L'EQUIPE (print edition) - FOR SEVERAL DAYS already, the rumour of his departure had been gaining strength (see L’Equipe of July 20). But Alberto Contador gave no hint of his intentions. And then yesterday, a press release outed the decision: the Tour de France 2010 winner won’t be wearing the Astana jersey anymore in 2011. He doesn't tell which team he will ride for next year, but one team has the inside track: that of Bjarne Riis.
It was known that the Danish manager was very keen to have Alberto Contador under contract. The more he crossed swords with the Luxemburger (the latter having announced his departure for a new Luxemburg-financed outfit), the closer the Spaniard was getting to Andy Schleck’s mentor. During the Tour, several meetings had taken place beteween the rider’s lawyer, his brother Fran who is also his agent; and Bjarne Riis, and more specifically in the evening of the arrival in Gap. These meetings were obviously held behind the back of the Kazakhs, a few hundred meters from their hotel, when the Astana and Saxo Bank teams were sharing the same hotel. In the Pyrennes, the arrival of the big boss of Specialized, the bike brand used by both Astana and Saxo Bank, undoubtedly convinced the Contador clan it was time for a change.
Bjarne Riis is putting the finishing touches to the financial plan which should allow him to manage a competitive team next year. Sungard (joined probably by German brand Siemens) will replace Saxo Bank and will finance the team, with the exception of Alberto Contador whose salary would be taken care of by the bike manufacturer Specialized. The three-time Tour winner already has a private contract with the American company until 2012. “I confirm that we have contacts with Bjarne Riis” announced Fran Contador. The three-time Tour winner should make a commitment for at least two years and several of his teammates, such as Daniel Navarro, Jesus Hernandez, David de la Fuente and Benjamin Noval should follow him and go with Riis.
Nevertheless, Alberto Contador had always maintained that he saw himself pursuing his adventure with the Kazakhs. The more so since they had almost reached an agreement on the Tour de France winner’s requirements, which included a revaluation of his annual salary of about 1.5 million Euro (i.e. a total of 5.5 million Euro), and especially the possibility of recruiting certain number of riders to strengthen the team. On Sunday evening, during the end-of-Tour party in a Parisian restaurant, the Spaniard even gave a toast in honour of his team and its sponsor. And when Alexander Vinokourov asked him in front of the whole assembly if he would be wearing the Astana colours again next season, he replied: “I indeed hope so!”
5.5 million per year
Officially, Contador was under too much pressure. In the press release broadcast yesterday by his press man, he invokes the ultimatum imposed on him by Astana for his contract extension. The Kazakh clan appeared taken by surprise yesterday afternoon. Alexander Vinokourov, contacted by phone while he was training at home in Monaco, didn't hide his disappointment. “We struggled for Alberto for three weeks, sacrificing ourselves without counting our efforts. I hope he had not taken his decision already before the Tour departure. It’s a shame that this gives the impression the Kazakhs are responsible for the negotiations breakdown. Alberto kept requesting a new contract for the last four months. It’s him who was in a hurry to sign with us. We never put any pressure on him”.
Yvon Sanquer, Astana’s manager, didn't want to comment on the piece of news. Fran Contador had let him into the secret as early as last Friday, which could explain the internal conflicts that have emerged recently. During the last days of the Tour various clans could be detected within the team: the Spaniards supported by Yvon Sanquer; the Italians led by sports director Guido Martinelli; and the Kazakhs united behind Alexander Vinokourov, starting to play tricks. Fran Contador, who never left his brother's side during the three weeks of the Tour, and kept him informed of the negotiations, without going into details in order not to disturb him, admitted he had a last conference call with the Kazah leaders the day before yesterday. "We were close to an agreement but unfortunately the discussions couldn't come to a successful conclusion. Our decision not to stay with Astana is firm and final. We made this decision because there are other very serious leads and negotiations are uderway."
Since the announcement of the parting of the ways between the Kazakhs and Contador, other teams have effectively shown their interest: Quick Step, as always pursuing its seach for a stage race leader, the Spanish team of Eusebio Unzue who states he has found a rescuer after the announcement of the withdrawal of Caisse d’Epargne (Telefonica or Banco de Santander 7); even Radio Shack. For Johan Bruyneel, however, the matter seems complicated because Trek, the US competitor of Specialized (with whom Contador is under contract until 2012) is a shareholder of the team. Contador’s decision should become official in the course of next week. (L'Equipe print edition, translated by Christine Kahane)
Photos from the Tim de Waele public access gallery
Alberto Contado has rejected an ultimatum from the Astana team that he make an immediate decision pertaining to his contract for next season. The team had asked for a final answer on Tuesday to their contract renewal offer for the upcoming seasons.
Contador had requested that the people in charge of the team allow him time to study the matter, given the importance of this decision’s bearing on his future. Despite the fact that the two parties were not far apart, the team pressed for a yes or no from the Triple Crown winner in order to begin planning a team for 2011, consequently the positions diverged.
Contador’s three-year tenure with Astana, due to conclude at the end of this season, began after the disappearance of the Discovery Channel team. During this time, Contador has won two Tours de France, the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España, in addition to other races.
After winning the 2010 Tour de France, Alberto Contador is calmly studying all possibilities on offer for riding in the coming seasons, not having discounted any at this time. (Official press release, AC press room)
Communiqué de presse officiel en français:
Les chemins d’Alberto Contador et Astana se séparent
Alberto Contador a rejeté l’ultimatum de l’équipe Astana, qui lui réclamait pour mardi dernier une réponse définitive à son offre de renouvellement de contrat pour les saisons à venir.
Contador avait demandé aux responsables de l’équipe de lui laisser une période de réflexion pour pouvoir étudier la possibilité d’une prorogation, étant donné l’importance d’une telle décision. Bien que les positions des deux parties n’étaient pas très éloignées, l’équipe a exigé de savoir immédiatement si elle pouvait compter sur le vainqueur de la Triple Couronne pour commencer à constituer l’équipe pour 2011, en conséquence de quoi les positions de chacune des parties ont divergé.
Le contrat d’Alberto Contador avec Astana, équipe avec laquelle il avait commencé à courir après la disparition de l’équipe Discovery, avait été prolongé pour une période de trois ans et expirera à la fin de cette saison. Pendant ce temps, Contador a gagné, en plus d’autres courses, un Giro d’Italie, une Vuelta a España et deux Tours de France.
Après sa victoire dans le Tour de France 2010, Alberto Contador étudiera en toute tranquillité toutes les possibilités qui s’offrent à lui pour les saisons à venir, sans en avoir éliminé aucune pour le moment.
Alberto Contador with Prime Minister Zapatero at Moncloa Palace (Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP - The champion of the 2010 Tour de France, Alberto Contador, had a grand reception on Monday upon return to Madrid, where he was received yesterday evening by the head of the government, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, before making his way to the nearby town of his birth, Pinto. PHOTO GALLERY
“He is an example of work, of tenacity, a great example of how to fight and how to behave in sport,” said Zapatero of the champion of three Tours (2007, 2009, 2010) who sealed a new success in Paris on Sunday in the most important bicycle race in the world.
Spain’s commander-in-chief took advantage of the occasion to underscore the “exceptional” moment that Spanish sport is going through. According to him, Spain is currently “the country with most successes in elite international sport.”
After the victory of the national football team in the World Cup in South Africa, Spanish athletes have been brilliant this weekend: added to Contador’s success in Paris are wins by Fernando Alonso in Formula 1’s Gran Prix of Germany and Jorge Lorenzo in the MotoGP, at Laguna Seca (USA).
Zapatero, who received a maillot jaune from the “Grande Boucle” as a gift from Contador, said that he was sure of “a fourth victory” for Contador, 27, in the French race.
“Riding along the Champs Élysees in the maillot jaune is something only the chosen ones do. He has won the Tour three times and this time, at least, they played the Spanish anthem,” joked the prime minister, in allusion to the technical problem that happened with the anthem at last year’s podium ceremony.
The winner of the Tour was very happy with the reception and the honors he received. “It’s a genuine pleasure to be here. I am Spanish and I feel very proud of contributing to this moment in Spanish sport, which is enjoying unbelievably good health,” said Contador.
The rider was also received by the president of the Community of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, who presented him with a commemorative plaque and dedicated supportive words to him.
“It’s an honor for Pinto, for Madrid and for Spain that you’re one of us,” she said.
Afterwards, Contador made his way to Pinto, a nearby town of 40,000 south of Madrid, where he’s the favorite son and where his neighbors had prepared—as they did in 2007 and 2009—a great reception in honor of their most celebrated citizen.
There, Contador greeted the crowd of fans from the balcony of the City Hall, while flying the colors of the maillot jaune and the Spanish flag.
“Many, many thanks, what more can I say?” said “ContaTres” as he addressed his friends and neighbors.
Contador is one of only seven Spanish cyclists to have conquered the Tour de France, after Federico Bahamontes (1959), Luis Ocaña (1973), Pedro Delgado (1988), Miguel Indurain (1991-1995), Óscar Pereiro (2006) and Carlos Sastre (2008).
Daniel Navarro and Benjamín Noval were indispensible to Contador's Tour squad (Photo by Kahane)
EL COMERCIO - Alberto Contador’s right-hand man, Benjamín Noval, and principal mountain gregario, Dani Navarro, are back home in Asturias today after helping their leader capture his third title in the Tour de France. Both of the Astana riders are happy with their three weeks of competition, having derived great satisfaction from serving as key men for Contador.
Navarro was jubilant “because I enjoyed the triumphal ride on the Champs Élysées like nothing else. It’s a magnificent feeling that I’d never experienced before.” He added that he’s happy “because I think that I achieved my mission of helping Contador in the Alps and in the Pyrenees.”
Dani, who will ride the Clásica San Sebastian this Saturday, hinted that he’ll follow the Madrileño wherever he goes. “I don’t know what team he’ll be on next year. Astana wants him to renew at any cost, but it seems that he wants another adventure. We’ll see.”
It’s worth noting that the Kazakh team paid Contador 5.2 million euros, but now the triple champion of the Tour wants seven, an amount which, in principle, the team seems willing to meet.
For his part, Benjamín Noval was also happy “because the goal was reached and the important thing is having seen Contador on the highest step of the podium.” Noval won in 2004 with Armstrong, “but there’s no comparison,” he says now. “I have a very special personal relationship with Contador and I enjoy it more.”
He also praised the work of his teammate Navarro. “It’s like Chechu Rubiera with Armstrong, strong man in the mountains to the best cyclist in the world. He has a great future.”
Alberto's neighbors watched Stage 20 in a cinema and are ready to mob him tonight when he comes home to Pinto (Dani Sastre/as.com)
Alberto Contador flew from Orly airport in Paris to Barajas in Madrid at noon today, arriving home at 2:00 this afternoon. His appointments for today include a reception and late lunch with Madrid president Esperanza Aguirre, followed by an evening visit to Spain’s prime minister José Luis Zapatero at Moncloa Palace, Spain’s version of 10 Downing Street.
Alberto and his entourage will be welcomed home to Pinto tonight, where he’ll address the crowd from the balcony of City Hall at 8:30. Tomorrow he’s off to the Netherlands for a criterium appearance. He will not ride the Clásica San Sebastián, set to take place this Saturday, July 31.
Eddy Seigneur, five-time French champion and winner of a Tour stage on the Champs-Elysées, is Alberto Contador’s bodyguard
Alberto Contador can sleep soundly. He has better than a guardian angel at his service. Yes, a Lord (Seigneur in French) is watching over him.
Responsible for logistics with Team Astana since the beginning of the year, Eddy Seigneur has a very specific function at the Tour: he is the Spanish rider’s bodyguard.
Astana manager, Breton-born Yvon Sanquer, explains: “We thought it was cooler to have Alberto accompanied by a former rider”. Eddy Seigneur (41 years old), knows the cycling world inside out. Before acting as team manager (with Cofidis and Crédit Agricole), the Beauvais-born northerner (now living in Senlis), had left a mark on cycling: winner of the Champs-Elysée stage in the 1994 Tour, and five-time French champion (four times in the time trial and once in the road race).
"I knew about the excitement that exists before the departure and at the arrival of stages, but with Alberto everything is multiplied by 50. In the morning , my task is to help him make his way to the signature podium in the easiest possible manner. But as he is a nice guy who stops for photos and autographs, we don’t always get to the podium on time and he sometimes gets fined.
"At the finish it’s worse. In mountain stages it’s amazing to see 40 journalists pounce on him. I had never known anything like it. The other day there was even a man on all fours between my legs. It amuses me, even if I must sometimes be tough. In cases like that I move backwards with outstreched arms. But I regret not to have asked Chabal, who was at the Tour Village the other day, how they doit in rugby scrums."
Mindful of others
Clearly, Seigneur is very happy with his new job. “The other day I even visited Rama Yade to offer to work for her. That way, I'd get to have earphones and a suit. No, I’m joking. My ambition is to find a job as sports director, like I used to be.”
Meanwhile, he has nothing but praise for Contador’s attitude. “With him it’s not complicated, he is very easy going, very nice, and has total confidence in me. Even if a rider in front of him goes left, he’ll go right if I tell him to go right.
"He's also very mindful of others. Whenever I finish my job, he asks if everything is okay and thanks me. The other day, he had barely escaped from the crowd when he made a little nod to thank me, when he could very well not give a damn.”
When this interview was conducted, Contador was not yet wearing the yellow jersey. “When he grabs the yellow jersey it will be much easier at the stage arrivals. He’ll go straight to the areas reserved for interviews” said Seigneur confidently.
The proof is that he used the future and not the conditional tense. The following Monday, Contador won the most coveted outfit in the world. Seigneur saw the difference. “At the arrival point, nothing to do anymore. Now I only have to look after the bike.”
Photograph of Eddy Seigneur at the 2010 Tour and translation from the French by Christine Kahane
Spanish rider Alberto Contador, leader of the Tour de France, said before Thursday’s decisive stage ending in a climb to the summit of the Tourmalet that “we’ll have to ride intelligently” and he is ready to secure his third title in La Grande Boucle “if it’s possible.”
“It’ll be a very hard-fought stage, since Andy Schleck and I are very equally matched. I’m already prepared for the battle, I think that it’s going to be a spectacular stage. It’ll be a special day due to the historic significance of the Tourmalet, but I still can’t forget that what’s really important is winning the victory in Paris,” he said.
It will be the last duel in the mountains before the time trial on the last day of true competition, a 52-kilometer route between Bordeaux and Pauillac. A date that the Spaniard doesn’t rule out for laying a decisive claim to the Tour. ”You can be sure that if I can wrap up the race on the Tourmalet, I’ll do it, so I’ll have more of a time margin and more peace of mind for the time trial,” he said.
Alberto Contador, before leaving to train just before 12:30, explained that in spite of the importance of the stage, with its finish on the historic peak, “the most important thing will be to ride intelligently.” “Last year we had a similar stage with a finish on Mont Ventoux, that day the victory was secondary and I thought more about Paris. It was a day for maintaining control that in the end benefitted our interests,” he said.
About the whistles that he heard on the podium coming from some French fans on the day of Andy Schleck’s mechanical breakdown on the Port de Balès, Contador made it clear that he feels “loved by the French people.” “I have no complaints with the way the French fans have treated me, the truth is that I feel very loved,” he concluded.(EFE)
Tomorrow Alberto Contador will begin his assault on the Pyrenees, the place where, as he has said from the beginning of the race, the outcome of Tour 2010 will be decided. At 31” from Andy Schleck, his strategic situation is quite favorable coming into these four stages in which, he says, “the biggest danger is having a bad day.”
Contador, after having “a good day on the Madeleine and yesterday as well,” says that he has to continue to exercise good judgment. “Here, you could have a good day or you could have bad one, and in the Pyrenees—considering how difficult they are—the question is going to be more about not failing than getting time differences.”
The ten seconds that he gained at Mende “are not much, but you never know if they might be decisive in the end. Psychologically, they were pretty good.” In spite of that, he says that he thinks that Andy Schleck is doing “quite well. We’ve spoken many times and I know him well. He’s a man that doesn’t give up; I’m sure that he feels like getting back into to the mountains to see what he can do.”
Alberto is planning more complicated tactics for the Pyrenees. “My situation is good. If I don’t see things clearly, I’m not going to try to attack, because my position with respect to Andy’s is good and I’m not going to risk more than is necessary.” Not even to take time. “You always like to be ahead and, if I can, I’ll try, but if I don’t have a bad day in the time trial, I should be able to make up any deficit there.”
Furthermore, he takes stock of what Andy Schleck needs to do. “He needs to try something in the mountains more than I do,” he says, not worrying too much about the case of nerves that his rival says he sees in him. “I don’t know exactly who is more nervous, him or me,” he responds.
His analysis of the four Pyrenean stages hasn’t changed. “Like I said before the Tour started, the Pyrenees will be judge and jury of the race. I hope I feel good, because I’ve been feeling better every day. I hope to take advantage of these really tough stages, both to create some time differences and, if possible, to get ahead of Andy Schleck.”
After doing reconnaissance of the four stages in the Pyrenees, Alberto Contador knows the routes perfectly. “The first one has a very tough climb, Pailhères, with huge gradients and a rapid descent before the climb to Ax 3 Domaines, short but very hard. The gaps are going to be very wide.
"The next day is marked by the climb to Balès, a long climb that’s very tough at the end, with a very bad descent. It’s a stage that’s similar to the Madeleine. There could be attacks and people who gamble on the descent.
"The Bagnères de Luchon to Pau stage will be a complicated day, because it starts with the climb of the Peyresourde as a set piece and then we’ll have to get over the Tourmalet and the Aubisque, even though after that there are still 60 kilometers before the finish line. We’ll see what kind of moves people make, because getting there is complicated.
"To end with is the finish on the Tourmalet, which is the one that everybody’s talking about, with two climbs before it, the Marie-Blanque and Soulor. We’ll have to look at the classification on that day in order to decide what to do. But in general, the most important thing will be not to have a bad day in the Pyrenees, because if you do, all your chances could suddenly evaporate. That’s the biggest danger.”
Alberto Contador thinks that, faced with Andy Schleck, the possible duel is “pretty equal. One day one of us is better than the other and vice versa. But it’s true that I’ve got some cushion with the time trial at Bordeaux, in case I’m not able to take time on him or even if he takes some more out of me.”
And about the rest of the rivals, Alberto says that there’s a group of riders who are at “an extremely high level, but the danger is going to be people making moves from a distance, because on the final climbs the gaps that they can get are not going to be very wide.”
Fran Contador, Alberto's brother and manager (photo: Christine Kahane/Alberto Contador Notebook)
24 heures.ch by Patrick Testuz - Alberto is not the least of his worries. In the shadow of the champion, the big brother fulfills the role of agent. Impressions and secrets.
Cycling is an individual sport performed within a team. Not only on the road. In order to advance faster, higher, stronger, a champion relies of course on an efficient staff. Candidate to his own succession in the Tour, winner of the 2007 edition, Alberto Contador has in his circle a very special member: his brother Francisco, “Fran” for his close friends, who works as his agent.
Love of cycling has united Fran (30) and Alberto (27) since they were teenagers. “We’ve grown and developed it together. It’s not a family inheritance, a virus that’s been transmitted to us. At first, we did a lot of cross country cycling” explains the elder, who hides his physical resemblance with his younger brother behind designer spectacles. “We decided to work together after the 2008 Giro. I take care of the non-sport issues. With the media impact involved in the Tour de France, there are many demands. Together with Jacinto Vidarte (ex-MARCA journalist), we take care of his communication.”
The eyes of the big brother
Looking for a spot in the shade in the Bourg-lès-Valence finish area, Fran moves with undisguised pleasure in...the shadow of Alberto. He lives by proxy.
“Cycling is everything I love. I’m overwhelmed to be able to satisfy this love in a privileged setting. It’s motivating, exciting. I always look at Alberto with the eyes of the elder brother and sometimes I’m afraid, afraid that something harmful will happen to him on a wet pavement, on a descent. Even if his 2004 accident now belongs to the past and doesn’t worry us anymore”. As a reminder: an aneurism had caused the Madrid rider to fall during the Tour of Asturias.
Severe pressure in 2009
Last year, the Contador duo was subjected to severe pressure during the Tour. Side-effects of the cohabitation with Lance Armstrong within Team Astana. “Many things have been said and written. Every detail, every word, every gesture has been blown out of proportion.
“Two leaders of this quality in the same team, it’s very difficult. Of course. But Lance and Alberto never got really angry. This time it’s a different situation. The team is totally dedicated to him and Alberto is more serene. He is very confident that he is heading for a third Tour victory.”
Francisco let his mind wander before adding: “The arrival of Yvon Sanquer to the team last October has been beneficial. The new manager has changed the team philosophy. He brought with him his own methods. The Kazakhs are less present. My brother will probably renew his contract. I’m working on it.”
Praise from Sanquer
Yvon Sanquer cannot say enough nice things about Alberto Contador. “He has an exceptional psychological strength. His ability to brush off a negative experience, to overcome it and re-motivate himself is exceptional."
Carlos Arribas, journalist with the daily newpaper El País, praises the work and professionalism of Contador in Velo Magazine. “He has more natural talent than Bahamontes or Delgado”.
For Frederic Grappe, specialist in biomechanics, the winner of the 2008 Giro and Vuelta owes his efficiency in the mountains to two key qualities: his capacity to turn his leges very fast, and to stand up a long time on the pedals. This will be double-checked in the Pyrenees starting Sunday. (Translated from French by Christine Kahane)
Cyclist Alberto Contador, who is currently competing in the Tour de France, was “enormously satisfied” by the title of football’s World Champion won by Spain in South Africa 2010 after overcoming The Netherlands in the final match.
“The national team’s victory in the World Cup has filled me with satisfaction. I followed the match intensely and when the referee blew the whistle I was very happy for the football team and for all of Spanish sport,” said Alberto Contador.
The two-time champion of the Tour de France called the victory “an impressive success for all the players.”
Alberto Contador felt especially happy about Iniesta’s goal, since the double Tour champion recently gave Iniesta a bicycle, sending the gift to the Spanish player’s address while he was training in South Africa. (EFE)
AS.COM - Last night, Alberto Contador had turbot for dinner. Fresh fish prepared by the chef who’s been hired for the Tour to cook for the nine Astana guys during the month of July.
Paco Olalla, a native of Arandilla (Burgos), is 58 and Astana’s king of the kitchen. After being chef for the Spanish national team during the tenure of head coach Paco Antiquera, Olalla took advantage of a “2010 sabbatical” in order to get straight to work on the diet of the two-time Tour winner. \
“Alberto scarfs my cooking right up, no problem.”
Olalla goes “from hotel to hotel,” scarcely even seeing any cyclists who are not members of the Kazakh team. “Sometimes I go to the market,” he says.
He’s in charge of breakfast and dinner. For the first meal of the day—essential—Olalla has already gotten the hang of the Pinteño’s tastes. “A two-egg omelet, cereal with soy milk, a white rice pilaf plus oatmeal made with oats that Vinokourov brings.” This is the Kazakh’s desire. “Everybody eats it. It’s oats, water, salt—goes down good.”
More carbohydrates at night, for after massage and reflections on stages that are always tough and stressful at the Tour. “After the pavé on Tuesday they ate four kilos of pasta among the nine of them. It’s barbaric. Lucky that we’ve got 80 more kilos in the truck.
“Then they want red meat, chicken with mashed pototoes. Everybody’s impatient at dinnertime, even though I’ve found the way to entertain them with appetizers.”
Paco brought three acorn-fed hams from Spain. “Everybody likes them. The Kazakhs, too. If they finish them off, I’ll call a friend to bring me some more. It’s no problem.”
Satiated by a good plateful by Paco, the nine athletes won’t be able to taste his specialty during the Tour. “No, it impossible. I can’t prepare a good spring lamb with baked potatoes.”
Too bad, eh? “I’m convinced that the lamb would make them pedal even faster,” he said, half-jokingly. Maybe in Paris. “If we win, I’ll make them whatever they like.”
Photo: Chef Paco stirs the special oatmeal that Vino has prescribed for the team (Jesus Rubio/as.com) PHOTO GALLERY
Photo by AC press room
MARCA - Alberto Contador has already decided his future. He will stay with Astana, save some last-minute surprise. His brother and representative, Fran Contador, has confirmed the situation in an interview for Biciciclismo in which he says that only “some nuances” are lacking before closing on a contract that will tie the Pinteño to the Kazakh team for the next “two or three years.”
“We’ve already had a meeting with the sponsors, we only have to come to an agreement about some nuances and I think that there won’t be major problems. The duration of the contract isn’t definite, although it will be a minimum of two years, it’s something that we have to discuss but it will be two or three years,” he said.
Alberto is very happy with the effort made by the Kazakh directors to round up a team confident of success for this Tour after going through the dismantling of his team following the departure of Bruyneel and Lance Armstrong to form a new team, RadioShack.
Furthermore, he is in perfect sync with the squad’s directors, Yvon Sanquer and Giuseppe Martinelli. Not in vain, they have taken care of his requests whenever they could, like the hiring of Óscar Pereiro as super-domestique, even though in the end he wasn’t included among the nine cyclists that they took to the startline of the Tour in Rotterdam.
Contador’s brother expects that the agreement will be resolved as soon as possible so that he can focus on this season’s goals, among whch could be the Vuelta a España. “We don’t have a specific date marked on the calendar. As soon as we’re square about things, it will be fully closed. During the Tour or when the Tour finishes, but as soon as possible,” he underscored.
Contador’s intention to stay with the Kazakh team caused other options which have been the talk in the last few months to evaporate, like the creation of a team by Fernando Alonso in which the Madrileño would be the biggest star. Non-Spanish teams like Quick Step were also interested in his services, but it seems that Contador does not want to take on a new venture blindly.
“The sponsors are very interested in staying with this project and in making the best team around Alberto. It is his wish. This year, in spite of all the disadvantages and being behind schedule, they’ve taken a good team forward and it can get better,” said Contador’s brother and representative, who is now entrusted with closing the contract deal according to the financial requirements of the two-time Tour-winner.
Contador faces the media pleasantly (Photo by AC press room)
Today, Thursday, the Astana team did a three-hour training session on the outskirts of Rotterdam. They did not, however, do reconnaissance of the route of the first road stage, which they planned to cover by car during the afternoon.
Alberto Contador and Alexander Vinokourov took the opportunity in training to test the time trial bicycles that they’ll ride on Saturday. Contador will take the start of the Tour with a new frame—still unfinished and unpainted—after spending time adjusting measurements on a first model in Madrid.
Today’s work will be rounded out by the official presentation of teams this evening, an event that normally happens on the eve of the race, but which has been moved forward this year to avoid a clash with the first game of the World Cup quarterfinals tomorrow.
Contador will hold a press conference on Friday at 3:00 in the afternoon at the Astana team hotel. (Official press release, AC press room)
A great effort has been made by Specialized to provide the right TT bike for Contador. This latest model is built around a new frame. (Photo by AC press room)
David de la Fuente was already in Rotterdam on Tuesday evening, after a long and hot day of travel—suitcases, airports, kilometers by bus and car.
The Astana rider will be one of three Cantabrians at the Tour de France, along with Óscar Freire and Iván Gutiérrez, who will become part of the 198-man best peloton in the world when they begin another journey on Saturday: a three-week excursion by bicycle from Holland to Paris by way of the Alps and Pyrenées.
The three Spaniards will have very different goals. Freire will look for bunch-sprint stage wins, while Gutiérrez will premeire the new Spanish champion’s jersey and have options due to the absence of a clear leader at Caisse d’Epargne. De la Fuente wants to help Contador conquer his third Tour de France.
David de la Fuente: “My only objective is to help Contador win his third Tour”
EL DIARIO MONTANES - David de la Fuente is on the team to beat this year at the Tour—Astana—and he’s fully aware of what that entails. “We have Contador and that’s a responsibility for us. Everyone is going to be watching Alberto, and his rivals are going to try to keep him from winning, but we, and Alberto himself, are here to avoid that. We’re really focused and very well-prepared mentally, and between us we intend that Alberto takes another Tour,” says the rider who was Most Combative in the 2006 Tour de France. The Cantabrian rider put his mark on the Tour that year with long solo escapes and leadership in the mountains classification.
His current form is good, as he demonstrated in the Dauphiné recently, “but we’ll see how I am when we hit the gas.” His allergies are hardly worth mentioning. “Man, I’m drowning a bit, but that’s comes with the territory, becuse for me it’s almost normal,” explains De la Fuente.
About the state of form of his teammates and Contador himself, David stresses that “the team is arriving very well and as for Alberto, I’m telling you, he’s above anything I’ve known. Although it’s clear that in this Tour we’re going to have a lot of very strong rivals, so that we’re going to have to work our butts off in France,” added the Astana rider.
Photo from the Tim de Waele public access gallery
EL DIARIO MONTANES - Alberto Contador (27, Pinto) has won two of the three Tours that he has ridden. “I’ve never had it easy,” he says. Not even now that he possesses triumphs collected from every corner of the calendar. What motivates him is difficulty, challenge. The Tour. Number three. “What do I feel when I attack and ride away? Pain, a lot of pain in my legs.”
In the peloton, Contador is the shadow that frighens, that shadow that astonishes. Everyone watches him. He is the point around which the Tour’s compass turns. He knows it. And he says that he has the same hunger as the first time.
Before the interview, on the veranda of a hotel at the Dauphiné in Avignon, he greets us energetically. Strong handshake. He is burnished by the sun, ready for the fourth Tour he’s ever ridden. The third that he will win?
Who is Alberto Contador? A mixture of talent, work, ambition, patience…
More or less. You have to have a gift, some natural ability for cycling. But that’s nothing without a lot of work, what I concentrate on, what I’m meticulous about…I know that people get the impression that I get along in the races with ease, without making any effort. But I race some fifty days per year and I’m concentrating on these races another 90 days. You have to work on your natural abilities.
Do you still notice improvement?
Bad news for your rivals.
Haha! Well, the data in the tests that I’ve done says I’ve improved. Although now I have to prove it on the road.
In the 2009 Tour you proved to be impervious to the pressure exerted by Armstrong.
My character has been formed by lots of circumstances. Not just in cycling. I’ve got a brother who suffers from cerebral palsy and that affects you, it forces you to grow up. Then came my illness, which put a stamp on me. In the Tour last year, I learned to endure the pressure.
At 21 years old, you decided to undergo brain surgery. All or nothing.
I was clear about things. If I hadn’t done it, I would’ve had to depend on the people around me for everything in life. And I didn’t want that. I decided, clearly, on surgery.
Cycling hasn’t been easy either, not even last year, when you won the Tour in spite of the criticisms of Armstrong, your teammate at Astana.
The key is knowing what my goal is. Having clarity about it. So I focus all my strength on achieving it. When I work, I give it 100%. When I rest, likewise.
The first Tour that you won (2007), you did it after the expulsion of Rasmussen at the end. You put on the maillot jaune in the midst of scandal. In your second Tour victory (2009), your own team put you in a corner.
That’s true. It was never easy. Due to the accident that I had (the illness) I couldn’t debut in 2004. I did it in 2005. In 2006, the scandal broke that affected the Liberty Seguros team and I was left out of the Tour. In 2007, I won, but it happened because of Rasmussen. And in 2008 they didn’t invite my team, Astana, due to the scandal from the Tour the year before…In the end, I’ve only ridden three out of the six Tours that I could’ve been in.
Is this the first year in which everything has gone the way you want?
Yes. Everything is calmer. I have freedom to maneuver. Man, it’s also true that I’m finishing a contract and that I’ve got to decide my future, but now I have more peace of mind when it’s time to do those things.
Your favorite character in comics is Spiderman. Choose a super power.
Flying. It has to give you an incredible sense of freedom. Feeling like an eagle.
When you attack and continue alone to a summit, is it like flying?
No way. What you feel is pain. Your legs hurt horribly. It’s unbelievable. Your only consolation is knowing that the others hurt just as much. At times like that you don’t enjoy yourself; later you do.
In spite of already having two Tours, the Vuelta and the Giro, you never get carried away by elation.
Each year starts from zero. That’s how I see it. You can’t relax. As soon as you leave something to chance or get off center, it shows. In team sports, maybe you can make up for it. In cycling, in a time trial or on a mountain, you can’t play hide and seek. You either get the job done or not.
In the upcoming Tour, all of your team Astana will be at your disposal, including Vinokourov. What will he contribute?
Magnificent experience, enormous output and a very calm atmosphere on the team. Half of them are going to be Spaniards and the other half Kazakhs. For them, Vinokourov is a reference. I know that my team is prepared to sacrifice themselves as I fight for the Tour.
They say that your weakness is the team. They’ve protected you during the entire season, without forcing you to face the music. Reserved for this Tour.
We’ve ridden surrounding the leader, but in races that weren’t jeopardizing our performance in July, in the Tour. That’s why I made some changes to my schedule (giving up the Tour of the Basque Country and the Volta a Catalunya).
Armstrong’s RadioShack has presented a great team, with Leipheimer, Klöden, Brajkovic…
The best in the Tour, along with Saxo Bank. That’s an advantage for Armstrong.
Do you think he’s a candidate for the Tour?
He’s a candidate. He has a lot of experience and he knows how to take advantage of opportunities.
Do they still ask you about Armstrong much?
This year they don’t ask me about him much.
Is that better?
Neither better nor worse. It means that now there are other things to be interested in.
EL DIARIO MONTANES - Next Saturday, in Rotterdam, comes the departure of the Tour that pays homage to the rock—the Tourmalet. Any way the coin is tossed, it comes up Alberto Contador.
The pavé from Paris-Roubaix awaits you in the fourth stage.
I know that it will be a difficult day. And the first stages in Holland will be, as well. I’ll have to be very focused. There’ll be wind, tension. And everything will be worse if it rains. The combination of pavé and mud could send you home. Nothing to lose sleep over, though.
You studied those pavé sections with Van Petegem as your guide. What did he recommend?
He surprised me when it came to choosing equipment. I had no idea about things like lowering the pressure of the tires.
The 2010 Tour will pay tribute to the Tourmalet, one of its favorite peaks.
It’s a legend. I’ve only climbed it once, last year. Although we climbed it so slow that I really didn't take it into account. Now I’ve been to see it and I’ve ascended it from both sides. I’d really like to win there, but… Maybe the classification will already be decided by then. You never know if it’s good to have a mountain like that so near the end of the Tour. Whether you have to ride defensively or you have to attack.
Your entire plan looks toward July.
Yes. But things before that also have to go well for us, with several wins.
If you win a third Tour, you’ll catch up to Thys, Bobet and Lemond. Are you pursuing new goals?
First you have to win it, that’s going to be very difficult. I don’t know if I’ll manage it this year or later or never. Since I’m conscious of how difficult it is to win, I have enormous motivation. It is definitely true that I’ve got projects for the future, but it’s still too soon.
Contador with his loyal gregarios, left to right: Óscar Pereiro, Dani Navarro, Benjamín Noval, Alberto Contador, Paolo Tiralongo, Jesús Hernández, David de la Fuente (Photo by AC press room)
Alberto Contador finished the last training camp in preparation for the Tour de France on Friday, concluding a week of training with six teammates: Dani Navarro, Paolo Tiralongo, Benjamín Noval, David de la Fuente, Jesús Hernández and Óscar Pereiro.
The camp, which began last Sunday, took place in the Sierra de Madrid, and was based on training for the specific task of scaling the high mountains. Contador also devoted time to a final tune-up of the time trial bicycle that he’ll ride when he begins the Tour de France next Saturday, July 3.
Among other climbs, Alberto did reconnaissance of the summit of Bola del Mundo (2,247 m). This highest peak in the Sierra de Madrid—with ramps of 20% gradient—will be featured for the first time in the upcoming edition of the Vuelta a España. “It’s amazing, very impressive. It has very demanding slopes, and you have to use appropriate gearing. I think that to climb it properly you have to use a 36x28, at least.”
“I’m very happy with the work that we’ve done, both all of my teammates and I,” said Alberto at the end of this final week of preparation and after having reaped good results in the Critérium du Dauphiné. “I want to thank all the members of the team for the great job they’ve done,” added the two-time winner of the Tour.
Contador will travel to Rotterdam next Wednesday, where he’ll also preview the complicated first road stage of the race, in which he expects the wind to be the main difficulty.
Team Astana for the 2010 Tour: Alberto Contador, Alexander Vinokourov, David de la Fuente, Andrey Grivko, Jesús Hernández , Maxim Iglinsky, Dani Navarro, Benjamín Noval, and Paolo Tiralongo. (Official press release, AC press room)
Carlos Sastre and Alberto help pull Samu to Olympic gold in the Beijing road race (Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images)
Samuel Sánchez, Euskaltel’s leader for the Tour de France, considers Alberto Contador “the number 1 favorite” to win the Tour, and Andy Schleck his main rival.
Sánchez says that on July 3, he himself will arrive at the start line in Rotterdam “better than in 2008” and with the goal of “having a high place in the general and fighting for a stage win.”
“The last week is going to be for people with legs and if I’m feeling good when I get there, I’ll be able to pick some fruit,” he said.
According to Sánchez, Stage 15—which finishes at Bagnères-de-Luchon after 20 kilometers of vertical descent from the hors-categorie Port de Balès—is good for him. “An attack is going to mean a lot of pedaling. There are only two curves at the beginning. But it’s a tough stage and you’ve got to get to the top with reflexes at 100%.”
The winner of the gold medal in Beijing admits that the mountain stages of the Tour will be demanding. He has decided to forego the Spanish Championship time trial this week “because I’d rather save my strength for the Tour. I think I'm ready,” he said.
“Samu” agrees with Alberto Contador that the Alps will be “exhausting” and that the Pyrenees, in the final week, “are going to decide the race.” (EFE)
Contador and squad in the Alps (as.com)
AS.COM - After the Dauphiné Libéré, Alberto Contador remained in the Alps in order to inspect the three main alpine stages that will be covered in the Tour on Saturday and Sunday, July 10 and 11 and, after the first rest day, on Tuesday, July 12. His overall conclusion has been that “these stages will mainly be exhausting.”
“People who are in form will be there and whoever isn’t doing well will lose time. But I don’t think that the general classification will be clear after these days.”
The two-time winner of the Tour (2007 and 2009) likes better the Pyrenees stages that come later (July 18-22), which he already looked over at the end of May. “The Pyrenees will be much harder and more decisive. That’s where the race will be in play.”
Alberto visited the climbs in the Alps together with five teammates: the Italian Tiralongo and Spanish riders De la Fuente, Navarro, Noval and Jesús Hernández, all of whom are on Astana’s list of potential candidates for the Tour. During the two days they have covered three stages, starting by covering the one at Rousses in the car to preview its only interesting feature, the finish. “This stage disappointed me. It’s only got three tough kilometers and there are 14 kilometers from there to the finish line.”
“The one at Morzine-Avoriaz is harder. But except for the people who fail, the time differences won’t be excessive. I think that three or four people will reach the finish line together.”
The one he likes best is the Madeleine. “We’ll have to climb a total 4,500 km of slopes. From the summit to the finish there are 32 kilometers, but 23 are descending. Maybe somebody will try it from a distance.”
Alberto Contador finished reconnaissance of the four Pyrenean stages of the 2010 Tour today, where he spent four days training with seven teammates: Fofonov, Tiralongo, Noval, Navarro, De la Fuente, Hernández and Pereiro, all of whom are included in the long list of Astana’s Tour roster. (PHOTO GALLERY)
After this phase, Contador plans to take the start at the Critérium du Dauphiné and continue with recon of the two Tour stages in the Alps. At just under a month to go before the start of the Tour de France, the leader of Astana is confident and satisfied with his preparation, although he indicates that he hasn’t reached his best moment of form. “I feel good, but I’m still short of reaching Tour form,” he said. (AUDIO)
Contador has studied the Pyrenees stages in detail and has reached some conclusions. “These four days in the Pyrenees have been tough, because we’ve seen the stages that are going to decide the Tour. They all offer plenty of possibilities.
"The first one finishes at Ax-3 Domaines after climbing a very demanding mountain, the Pailhères; the next day we have another very hard climb at the end, Balès, with the finish line after a descent of 20 kilometers. On the third day some mythic mountains appear, like the Tourmalet and L’Aubisque, which could crack people even though the goal is a long way away. And last but not least is the main dish, with the finish on the Tourmalet, the final chance for victory for the climbers, although the general will probably already be pretty clear.”
Contador ran into the Schleck brothers on Monday at the top of the Tourmalet, where he arrived after climbing the Aspin.
After exchanging a warm greeting as genuine friends, the men from Saxo Bank, who arrived from the opposite direction after climbing the Soulor, commented to Alberto that L’Aubisque was closed to traffic and, joking, they made a date to meet again in this same place this coming July.
Still lacking detailed knowledge of the stages in the Alps, Contador confirms that in the 2010 Tour “the Pyrenees are going to play the role of judge in the race and, of course, this Tour is harder than 2009.”
Contador himself is coming up to the last phase of his preparation, which has gone without a hitch. “I’m carrying out my preparation just the way I wanted,” he said.
“After the classics I took a complete break (some 10 days without the bicycle) and at first it was a bit of an effort to start up again, but everything’s going according to plan. I’ll face the Dauphiné without pressure, looking for a tune-up, because preparation is going perfectly.“
The same goes for his feelings on the bike. “I feel good, yes, but I’m still short of Tour form, because there are still three and a half weeks left for that and it’s not a good time, it’s still allergy season and that limits me a little,” he said in conclusion. (Official press release and photos: AC press room)
The 2010 Tour de France starts in Rotterdam on July 3 and concludes in Paris on July 25.