Contador ban means Evans may go back to back

Joe Karsay Columnist

By Joe Karsay, Joe Karsay is a Roar Expert

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    Alberto Contador leading out Cadel Evans. AP Photo/Christophe Ena

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    In the fall out from the Alberto Contador suspension, one question remains: how will it impact the 2012 Pro Tour and in particular the Tour de France?

    The response from the peleton has been surprising in a number of respects.

    Most have come out with mild, respectful statements void of any vitriol. This would suggest to me that the majority believe he was unlucky and did eat contaminated food rather than consciously cheat.

    If there was widespread belief among the other riders that he was a drug cheat, the comments would have been much more damning. If you spend your whole life thrashing yourself at training and then chasing a guy up mountains only to find he is a fraud, surely the reflex would be condemnation?

    The legendary Eddie Merxx came out in support of Contador: “It’s a sad day for Alberto Contador, it’s a sad day for cycling … I think we’re going too far … The level of the (doping) control was incredibly low, and it’s only in cycling that this kind of thing can happen.”

    And even one of his biggest rivals, Andy Schleck, conveyed sadness as the overwhelming response: “First of all, I feel sad for Alberto. I always believed in his innocence. This is just a very sad day for cycling.”

    Guilt or innocence aside, one thing is for sure: the wiry Spaniard will leave a huge void in professional cycling.

    There are not too many guys that can blow open grand tours with fifteen minute bursts on mountain stages, dancing on the pedals when all others are on the brink of exhaustion.

    Cadel Evans, in comments made this week, saw both sides to Contador’s absence: on the one hand the most dangerous rider in the world will not be there – which is a good thing for the defending TdF champion; on the other hand, the peleton will pay even more attention to Evans’s every move as they have one less GC contender to watch.

    Evans stated: “Without Alberto, though, the Tour won’t become easier. In fact, it could become more difficult without a reference point like him and one less team to take the reins of the race.”

    Probably the most surprising comments of all have come from Baradley Wiggings in his own blog.

    Not only does he take a slightly different angle on the Contador ban – “Only he knows whether he was innocent or guilty, but the decision has been made and I think it was the right decision for the sport” – he also states that Contador’s absence will not have a huge impact from a racing perspective.

    “He won’t leave a massive void at the Tour in terms of the racing, because last year he was almost unnoticed until the L’Alpe d’Huez stage where he attacked early on.”

    Wiggins also spruikes his own chances in 2012, claiming to be doing significantly better numbers than this time last year.

    The truth is the real beneficiaries of Contador’s ban are the Schlek brothers and our own Cadel Evans. Those four have been a class above the rest in the GC over the last several years.

    Furthermore, both the Schleks and Evans are in even stronger teams than they were in last year. The Schleks’ team Leopard Trek has merged with legendary manager Johan Bruyneel’s (Armstrong’s mentor) Radioshack team.

    Amongst others, they will now ride with the powerful time trial specialist Fabian Cancellara, while Armstrong’s team BMC has added Phillipe Gilbert and current World Champion Thor Hushovd to its roster.

    All bodes well for Evans to go back to back.

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    The Crowd Says (8)

    • February 17th 2012 @ 9:43am
      Bob said | February 17th 2012 @ 9:43am | ! Report

      “If there was widespread belief among the other riders that he was a drug cheat, the comments would have been much more damning.”

      Do ya reckon? Maybe they just don’t want to spit in the soup. Let’s be honest. 40 or 50 picogrammes of clenbuterol doesn’t change a damn thing in his system, but the reaction would have been the same if it was a material amount of salbutamol or testosterone or corticosteroids. Who remembers Leipheimer’s positive? Or Petacchi’s? Or Matt White’s? Doping is a professional foul, but we treat dopers differently to cricketers who don’t walk, or flankers with their hands in the ruck, or a backline that comes up offside.

      Besides, it’s not so long ago that doping wasn’t just widespread, but compulsory – lots of teams had team-wide doping programmes. Look at Festina, Telekom, Kelme, and many others. So who is being cheated here? Not many of the riders – only the public.

      Sure there are lots of clean riders – but why condemn the others when they might be your teammates and friends?

      • February 17th 2012 @ 9:52am
        Bob said | February 17th 2012 @ 9:52am | ! Report

        Oh – and to add – those dopers who have been condemned by the peloton – the Riccos of this world. They haven’t just been dopers, but generally disliked as people within the peloton. By all accounts Contador is a nice guy. Makes a difference.

    • February 17th 2012 @ 9:58am
      chris said | February 17th 2012 @ 9:58am | ! Report

      Evans to repeat would be like lightning striking twice.Not much chance of that.He had several lucky breaks,other riders did not have the fortune of haveing.

      Evans would probably agree with that.As for wiggins well bradly is bradly. Always has a comment to share.He needs to give up the dream of winning a major pro tour,let the kid show him how to ride as was done in the Vuelta Espana.

      • February 17th 2012 @ 10:35am
        Blazza said | February 17th 2012 @ 10:35am | ! Report

        How did Evans have several lucky breaks ? ( can’t remember them) Even if he did what about all the bad luck he had ?

        Unless the race is alot like last years in terms of towards Cadel’s strengths, i can’t see him going back to back. It would be amazing but surely the Schleks will make more aggressive moves. But if it comes down to the time trial again Evans will win.

        What are the stages like compared to last year ? anyone know ?

    • February 17th 2012 @ 1:03pm
      Andrew Leonard said | February 17th 2012 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

      Cancellara was on the Schleck’s team last year as well, so no change there. They have lost O’Grady who is with GreenEdge and has been a solid domestique in recent tours.

      If anything Evans’ team has more targets and might have to do more work with 3 gun riders. The two of of Hushovd and Gilbert might spend time in breakaway’s trying for stage wins.

    • February 17th 2012 @ 1:04pm
      DanMan said | February 17th 2012 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

      This year on paper should be easier for Evans. No Contador means that Evans needs to only watch Andy in the mountains, and even if he loses time there are 2 individual TT for Evans to close or overtake – remember Evans took 2:30 out of Andy on 1 42km hilly TT.

      This time there is 2 TT @ 92km total – one hilly, one pancake flat – Andy says that the hilly TT suit him better so if he lost 2:30 last year and needs to do a flat one as well im thinking at least 3:30 will be achievable for Cadel (and I can’t see him losing 3:30 on any climb barring crash or mechanical).

      Remember, the only time Andy dropped Cadel last year was when they didn’t chase on the Izoard (with 52km to the line) – the rest of the climbs Cadel was as strong if not stronger (cadel took 2mins out of Andy on the Galibier to finish the same stage).

      Wiggins may be a threat, but only because of the TT kms. Andy will be trying to drop Cadel, so the climbs will be fast, which in turn helps Cadel drop Wiggins.

      Andy will need to push the pace by himself this year. None of these little weak attacks with bro Frank will drop Cadel, they just tired themselves out last year.

      Unless there is a major improvement in Andy’s TT abilities (now under director sportive Johan Bruneel) it’s Cadel’s to lose.

    • February 17th 2012 @ 2:30pm
      jameswm said | February 17th 2012 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

      I wonder how Gilbert will ride the Tour? I reckon go for a couple of stage wins on suitable stages, otherwise ride as Cadel’s domestique. And a heck of a domestique. He could go with Cadel right up to near the end of mountain stages, when he’ll only have two Schlecks and a few others left.

      In the flat stages, have half the team protecting Cadel and the other half riding for a Hushovd stage victory.

      Certainly, the addition of the flat TT has got to help Cadel v the Schlecks big time.

    • February 17th 2012 @ 3:14pm
      Markus said | February 17th 2012 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

      “This would suggest to me that the majority believe he was unlucky and did eat contaminated food rather than consciously cheat”

      Or the much more likely reason being that they don’t want to say anything that could come back to bite them later.
      You’d feel mighty silly if you publicly slammed Contador as a dirty cheat, only to return a positive result in the near future.

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