldn't succeed and to fight for the stage win, because I knew that it would be complicated to distance Levi," he added.
"You have to give the maximum for any victory, even more to measure up to a standard when you don't have your pedal stroke. I'm thinking about March, in Tirreno, Catalunya and Basque Country, but every time there's a race I like to do it well," he stressed.
Saxo Bank DS Philippe Mauduit summarized, ”As the leading team, Quick Step took the responsibility of the pacemaking in the field and a whole lot of riders were simply exhausted as we hit the foot of the climb. Alberto made a relative early escape, first alone and later he was followed by Levi and Diaz while Schumacher and Nibali cracked on the final kilometers. It was a terrific re-match after yesterday's time trial and I guess there's hardly any better climber than Alberto in the peloton here and we're more than content with our two stage wins in the race."
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 5, 1st (4:19:59). Contador in GC, 2nd (0:46 Leipheimer). KOM leader.
TOP FIVE: 1 Leipheimer (17:27:52), 2 Contador (0:46), 3 Diaz (1:31), 4 Schumacher (1:36), 5 Nibali (1:50)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATIONS - BETTINI PHOTOS - BARBOSA PHOTOS
PALMARES - OFFICIAL TOUR DE SAN LUIS WEBSITE
Alberto on the road to his second win in 2012 (AC press room)
Complete reports, results and media from the Tour de San Luis at RACE WATCH
Check out our VIDEO BLOG for rolling images of the Tour de San Luis
Maps, profiles and information about the stages of the Tour de San Luis
GO TO RACE ATLAS
Alberto tweeted this photo after the race, with the caption "These time trials in January can't be good! ufff ;-)" (@albertocontador)
Stage 4, January 26: San Luis – San Luis, 19.5 km (ITT)
Alberto Contador accepted his loss of the leadership of the Tour de San Luis with good grace today, after arriving sixth in the Stage 4 time trial. The crono, won by Levi Leipheimer, sent the leader jersey back to the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team, who have claimed it on three out of four days so far in Argentina.
"It was a hard time trial, for specialists. Cadence I've got, but I lack training and hours on the time trial bike," Alberto said. "Anyway, I'm happy. Yesterday's result was unexpected, today's was more normal," he added.
Today's 19.5-km course started on the streets of San Luis, ran out along the highway, reversed and retraced its path past the start house, and finished on a slight upward tilt to the Plaza Pringles. The January summer heat and a headwind on the ride back into town made the final three kilometers tougher.
Contador, as race leader, was the last to finish. With limited live coverage, world viewers waited on pins and needles to see him emerge into view in the final kilometer. When he appeared at last, he was, astonishingly, flanked by a presidential-looking escort of a dozen or more motorcycles. It was an impressive gesture of pride and affection by the hosts for the man from Pinto, but in a sporting sense would have been less than a boon to the racer's concentration.
At any rate, Alberto finished the test in 23:24, 1:01 behind Leipheimer. "I'm very happy with the result and tomorrow is another day," he said sportingly.
He will sharpen his physical performance during the next few weeks. "The goal is not to be in form now, but rather in two months, especially in the Tour, and I also want to be at a good level in the races in March and April," he stressed.
After the stage, Saxo Bank DS Philippe Mauduit explained: ”Leipheimer was the natural favorite to take the win today and he did a very good job on the time trial. As I mentioned before, Alberto is not in peak shape and that influences his performance today. And he doesn't have to peak at this moment. With yesterday's big win, he showed his great class by winning a mountain stage after six months' break from racing and that's more than we could have hoped for. Now, we'll focus on the next few stages taking one at a time."
The Tour de San Luis goes back into the mountains tomorrow with a summit finish on the Mirador del Sol.
RESULTS: Contador in Stage 4, 6th (1:01 Leipheimer). Contador in GC, 4th (0:57) Leipheimer)
TOP FOUR: 1 Leipheimer, 2 Schumacher (0:53), 3 Nibali (0:55), 4 Contador (0:57)
COMPLETE CLASSIFICATIONS - PALMARES
OFFICIAL TOUR DE SAN LUIS WEBSITE
Complete reports, results, photos, videos and audio from the Tour de San Luis at RACE WATCH
Alberto Contador's first winner's podium of 2012 (AC press room)
Stage 3, January 25: Estancia Grande – Mirador del Potrero, 168.2 km
Alberto Contador managed a win today on the Mirador del Potrero, the first summit finish of the Tour de San Luis, where he sprinted with his ex-teammate Levi Leipheimer to take the stage and the race leadership.
Alberto said, after mounting the podium, that he was "better than I expected, because I had my doubts, since I've gone so many months without riding the bike, after the Tour de France. I started training after the training camp in Israel, in the second fortnight of December, but in spite of everything, we did a good job and got a victory that was rather unexpected for me."
Contador said that all victories "are important and I'd especially like to thank the work of my team for this one, because it was complicated for me. But I had to respond after the work that my teammates did, it was my responsibility. This victory comes at a special moment, but all victories are special."
Alberto also thanked his hosts for the reception that he's had in Argentina in general, and specifically in San Luis province. "I'd heard very good things about this race, and I recommend it to everyone. The people are incredible and even though I can't satisfy everyone with photos and autographs, I thank you all for how you've received me."
The leader of Saxo Bank knew this climb because he had done reconnaissance the day before the race began. "I viewed it from the car because it rained heavily that day, but I still didn't know just how it would be. We've made a little selection, but I had doubts. I certainly didn't really know what it would be like, nor how the rivals would be doing. But everything turned out well. I couldn't leave without trying."
Finally, Alberto Contador pointed to Leipheimer as "the strongest for the general. He looks very fit and well-trained. For me, this victory was important, but there are other riders who are more likely favorites than I am, for the time trial tomorrow and for the general."
AUDIO COMMENTS (SPANISH)
(Official press release, Alberto Contador press room)
Alberto Contador with the governor of San Luis province, Claudio Poggio (Tour de San Luis website)
The sixth edition of the Tour de San Luis (January 23-29) kicks off today with a slate of activities heading into the start of racing on Monday. The official launch of the most important bike race in South America takes place at 7:00 this evening, when the cyclists and their teams take part in the traditional presentation parade in the Plaza Pringles in the center of San Luis, Argentina.
In addition, at 9:30 this morning the cyclists will take part in a cycloturista ride from Juana Koslay to Estancia Grande.
An impressive roster will line up tomorrow for the start of the Tour de San Luis, a 2.1 event on the UCI calendar. The seven-stage route covers a total of 1,051 kilometers, and includes two summit finishes and an individual time trial. 25 teams will participate, among them five World Tour teams, as well as European Professional Continental teams and national squads from many South American countries.
The race will be televised on the Fox Sports cable network.
The Tour de San Luis is organized by the Ministry of Sport of the province of San Luis and is supervised by the Cycling Union of the Republic of Argentina and the Argentinian Federation of Track and Road Cycling.
A welcome gift from the governor
Alberto Contador was received by the governor of San Luis province, Argentina, yesterday, in advance of the start of the Tour de San Luis on Monday. Contador described himself as “very happy to be in San Luis and full of anticipation.”
Claudio Poggio was joined by the province´s Minister of Sport, Celia Sánchez, in welcoming the Triple Crown winner. The governor described the event as “a very important event in world cycling,” adding that Contador´s presence is a considerable boost to the race´s image.
The governor, who presented Contador with a trophy in recognition of the Spaniard´s status as captain of the race, was eager to point out that the Tour de San Luis is not only the most important cycling race in South America, but that it also benefits the province´s tourism industry.
Joking about his politically advantageous need to talk up the local continental team, San Luis Somos Todos, Poggio said that he will be keeping track daily of each stage of the race. “I hope you have a very good and successful stay,” he said to Contador.
Poggio has made the Tour de San Luis an action item for the duration of his four-year term, saying that he plans to commit to strengthening the race that he knows is “good for international cyclists because it´s at the beginning of the year.”
Alberto Contador, at a meeting with the president of the Argentinian Olympic Committee, after arriving in Argentina yesterday:
"For me, it's a pleasure to be here; it's a country that I've really wanted to get to know. I hadn't thought about riding at this time of year, but when they asked me, I was delighted by the idea."
"The Tour de San Luis is going to be a very nice race for my preparation and for enjoying the countryside and the people of Argentina." (EFE)
Alberto Contador steps off the plane in San Luis (Tour de San Luis)
MARCA | by Josu Garai, San Luis | After a trip of almost 18 hours, between flights and stopovers – to get to San Luis requires a change of airports in Buenos Aires – Alberto Contador has arrived in San Luis, where he will roll out on Monday in the sixth edition of what is currently regarded as the most important bicycling race in South America.
With participation by five World Tour teams – Ag2r, Liquigas, Movistar, Omega and Saxo Bank, as well as other European teams like Andalucía, Caja Rural, Colnago, Farnese, Netapp and Tavira – for the Tour de San Luis this year, only the best will do. Besides Alberto, the peloton will count on the presence of Leipheimer, Nibali, Boonen, Chavanel, Pozzato, Arroyo, Castroviejo, Ventoso, Visconti and a long list of other stars of the international peloton.
Above all others, however, Contador is the star. In fact, a helicopter was waiting for the Madrileño's arrival at the airport in Buenos Aires so that he would be able, before taking the other flight for San Luis, to be received by Gerardo Werthein, the president of Argentina's Olympic Committee. The heavy air traffic of the capital, which is normal in this time of summery vacations, in the end interfered with the takeoff of the aircraft, which is why the move to the offices of the businessman Werthein had to be done by car. Contador's close friend Jesús Hernández, as well as Juan Curuchet – track riding champion (paired with Walter Pérez) in the 2008 Beijing Olympics – accompanied him on the visit.
After arriving in San Luis, the Minister of Sport, María Celia Sánchez, went out to welcome him on the tarmac. Several dozen journalists, photographers and television cameras awaited his arrival. "I'm very glad to be here," said the Madrileño succinctly, not wanting to say much more because he hadn't planned to speak about his career or his current state until CAS gives a verdict about the positive for clenbuterol in the 2012 Tour. "My form is building little by little and I want to enjoy the race and the country."
The Tour de San Luis is the first race of the season for Contador. If CAS doesn't stand in his way, after this he will be at the Mallorca Challenge, where he will perhaps ride only two days, then at the Volta ao Algarve, Tirreno Adriatico, the Volta a Catalunya and the Vuelta al País Vasco before taking a break to begin thinking about the Tour de France, which will be his main goal for the year.
TOUR DE SAN LUIS official website
Riding for Saxo Bank in Argentina: 1 Alberto Contador, 2 Jesús Hernández, 3 Juan José Haedo, 4 Lucas Sebastian Haedo, 5 Matteo Tosatto, 6 Troels Vinther, 7 Christopher Juul Jensen
CAS issued this statement today:
"The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has noted with great disappointment that some media have reported certain rumours in relation to the arbitration procedure involving the International Cycling Union (UCI), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Alberto Contador and the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC).
"The CAS will not comment on these allegations. However, the CAS has requested the parties to clarify whether, at this stage, any of them wanted to challenge the composition of the arbitral panel. As all answers were negative, the Panel will now be able to resume its mission.
"Unfortunately, this regrettable incident has slightly delayed the work of the Panel and the publication of the final decision should now take place during the week of 31 January 2012."
Lots of Saxo riders and staff are using Twitter these days. Twitter's a great way to participate with your favorite riders in their victories, and a place to encourage them when they're no so lucky.
Riders reward us at Twitter with expressions of thanks, injury updates when we're worried, and with photos that make us laugh and cry, cheer and sigh.
True, 140 spaces isn't much. But big presents can come in small packages, and a few words to or from your rider can make a difference in good times and bad.
See our BLOG for a guide to Team Saxo Bank personnel at Twitter.
Also see the HIS WEIGHT IN HONEY GALLERY at guadaque.com
Alberto Contador, wearing the ceremonial beekeeper's cape, is congratulated (AC press room)
The cyclist from Pinto was weighed with the bicycles he rode to victory in the Tour, the Giro and the Vuelta
EFE | PEÑALVER (GUADALAJARA) | Alberto Contador has been awarded 135 kilos of honey today in Peñalver (Guadalajara), after having been weighed on a scale along with three of his bicycles (actually one bike multiplied by six - ed.). The His Weight In Honey prize, a promotion for Alcarria honey, was given in the main town square.
Alberto Contador's name was added to a long list of illustrious personalities who have been recognized with the award, but this was the first occasion when the awardee was considered too slim to balance the quantity of honey appropriate to a winner. Extra stones, in the form of his bicycles, were therefore added to the scales.
Contador commented upon his arrival in Peñalver that his current out-of-competition weight is 64 kilos, so he brought with him three of the bicycles (sic) that he has ridden to victory in cycling's three grand tours: the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España. Added to the balance with the rider and his bikes was the weighty "Capa de Melero" (a ceremonial beekeeper's cape of about 10 kilos), awarded by the Beekeepers Association of Guadalajara.
In the end, the scales determined that 135 kilos of honey was due to the winner, who said that he is going to share the prize with his teammates at Saxo Bank.
Today's festive atmosphere in Peñalver was blessed by clear winter skies and pleasant temperatures. After meeting a delegation of club cyclists, Contador was escorted to the city hall, where he signed the city council's Book of Honor and was given various awards, like the traditional "Silver Beekeeper," given by the Casa de Guadalajara in Madrid.
Contador said that he received the prize "with pride, satisfaction and special hopes," and admitted that the region's honey was going to sweeten the difficult time of waiting for the final ruling of the Court of Arbitration for Sport on his clenbuterol case. The decision is expected later this month.
"The only thing left is waiting for the final ruling, about which I'm optimistic," said the cyclist, who enjoyed the tribute and the awards ceremony in Peñalver, where he was greeted enthusiastically and asked to signed a multitude of autographs.
It was one of the best attended editions of the His Weight In Honey prize in memory, bringing the regional honey into the spotlight on both a national and international scale.
Prior to Contador, Peñalver has given quantities of honey equivalent to the weight of celebrated individuals like Camilo José Cela, José Luis Sampedro, Mario Vargas Llosa, Manuel Criado, Vicente del Bosque, Augustín Ibarrola and Manu Leguineche.
A press conference was a part of the day's events in Peñalver, during which Contador described his team, Saxo Bank, as "very motivated" with the clear objective of "arriving at the Tour de France at 100% in order to fight for the victory."
"With good preparation this year, we can have a very powerful team," he stressed, although he has indicated that the race profile is better-suited to other riders, like Cadel Evans.
"But the route is what it is, and I won't disparage it too much," added Contador, who is also open to the possibility of riding the Vuelta, although he reminds, "First are the Olympics, which I would like to be included in, especially the time trial." (MARCA)
Alberto Contador, wearing the Capa de Melero, looks on while his bikes are weighed by men in traditional beekeeper's garb (EFE)
Alberto Contador will be awarded the His Weight In Honey prize this afternoon in Peñalver. The small country town devoted to beekeeping and honey production grants the award to a person of character at the top of his profession, often to writers.
The mayor of Peñalver, José Ángel Parra, confirmed in a mid-December press conference that Alberto Contador would be able to visit the small town located about 100 kilometers northeast of Madrid in order to collect the prize, in spite of a conflict with Team Saxo Bank's training camp, which is currently in progress on Gran Canaria island.
Photo: Peñalver's statue of a melero - a beekeeper with traditional smock, beret and honeypot (miarticulodehoy)
"We didn't know the date until the last minute, because his agent called to change it to December 31, but in the end, it will be Saturday, January 7," said the mayor. Therefore the Three Kings will bring Alberto Contador several gallons of liquid gold which, according to the pattern set by past winners, is a good luck charm.
"His team boss finally accepted a change as long as he shares some of the honey with his teammates," said Parra. "If he gives them honey, they'll win the fourth Tour, because winners of the His Weight In Honey prize always achieve great things afterwards. The latest example is José Luis Sampedro, who received the 2011 National Prize for Letters," he added. (Sampedro won His Weight In Honey at the age of 91.)
Contador weighs around 60 kilos, less than the average winner, but he will take away a good deal more than his actual weight. Parra said that Peñalver doesn't want to be seen as "cheapskates", and so they have come up with a creative solution. Contador will be weighed, and added to that amount will be the weight of six bicycles, one for each of his grand tour victories. Board official Félix Esteban commented that they want "for him to carry away a good quantity of honey."
"If he doesn't bring a bike, we'll find one and multiply it times six."
Contador will be met at noon today by the Cabanillas Cycling Club, who will give him a champion's escort en caravan into the town. The next item on the agenda will be a tour of Peñalver, something that the mayor knows is sure to please, since Contador has assured him in telephone conversations that he likes small towns, being from one himself.
"When we informed him that he had won the prize, he admitted that he didn't know Peñalver existed, but the last time we talked to him, he knew everything about the town, where it was, how many people lived there..." Parra said.
Next will come the signing of the town's book of honor, in which the signatures of all past winners are recorded. Following will be a press conference with Contador, the mayor and other authorities, as well as the president and vice president of the Beekeepers Association.
After the press conference, the assembly will move to the town square, where there will be speeches and the award of several prizes and tokens to Contador by the Beekeepers Association and others. He will then be seated in a set of antique scales for the official weighing.
Finally, everyone will proceed to the Peñalver Honey Museum where, as is traditional, they will conclude the festivities by feasting on the local paella. It's not certain that Contador will partake of the feast, since, as Parra said, "ultimately, he's touchy about food."
With ramps of up to 25% and a final 500 meters at 17%, the revamped path to Cuitu Negru in Asturias promises a pivotal queen stage in this year's Vuelta.
Get acquainted with Cuitu Negru at the BLOG
January 4 - Bjarne Riis, winner of the 1996 Tour de France and current director of Saxo Bank, Alberto Contador's team, did reconnaissance of the roads of Gran Canaria island yesterday.
LA PROVINCIA | by Alberto Castellano, San Bartolomé de Tirajana | Little remains of the Bjarne Riis who attacked on the climb of Hautacam and so denied Miguel Indurain his sixth Tour de France in 1996. There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then, and the Danish cyclist who dethroned one of the best riders in history still rides a bicycle. He did it yesterday on Gran Canaria as if he were just another cyclotourist. On a winter day, the Dane hopped onto his Specialized and confronted the climb between Fataga and San Bartolomé de Tirajana. The goal was to recon the roads of the island in order to tackle the training rides that the Saxo Bank team, with Alberto Contador as the central figure and Riis as the director, is going to carry out in the upcoming days.
Riis arrived at the lookout point on Las Tirajanas, a little before the built-up area of San Bartolomé de Tirajana, tired and drenched in sweat. The effort showed on his face as he arrived some ten minutes after his two sons, Thomas and Jesper – also cyclists – with whom he scouted the island. There, while he took a break, he said that he was preparing the training rides that his team will do next week on Gran Canaria, and that the training camp will last until January 15.
Among the riders who will come to the island is the three-time winner of the Tour de France, Alberto Contador, who expects that the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will rule this month on his alleged doping with clenbuterol in the 2012 Tour. Friendly, although with an economy of words, Riis scarcely said "we'll see" about the CAS decision.
About his presence on the island, he indicated that "maybe" he would climb to Pico de Las Nieves, considered one of the toughest mountains in the country, in order to give his riders a tune-up.
With the new Saxo Bank jersey, which bears the logo of the Canary Islands business Anfi, the Dane continued his training and headed for Tunte, where his sons were waiting. Along the way, the cyclotourists, surprised, recognized him and greeted him.
Contador will arrive on the island Saturday
The director of Saxo Bank, Bjarne Riis, indicated that the arrival of Madrilenian cyclist Alberto Contador – winner of three Tours de France (2007, 2009 and 2010), two Giros d"Italia (2008 and 2011) and a Vuelta a España (2008) – is expected on Saturday
The arrival of the rest of the riders on the Danish team is also planned this weekend, among them Danish champion Nicki Sørensen and Spaniards Daniel Navarro and Benjamín Noval, as well as Juan José Haedo.
Team Saxo Bank will train on Gran Canaria from January 5th until the 15th (tdwsport.com)
Alberto Contador's teammate from Astana 2010, David de la Fuente, found himself jobless when his current team, Geox-TMC, was deserted by its title sponor several weeks ago.
Yesterday, the Caja Rural team announced that it had reached an agreement to sign the Cantabrian who helped Contador win his third Tour.
Read about it in English at our BLOG
Alberto Contador dressed out for 2012 (twdsport.com)
Alberto Contador's team, Saxo Bank, has released photos of its new uniform for the 2012 season. The bold design of the jersey once again features the Eagle of Herning image, but this time on a deep Chartres-blue background. The dark blue/navy shorts are sensible and set off the jersey perfectly, and they will coordinate like no other with winner's maillots from any race.
The Saxo Bank 2012 look is compact and masculine, symmetrical without being predictable or boring. The team has produced apparel saturated with a shade of blue that is intense but easy on the eye, and - best of all - will be easy to spot in the peloton.
This jersey is handsome enough to make us feel a fleeting twinge of regret when the inevitable moment comes for Alberto to swap it for the leader's jersey.
See photos of Navarro, Noval, Paulinho and other teammates in the new outfit at BICICICLISMO. More photos with rider profiles at TEAM SAXO BANK.
Photos by Tim de Waele
BICICICLISMO | Alberto Contador is set to tackle a challenge-filled 2012 that will focus on the fight for a fourth Tour de France victory and preparations for the Olympic Games in London. Contador said in a recent television interview that, in order to meet those challenges, he hopes to improve overall and offer "his best level ever."
The Tour de France will be Contador's top goal next year, and he looks forward to being "eager to be on the bicycle and in great form" come next July, so he accepts that he should make a "calmer" start to the season.
"I only have one thing in mind, fighting for the victory," he said in a joint appearance with Samuel Sánchez on Teledeporte. In the Olympics time trial, the leader of Saxo Bank-SunGard is confident that he's capable of improving on his fourth place in Beijing, since riding the Tour de France could give him the pedal stroke he lacked in China four years ago.
Looking forward to 2012, his expectations are very high, with the principal objective being winning his fourth Tour de France and adding the new twist of following it up with the Olympics. "This year I'm focused, I have everything very well organized in my mind, and I hope to be at the best level ever," he said. TOUR 2012 ROUTE
Tour, Olympics, Vuelta, Worlds...
Contador thinks that, at least in theory, there's time for it all. "The Olympic Games are gratis because they're immediately after the Tour; the only thing you have to do is to rest. And then, as for tackling the Vuelta, that's where you do have to make more effort, not only physically but also mentally, because it's a lot of months of pressure. And with the Worlds after the Vuelta, it's exactly the same as the Olympics after the Tour: it comes ten days after and ends up being a little easier."
Therefore, he has already outlined the mindset he'll need in order to face each moment of the season. "I'm going to try to take the beginning of the season easier because once I get into competition, it takes a bit of a toll. I want to get a few good results, although I want to reach the Tour de France eager to be on the bicycle and in great form," he summarized.
His biggest goal will be to win the Tour de France. "In the month of July, when I'm at the start line of the Tour, the objective will be to fight for victory, knowing that it's very difficult to win because there are many, many riders who prepared to the max to win it. And in a three-week race, many factors come into play. Luck, for example. I always ask not to have bad luck, and at the tactical level, crashes, punctures... But, yes, I only have one thing in mind, fighting for the victory," he says.
Excited about the Games
Other than the Tour, Contador has a score to settle with his fourth place in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 (a loss of the bronze medal to Levi Leipheimer by eight seconds), and he wants to fight for a medal in London. The Madrileño thinks that his chances will improve because he will have just ridden the Tour de France, as opposed to having just completed the Giro/Vuelta double in 2008. "I feel like trying it, because it's very different from 2008 when I was at the Olympics without having done the Tour de France, and there were riders who had a different pedal stroke. I am aware that it's not a very hard route and that it's better for specialists like Cancellara, Martin and Wiggins."
As for the 2008 Olympics, he revealed that on the way to the time trial course, the Spanish team bus got lost and that he prayed that wind conditions would be an aid. However, it wasn't like that. "It was in our faces, and that, to riders like Cancellara, was a big help, and the time differences on the climb were not that great. On the other hand, on the descent we trimmed back a lot," he recalled.
José Luis de Santo will have to select five riders, including two for the time trial. "Of course, he has to take to the Olympics a group of the ones who are in the best form. It's true that Samuel, Alejandro and I, together with some other rider who can be in good form – we'll ride the Tour and that's a huge advantage and we will definitely make the most of it," he said.
And he makes his own pool of possible winners. ¨For the road race, Samuel as winner – I wouldn't dream of him not being in London – and Alejandro is a great backup. He's super classy and will also give us many options for victory. For the time trial, there's a group of riders, and I'm one of them. It'll be important to see how the year goes and how each person does in the Tour de France, which I think is crucial for finding the pedal stroke, for example, that I didn't have in 2008," he said.
"Personally, the road race is not the best-suited for me, but there'll be other riders, like Samuel and Valverde, who are two great candidates for the victory," he added.
In his opinion, the London Games come at the ideal time after the Tour. "I think, personally, that it's perfect six days after, because it allows you to recover, to rest. That is, you have to be focused in order to pass the finish line in Paris just right, knowing that the goal is to recover as well as possible, thinking that six days later come the Olympic Games. It's going to depend on how each person finishes the Tour. What's clear is that the majority of the candidates for victory in London will have been in the Tour before."
Contador has confidence in the power of the Spanish team. "Without doubt, Gilbert is a clear favorite for the victory, but there are many more. Our team is one of the two or three strongest and I find that encouraging in tackling this challenge."
Furthermore, he emphasizes that the Olympics "without doubt has nothing to do with the Worlds". "Being able to maintain control with five riders is much, much more complicated. And I think that both the Olympics and Worlds are a totally different kind of race, very marked by the long mileage, and that wears people out," he explained.
Flying dragon, 2008 (EFE)
VIDEO: Contador and Sánchez on TeleDeporte, December 18
GO TO IN THE PRESS 2010
Murcia, Catalonia, the magnificent Giro d'Italia, a tough Tour, and CAS
GO TO IN THE PRESS 2010
Alberto Contador's 3rd Tour de France and the clenbuterol case
Alberto Contador's 2nd Tour de France, and much more
GO TO IN THE PRESS 2009
Press coverage from The Year of the Triple Crown
GO TO IN THE PRESS 2008