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by Shane Stokes
November 8, 2014
Although his first race of 2015 is at least a couple of months away, Alberto Contador has said that he regards this week’s summiting of the Kilimanjaro climb as being the symbolic start to a season he regards as a very challenging one.
Commenting after his Tinkoff Saxo team’s successful trek to the top of what is the highest mountain in Africa, a task run off in very difficult weather, the Spaniard said that he took satisfaction from the achievement.
“It has been a pretty good experience that marks the start of the 2015 season, probably the most challenging of my career with the dual objective of the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France,” he said.
“Now I have to recover from this trip and focus on my own task, which is the bicycle.”
The team spent five days climbing the 5895 metre peak, with most making it to the top. The task was made more complicated by difficult weather conditions, but the group prevailed.
“It was a new experience in which the whole team has been together, sharing good times and some really complicated ones,” he said.
“The weather did not help us. For the first three days it rained a lot and we did not have time to dry the clothes we wore, and the tents and sleeping bags. More than the physical exertion or altitude, as until then we didn’t pass 3,800 meters, the worst of the first days was the rain.”
The final day saw the group go from the final camp to Uhuru Peak, a climb from 4,600 metres to 5,895.
“That day we got up at half past eleven p.m. to reach the summit at sunrise, but three hours early to go to sleep for a few hours,” he said. “It was snowing a little and with an impressive wind. It was hard to think about climbing, but luckily when we got up the wind gave us a little respite and we decided to try.”
The Spaniard winner fractured his tibia during the Tour de France but returned to win the Vuelta a España. He wasn’t hampered by his injury and completed the team bonding session, which was intended to build cohesion prior to the 2015 season.
“It was a new challenge for me because I didn’t knew my body’s response to altitude,” he said, talking about the difficulties. “But the sensations I had were pretty good. Only when passing the 5400 meters point I noticed some discomfort in the stomach that quickly disappeared. That [the relaxing of symptoms] kept me going at a good pace to the top.”
Contador ascended with a local guide plus Michael Valgren and Roberto Kiserlovski. Smaller groups were preferred as it was felt they avoided the danger of people getting lost along the way.
“We had difficult moments,” he admitted. “Although I was lucky that the altitude did not affect me, there were teammates who felt bad and had to turn back. Others needed help to get to the summit and there were others who couldn’t remember anything that had happened by the time they got back to camp.”
Those scenarios all underline the difficultly of the experience, but Contador is convinced that the experience will prove to be of benefit.
“That was partly the aim of this expedition, to face situations that involved union and fellowship. I think we have achieved it, although it was not easy.”