In the week the Oscars were given out, it seems fair to give out a Best Actor gong to the man who most often comes up with the best excuses – Alberto Contador. Contador, perhaps just in my head, has a habit of always claiming to not be on top form, or to have had a problem, whenever he doesn’t win. I have thus compiled some, perhaps mildly unfair, examples of his mind changing and hypocrisy. Just don’t take it too seriously…and ignore the appalling photoshopping.
Vuelta a Andalucia 2015 – Claims to have gone as fast as he could, then claims he “could have gone harder.”
Vuelta a Espana 2014 – Broken legs supposedly rules him out of the Vuelta, but he eventually rides and wins anyway.
Tour de France 2014 – Mud on the cobbles means he can’t go as fast as he claims he can.
Tour de France 2011 – The Giro supposedly blunts his speed, then his knees and waiting for other riders mean he loses.
Tour de France 2010 – An inability to breathe, broken spokes and selective blindness contribute to his woes
Giro d’Italia 2008 – A broken wheel and admittedly not ideal preparation hamper his triumph.
Tour de France 2007 – The one stage he is dropped, he is magically ill.
Vuelta a Andalucia 2015
Here, Contador won a stage and boasted of how it had been a training-esque test, and how he had been going “as fast as he could” towards the finish, only to subsequently lose the next day and claim he actually could have gone a bit faster if he wanted to.
18th February Contador states that “I’m happy to be here because it is a race I have never done in my career and I feel good”, adding that “Maybe I’m a little further back than last year…[I] will do my best to finish with a result as good as possible, but if we refer to winning, I think it is complicated.”
On the Hazallanas summit finish, he says “I’ll try to do my best and we’ll see where I stand.”
Contador subsequently wins on the Hazallanas after Tinkoff-Saxo set a ferocious pace, and ends up attacking at a now nigh on unheard of 7.5km to go. “That was a test like the ones I had been doing in the climbs”says Contador, alluding to his training“two or three weeks ago.”
“When there was seven kilometres to go, I said to myself, ‘look Alberto, this is a test just like the ones you’ve been doing up to now and let’s see what can happen.’ And I felt good. But it was complicated because I had no idea what my power output was.”
“All I knew was that at the pace I was going, it would be difficult for them to close down the gap and I simply tried to go as fast as I could to the finish”
Unfortunately, Contador then loses the next day to Chris Froome, and loses the overall lead of the event by a second. Amazingly, what he said the previous day now seems to be incorrect. Asked if he had gone to deep the previous day, he says, “Not all, I think I should have pushed it a little harder, because when you stop to think about those two seconds… Cycling’s like that, you can never tell what’s going to happen.”
CyclingNews also reports that “Contador explained that on stage 3’s final ascent to Hazallanas, he was actually holding back a little.” So was he holding back or, as he said on the day, “[trying] to go as fast as I could”?
Vuelta a Espana 2014
This will go down in history as an incredible comeback from a broken leg for Contador to win, but it’s clear in hindsight that Contador was either being really badly informed about his condition (unlikely) or was playing a self deprecating game based on an over hyped injury that wasn’t as bad as the headline “broken leg” made out. Contador’s aims and objectives changed so often over the course of the two months between his Tour crash and Vuelta triumph that it’s hard to really know what he was thinking.
14th July – Contador crashes out of the Tour de France after hitting a pothole, in a crash other riders say is caused by the Spaniard simply taking unnecessary risks. “I can’t understand why you take that many risks to move up one spot,” says Jurgen Van den Broeck after witnessing the incident. He injures his right knee and seemingly destroys one of his shoes, but remounts and rides a further 20km before abandoning the race in tears. Rumours his Specialised bike had failed due to images of it lying snapped beside him are eventually shown to be false, the broken machine stemming from a tangle of team cars between Tinkoff Saxo and Belkin.
15th July: 1 day after crash: After it becomes clear that Contador has fractured his tibia, he states that it is “100% sure I can’t do the Vuelta [without an operation].” He further states that “I need to give [my legs] three weeks, because the wound could open again and the delay could be a lot longer. I will have three weeks without my bike, too much.” This is after immediately visiting a Madrid based hospital. The claim is clear – Contador will not be on his bike for three weeks.
Attention turns to the Vuelta, where Chris Froome, who has already crashed out, will be returning. “Everyone is telling me that it’ll be five or six weeks before I can touch the bike. Some say that maybe in three weeks and I want to be very optimistic but even three weeks without cycling is a lot.”
“To be honest, I think it’s really complicated. Without an operation, I’m 100% sure I can’t do the Vuelta. With an operation, we’d have to see. The problem is not the Vuelta, the problem is being able to train enough before it. For now I’m going to check it out carefully and see what can be done.”
Thus, Contador clearly states after medical advice that he will probably not be able to ride his bike for three weeks minimum, and that even then, the Vuelta is unlikely as a comeback as he would be unable to train for it.
20th July: 6 days after crash: Contador leaves the door slighlty ajar for the Vuelta, but it’s still looking grim. “There’s no question whether I could do the Vuelta, it’s whether I would be in form,” he says,”I love to compete, I want to compete and I want to enjoy this race in my country and to be there. I have to see if I can be at a good level, but it is not easy,” says Contador. “I am really motivated for the future, I just hope that the recuperation goes well and if I can’t be there this year then I will prepare just as well or better for next year’s Tour.”
23rd July: 9 days after crash: Twitter is Contador’s medium of choice to announce that he will not be competing in the Vuelta. “Bad day, the wound healing gets complicated. I’ve no date to take the bike. Goodbye to the Vuelta.” Bjarne Riis is in an unusually optimistic mood however “It’s only been a week and it’s going to take another week before we really know how his recovery is going. He had a broken leg after all. I think the Vuelta might be possible but it all depends on when he can sit on the bike again, the pain he’’ll still have and how much training he can do. The fracture isn’t a bad one but it’s still a fracture.”
5th August: 22 days after crash: “There is no change between yesterday and today: there is no possibility that Alberto can ride the Vuelta,” says Tinkoff-Saxo press officer Jacinto Vidarte, “We don’t know yet when he’ll be back. We have no plans, but the Vuelta is discarded,” Vidarte adds. “We don’t know where he can compete. Maybe in some of the Italian races before the end of the season but it’s too early to say right now.”
Contador is meanwhile still including on the 15 rider longlist for Tinkoff-Saxo’s Vuelta team, although Vidarte says “You name fifteen riders in the pre-selection and, of course, Alberto was supposed to be in the team before his injury so that’s why his name is there now.” So apparently we’re all meant to believe the team was simply too lazy to take his name off the list.
8th August: 25 days after crash: Rumours Contador is back in full training are quashed to claim that Contador is simply “rehabilitating”, although the team CEO infers Contador could ride the Vuelta, although “send[ing] him back to a race like that so soon after his injury could be a big risk.”
14th August: 31 days after crash: Surprise suprise, Contador announces that he will ride the Vuelta after all, just three weeks after insisting there was no chance and a month after saying he might not even be able to ride a bike for six weeks. “I’ve been riding my bike for last ten days, and yesterday was the first day I could climb a mountain pass without knee pain, and that excites me, motivates me and led me to take the decision that I will ride the Tour of Spain,” says the 5 time Grand Tour winner.
However, Contador says he won’t be going for the win, oh no, but “perhaps in the last week I could be fighting for a stage win.”
21st August: 38 days after crash: Contador is named in the Tinkoff Saxo team, alongside Chris Anker Sørensen, Daniele Bennati, Matteo Tosatto, Sergio Paulinho, Oliver Zaugg, Ivan Rovny, Jesus Hernandez and Michael Valgren.
22nd August: 39 days after crash: Talking of his chances, Contador says “To say I’m here to win could be too much…I’m not a favourite for overall victory. Just a helpful reminder that when he first crashed, he inferred he wouldn’t even ride his bike for 6 weeks, which will have passed in a couple of days.
28th August: 45 days after crash: “I never could imagine that I would be doing so well in a summit finish, above all in the sixth stage and without feeling absolutely great. I’m very happy” beams Contador as he stays with the leaders, but “It’s still a question of taking this on the day by day.”
31st August: 48 days after crash: Contador gets to within 3 seconds of taking the overall lead, but is still making excuses. “It’s not easy for me to keep a high pace for a long period of time” he moans, despite his team calling it a “very good day” for him.
1st September: 49 days after crash: Whilst before he wasn’t even going to ride the event, Contador now says he will try to win it. “Right now, I can say I will try to win it, but it’s not so clear if I have the legs actually to do that.”
2nd September: 50 days after crash: Contador comes second in the Vuelta time trial, catapulting himself into the lead, a position from which he has never lost in a grand tour. he wheels out his “never expected” catchprase, saying “I never expected to beat Froome” and “I’d never have thought this was possible when I started the Vuelta”
8th September: 56 days after crash: Contador wins the stage to La Farrapona, putting 15 seconds into Chris Froome. For once he doesn’t really make any excuses, aside from one about having to change his bike to one with “dry” rather than “wet” tyres on.
11th September: 59 days after crash: Chris Froome puts 20 seconds into Contador, who responds that I think Saturday’s stage [at Ancares] is very different to today’s. It’s one which is more suited to me because it’s about straightforward physical condition and I hope these 20 seconds I’ve lost [including time bonuses] won’t be a problem. Ancares is a high mountain stage, more one like the Giro or Tour.” So in other words, he only lost time because they were on the wrong mountain. He also oddly states that the last part of the climb ” wasn’t that hard” which begs the question of why he didn’t stay with Froome, but hey. He also adds “If somebody told me at the start of the Vuelta I’d be in this position now, I wouldn’t have believed them.” We don’t believe you either.
13th September: 61 days after crash: Contador wins again on the Puerto de Ancares to seal overall victory.”“I’m very happy, another win and I’ve won the two hardest stages of the Vuelta, I can’t ask for more,” he says.
14th September: 62 days after crash: Two months after crashing, after saying he wouldn’t even ride for six weeks, would never ride the Vuelta, would ride the Vuelta for a training base, would try to win a stage in the last week, deciding he could win overall, Alberto Contador wins the Vuelta by 1:10, although the margin is slimmed from 1:37 due to the slippery final TT. He changes his usual “I never expected…” line slightly to “So I’m very pleased with this win, getting this third win in the Vuelta is a dream come true. It’s something I didn’t expect at all.”
“Over these last two months I’ve had a lot of days when I’ve had a hard time keeping my morale up, days when I was full of hope and others not so much, but either way I didn’t want to end my season by crashing out.” The win means Contador has never lost a Vuelta he has taken part in.
Tour de France 2014
Mud in the gears supposedly contributes to Contador losing 2:35 to Vincenzo Nibali. “Because of the mud I didn’t drop into the small sprockets and I couldn’t keep up with the front,” Contador claims.
Tour de France 2011
Contador had won the 2011 Giro despite his 2010 Clenbuterol case hanging over him, and he was not barred from entering the Tour due to the delays. However, a crash almost immediately derailed his attempt at a double, although there were plenty excuses pulled up.
20th June – Contador gets his excuses in early after winning the Giro (soon to be stripped) ““Right now I’m tired. My muscles still feel the Giro. It is very difficult to win the Tour anyway, because it requires a specific approach. The Giro was not the ideal preparation, because it was extremely difficult.”
2nd July – After losing over a minute in a crash on the first stage, Contador actually doesn’t really blame anyone but himself. “At the time of the crash I was misplaced, the road wasn’t very wide and there were a lot of riders.” Quite how many riders he was expecting to be around is uncertain.
He does start a bit of an inferred moan though. ” I was very close to the head of the race but other riders fell in front of me and although I managed to stop in time, I had to go over their bikes as best I could. When we got going again the group had a good gap. I only initially had the help of one teammate and then another but we lost a fair bit of time.”
18th July – Contador reveals that he hasn’t been pedaling properly as “my right knee was hurt, I was forced to compensate with the other leg and it wasn’t my natural pedalling style.”
21st July – Having been dropped by the chase group that loses two minutes to Andy Schleck’s incredible Galibier escapade, Contador claims that he wasn’t actually dropped, just that as he felt “a terrible weakness” he decided to “climb at my own rhythm.” Which, in everyone else’s words, is getting dropped.
Tour de France 2010
The “Chaingate” affair showed Contador at his most ruthless, although his lack of apparent remorse does not go down well. Contador also lost time to Andy Schleck at Avoriaz and on the cobbles, but luckily he had excuses for all of these.
Stage 3 – Contador gains time on Lance Armstrong and others, but loses time to key rivals Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans. However, he says he was riding the last 30km of the stage with a broken spoke. “It was a shame that this spoke was broken, as it made me lose a bit of time in the end,” he says. “But I think I would have lost more time if I had changed bikes so I decided just to finish the stage like that, even if the wheel braked a bit. But I’m still happy with how the day went.”
Contador actually loses an additional 20 seconds to his own teammate Vinokourov in the last kilometer after his wheel breaks – the irony is that he could easily have “claimed” them back if he had just raised his hand to aknowledge the mechanical, which would have meant the 3km rule would have applied.
Stage 7 – Andy Schleck wins the stage, gaining 10 seconds on Contador, who tries to respond to the Luxembourg rider’s assault but ends up looking around for help. “He struggled to breathe in the final climb,” says Astana team manager Yvon Sanquer, which is confirmed by Contador, who adds that he was merely waiting for the other riders. “He surprised me when he started sprinting, so I decided to wait a little bit for the other riders, who were coming from behind.”
Stage 15 – The infamous “chaingate” incident, of which more can be read here: https://sicycle.wordpress.com/2014/10/24/what-if-chaingate-what-if-andy-schleck-didnt-unship-his-chain-on-the-port-de-bales/ Contador attacks as Schleck drops his chain, and clearly has to divert his course around the stricken rider to do so. He then continued up the climb with constant looks over his shoulder to see where his opponent was, before having the audacity to claim that he had “attacked before [Schleck’s] mechanical incident” and that “he didn’t know he had a mechanical problem.”
This went down predictably badly with anyone who had eyes, and Contador was promptly booed on the podium as he collected the yellow jersey. A reporter puts it to Contador that he must have seen the mechanical incident as he was behind Schleck at the time, the Luxembourg rider in the yellow jersey having just attacked and put quite a distance between the two riders. “I wasn’t aware exactly what had happened. I had my focus fixed very much on what I was doing. The other riders with me didn’t know what was going on either. We were all focused on pushing as hard as we could, all taking turns to work.” Contador claims.
He eventually issues a YouTube apology, although he defends himself by saying “At a time like that all you think about is riding as fast as you can.” He also essentially makes the claim that crashes on cobblestones are something you should wait for, having been caught behind one earlier in the race.
Giro d’Italia 2008
On the day he assumes the Maglia Rosa, despite losing time to his main rivals, the problem is revealed to be a broken wheel for Contador.
We are going to enjoy this moment because tomorrow is another hard day” says Contador at the finish, “[Riccardo] Riccò is very strong – I am not as strong, we’ll see. There arrived a moment when I didn’t feel that good; when they started to attack – Riccò, Menchov – I chased but I couldn’t get their wheel. It was a moment when I didn’t feel good. I thought that my chances of taking the pink weren’t possible. Then when we started the Marmolada [Passo Fedaia] my sensations were very different – even though I broke a wheel – my head was totally focused on it.”
“I tried to climb without standing so the wheel wouldn’t move as much. … I tried to sit in the saddle, and I thought with six kilometres to go to change the wheel or not.” He decided on the latter, continuing to the finish without stopping.” He later reveals that he had been riding with a broken hand sustained in an earlier crash.
Tour de France 2007
Despite winning the event overall, Contador was actually dropped by both Michael Rasmussen and his teammate Levi Leipheimer on the final mountain stage up the Col de Aubisque, losing 35 seconds to the former and 9 to the latter. Fortunately for him, he explains that this had nothing to do with form – he was just ill on that one day. “From the ride up the Aubisque on I had a sore throat and felt weak.” Novelly this never seemed to show up in the press conferences, but Contador has an answer for that as well. “Someone asked me at a press conference why my voice was so hoarse. I said it was nothing. That seemed to me to be the best solution.”