This will be the year the world judges Alberto Contador

M_Campbell23 Roar Guru

By M_Campbell23, M_Campbell23 is a Roar Guru

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    As last year’s Tour de France unfolded, and the whips began cracking, I was left utterly bemused at the form of Alberto Contador.

    Here was a man who only the year before, in one of the great sporting jousts I had ever seen, battled with Andy Schleck and looked utterly untroubled throughout.

    This was a guy who I had never seen falter. Powering up mountains like a machine, out of the saddle with the legs firing away.

    As I waited for last year’s tour, my hopes for Cadel Evans were dampened by a firm conviction that Alberto Contador could not be beaten.

    It was a belief that Evans, though gritty, simply did not have as many gears as the Spaniard, that while he may win a tour in a mediocre year, Contador would always have something in reserve.

    Last year, that was not the case. Where he had once one marched, in 2011 Alberto Contador limped. The peerless, domineering cyclist of his previous tour victories did not appear. The man who turned out in his stead appeared utterly ordinary.

    When he attacked, he seemed to do so based on what he remembered being capable of rather than what he presently was. When he defended, he clung on rather than cruised.

    So now, halfway between the last tour and the next, we are left to wonder. It is a question which has been asked of and debated about many of this sport’s more decorated champions of the past, and it is one which now, is demanded of Alberto Contador.

    There had been positive tests but there had never been a knockout blow. He always had an excuse which was just plausible enough to keep us wondering, and the most romantic of us keep believing. Even the famous dodgy meat story.

    All of it was held up as evidence that cycling’s finest, and by extension cycling itself, was pure.

    The various regulations regarding doping helped. Those regulations contain enough red tape and legal procedure to line the entire route of the next five Tours, and so a series of inquiries and appeals mean that still Contador’s papers have not been conclusively marked.

    He remains the official winner of the 2007, 2009 and 2010 tours, and thus remains innocent until proven guilty. He is not yet tarred with the same ignominy of say, Floyd Landis or Alexander Vinokourov, as a confirmed doper who has been stripped of titles and victories.

    Despite all of these caveats, I must admit my patriotism and a bit of a dislike for Contador’s manner made me an arch-cynic in his case.

    It’s so easy for that national pride to have one spouting that he couldn’t have produced that time trial performance in 2007 without some help. It was easy to point to his absence in 2008 as evidence of something not quite right. Though despite all this, my suspicions and those of so many others were not quite definitive, never rising above circumstantial intriguing.

    After last year’s tour however, for many it must have fallen into place. He was a shadow of the Adonis of previous tours. Something was clearly missing, and there were plenty of wits and cynics ready to jump in and state what they thought it was. For the sake of cycling’s purity I hoped I was wrong about Contador.

    Last year, I was left with barely a scrap of doubt.

    So this, in my view, is the most crucial year of Alberto Contador’s career. Not just because it will likely see the conclusion of his battle to retain his previous victories, but for a broader reason.

    This year, in not only the Tour but every professional outing he makes, Alberto Contador will need to prove to both cycling an those who like to deride it, that he is the real deal. For the good of himself and the sport, he needs to prove that last year’s Tour was an aberration brought on not by a lack of illegal assistance but by a lack of form.

    If Alberto Contador is again a shell, or if he again tests positive and this time has no alibi, he will simply be more fodder for those who seek to discredit cycling’s integrity.

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    The Crowd Says (20)

    • January 19th 2012 @ 9:30am
      Sean said | January 19th 2012 @ 9:30am | ! Report

      The only reason Contador lost was because he did the Giro in the lead up to the Tour…

      You will see the real Contador turn up this year…

      • January 19th 2012 @ 10:16am
        Kevin said | January 19th 2012 @ 10:16am | ! Report

        So competing in both the Giro and the Tour doesn’t make any difference to Tour form? Can’t believe there is no mention of this fact anywhere in the article!

      • January 20th 2012 @ 7:45am
        The GrannyRing said | January 20th 2012 @ 7:45am | ! Report

        I totally agree with you! Looks like Mr. Campbell missed the 2011 Giro or, alternatively, chose to ignore the results as it would debunk his theory that Contador relied on drugs to win the Tour de France. Campbell’s bias has more to do with his “patriotism and disilike for Contador’s manner” than any thoughtful analysis of the facts.

      • January 20th 2012 @ 8:31am
        Robert said | January 20th 2012 @ 8:31am | ! Report

        Seriously, as a few mentioned, how can there be no mention of his Giro d’Italia win last year and its effects on his Tour form for 2011? The degree of difficulty of last year’s Giro was almost unprecedented in any Tour, Giro or Vuelta. As much if not more vertical ascent as we had seen in any Grand Tour in quite a while. The way he dominated last year’s Giro, in a manner and by a margin, 6 minutes 10 seconds, that even he hadn’t achieved in all his Grand Tour wins. And for him to even show up at the TDF last year, deal with all his accidents, that were his doing or just a victim of circumstances, and finish third in the last ITT and end up in fifth place 1’27 behind Andy Schleck is actually quite impressive. If he had showed up fresh at last year’s Tour no one, even Evans would have stood a chance. Whoever wrote this article, the cycling season doesn’t start and end in July.

        • January 20th 2012 @ 11:44am
          Robert said | January 20th 2012 @ 11:44am | ! Report

          Allow me to correct myself. Contador finished last year’s TDF 1’27’ behind Frank Schleck but 2’23” behind Andy Schleck. Regardless he would have finished ahead of them for sure. and before anybody starts predicting this year’s podium at the Tour make sure you take a good look at the profile. It’s definitely not a climber’s Tour this year. Two time trials and a prologue and not many mountain top finishes. AC and Evans will be up there for sure, but I can’t see the Schlecks finish in the top 5. Anyway we’ll see. But Andy will find a way to complain that the tour wasn’t handed to him on a silver platter like he seems to do every year.

    • January 19th 2012 @ 10:09am
      Jamie said | January 19th 2012 @ 10:09am | ! Report

      The Tour is a long hard race and you need a bit of luck. Remember Contador got stuck behind a crash and lost significant time. He was also very tired from smashing everyone in the Giro (showing his dominance again here).

      So he was off his best for the TDF and didnt have the best of luck. By comparison, Armstrong was a miracle worker at avoiding incidences and focused all his form on the TDF. He didnt do the Giro to keep his energy for France.

      So i wouldnt read too much into last year. I think he is still very dominiant and this year it will be interesting to see how he goes. I has the acceleration to burn off Cadel on the climbs.

      Regarding his personality I dont warm to him either. Interesting Porte spoke highly of him and also his training and climbing ability. Is obviously some thing there. Remember everyone hated Cadel before he won a World Championship and the TDF too. Perception is fickle.

      Re drugs – no comment. Who really knows

      • January 19th 2012 @ 1:16pm
        jameswm said | January 19th 2012 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

        The fact that on a drug-related topic you cite Armstrong as someone who achieved, really says it all.

        There’s been that much mud thrown at Armstrong that he’s like Arnie in Predator.

        • January 19th 2012 @ 11:57pm
          pound said | January 19th 2012 @ 11:57pm | ! Report

          NICE!
          totally agree
          LA is waaaaayy worse than landis, at least landis respects himself and others enough to come clean. sure the pathe was loopy but at least he did the right thing.

      • January 20th 2012 @ 12:00am
        pound said | January 20th 2012 @ 12:00am | ! Report

        “no comment. who really knows”

        WHAT!
        talk about willful ignorance – not the best approach for getting to the bottom of things.

    • January 19th 2012 @ 10:20am
      Martin said | January 19th 2012 @ 10:20am | ! Report

      Really badly written article as Sean has already pointed out doesnt even mention the fact he won a ridiculously hard giro beforehand. The fact the giro wasnt considered tells me the author does not know a great deal about cycling only the tour. No rider in recent history rode well in tdf after winning the giro plus it was one of the hardest GTs in living memory and if he had watched the giro he would have seen AC was in the kind of form he remembered from previous years quite simply AC was wasted at the tdf which proves he is human if he turned up and won the tdf easily after the giro serious questions would have to be asked. Dont know if he is guilty or not but if you want to discredit him or create doubt at least display some knowledge on the sport.

      • January 19th 2012 @ 1:12pm
        DJ said | January 19th 2012 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

        And his ‘absence in 2008’ was due to Astana not being invited to the TdF in that year, hence Contador rode in the Giro and Vuelta in 2008 (winning both).

    • January 19th 2012 @ 11:21am
      B Drain said | January 19th 2012 @ 11:21am | ! Report

      Contador is a cheat in my opinion. This appeared obvious following Operation Puerto. His various excuses are scarcely believable and it is only the Spanish authorities collusion and desire to bask in nationalistic glory that has prevented him thus far from being banned for life and having his TDF titles taken away.

      • January 19th 2012 @ 1:17pm
        jameswm said | January 19th 2012 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

        Giro Schmiro, it’s obvious Contador is a drug cheat. How much being clean or doing the Giro beforehand took out of him, we’ll never know.

        I still cling to my belief that Evans is clean, though.

    • January 19th 2012 @ 12:55pm
      Pima said | January 19th 2012 @ 12:55pm | ! Report

      Have you ever heard of the Giro d’Italia?

    • January 19th 2012 @ 2:38pm
      Abby said | January 19th 2012 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

      Have to agree. AC is not the same rider because there is no drug enhancement.
      It was good to see him ride clean and yes he is just another great rider in the peleton

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